Michael Grandage's dull production of Don Giovanni returns to the Met after a sold out run with Ildar Abdrazakov, Erwin Schrott and a cast of up and coming singers.
Last year Michael Grandage made his awaited Met debut with this Don Giovanni production. Grandage promised an innovative and theatrical experience that would bring new insight to the work. However the result was the complete opposite. The production is made up of a unit set of towers with balconies that close to form claustrophobic alleys and swing open for the ballroom and banquet scenes. Critics complained about the unfocused nature and its dullness. The problem is that the opera becomes rather bland and predictable. There is no play on any of the characters' ambiguities. Critics also stated that "There is a certain restraint in the violence, sex, and intrigue. This is a Don Giovanni that we have seen again and again. This lack of insight or depth makes me wonder where Grandage's attention was when directing this production, especially when one looks at the production's main attraction and greatest gimmick: the high walls filled with rows and rows of doors that open and close without any really method or direction." Last year the cast brought life to the production and in order for the production to succeed this year the cast must be spectacular as well. With young singers it will be interesting to see how they enliven this static production.
Erwin Schrott returns to the Met with his acclaimed Leporello. Having made his debut in 2000 as Colline in La Boheme Schrott has only returned to the Met on a number of occasions and has only sung 37 performances with the company, However during these few and rare performances Schrott has given the Met a wide range of his repertoire. Of these roles he has performed his signatures Don Giovanni and Figaro. However this time he will step into the role Leoporello, a role he says is his true calling card. A few months ago Schrott stated that he would give up the role of Don Giovanni in favor of Leoporello. And in deed Leoporello is a role that has brought him much acclaim. Critics have praised him for his comic timing and his physical acting. While his voice can sometimes sway off pitch Schrott commands the stage making audiences forget his shortcomings. As many critics have stated he steals the show every time he sings this role and with a doubt he is a huge reason to see this Don Giovanni run next season.
Susanna Phillips makes her met role debut as Donna Anna. Since her Met debut in 2008 as Mussetta in La Boheme, Phillips has been relegated to singing Musettas. Only once in her Met career has she swayed into Mozart and that was as Pamina in Die Zauberflaute in 2009. This year the lyric soprano will finally get to show off her dramatic skills in the role of Donna Anna, a role she has already performed to great acclaim. When she sang the role at the Dallas Fort Worth Opera, critics raved over her beautiful phrasing, her elegance and her lovely sound. They also stated that she had easily stolen the show. As an actress Phillips has demonstrated to be one of the best and is able to make an impression amid distracting sets. This is a plus considering the dull production she will be working with. With her customary elegance and brilliance it will be refreshing and interesting to see Phillips in Donna Anna this year.
Emma Bell returns to the Met after a 3 year absence. The soprano made her Met debut in 2009 as the Countess in Le Nozze di Fiagro and since then has not returned to the Met. The soprano who specializes in the Mozartean and Baroque music made an impression in 2009 with critics talking about her rich voice. Emma Bell came to audiences and critics attention after her debut at La Scala as Elettra in Idomeneo. Her dramatic skill brought new insight to the role that no one had ever heard. That performance immediately brought her to the Met where critics raved about her pianissmos and gracefully shaped dynamics. Like at La Scala she was awarded with one of the loudest ovations. As Donna Elvira, Bell will surely have the chance to demonstrate her dramatic skills and demonstrate her acting abilities.
Charles Castronovo returns to the Met after more than a decade. The young tenor who made his Met debut in 1999 as Beppe in Pagliacci has not been heard in any major roles at the Met. The last time he sang was during a young artist concert where he sang selections from La Traviata and L'Elisir d'Amore. Castronovo who has appeared in several high profile peformances has been praised for his finesse and impeccably stylish voice. Most recently he appeared in Ferrando in Cosi Fan Tutte where he showed exceptional control of his dynamic range and winning sentiment. As Don Ottavio, Castronovo will once again have the chance to show this range and prove that he is one of the forthcoming tenors that should be seen more often at the Met.
Ekaterina Siurina brings back her coloratura soprano in the role of Zerlina to the Met. Ever since I heard in her debut, I was put off by her generic interpretations but I thought it was because of her nerves. However after hearing her and seeing some of her subsequent performances from around the world Siurina failed to convince me. Her interpretations were too straight to the books and her acting was composed of old fashioned gestures. When she debuted at the Met as Gilda in 2006 she was praised for her pure tone and beautiful colors. However critics noted that she sang too cautiously and lacked temperament. During the last act death scene her Gilda was still innocent and had not evolved, making her character bland. As Zelrina Siurina has been praised for being a fine Zerlina but not a great one. One only hopes that with a fine cast like this one Siurina will step up her game and bring some poignancy to her character.
Edward Gardner, who made his house debut in 2010 conducting Carmen, made a striking and impressive debut. Gardner, the music director of the English National Opera, brought vividly sharp colors to Bizet's work. The young British conductor has become recognized as one of the best in his generation and through his wide repertoire he has gain much attention. Gardner has gone on to conduct at La Scala, and the Paris Opera where he has been repeatedly invited. He has also conducted at the Glydenbourne and conducted a variety of recordings with such artists as Trumpeter Alison Balsom and Soprano Kate Royal. With Don Giovanni, Gardner will have a hard act to follow after Fabio Luisi and Andrew Davis's incredible interpretations. However judging by his debut he should easily give an extraordinary performance.
The following three DVDs represent some of the best recording of this classic work. The first one is Claus Guth's controversial production from Salzburg which brought together some of the world greatest Mozartean including Christopher Maltman, Erwin Schrott and Dorothea Roschmann. The second recording from the Met features Zeffirelli's classic production with Bryn Terfel, Rene Fleming and Ferruccio Furlanetto. Finally the last from La Scala represents one of the most beloved productions. The production brought together legendary Thomas Allen, Edita Gruberova, Francisco Araiza and Ann Murray.
Here is a clip last years run.