Review: At the Met, a New ‘Don Giovanni’ Has a Stark Vitality

Vines of smoke rise from the stage pavement as Ivo van Hove’s new Don Giovanni begins at the Metropolitan Opera.

His staging drapes centuries-old characters in contemporary clothing and places them in courtyards of recognizably modern (albeit eerily obscure) architecture, while Van Hove’s reminiscent of the good old days. It is clear that he believes in damnation.

Van Hove, known for his plain and harsh adaptations of plays such as “A View from the Bridge” and “The Crucible,” doesn’t strain here to prove all the deceit, cover-ups, misunderstandings and ghosts of the plot. When someone says they’re different, the other characters accept it.

As the rendition suggests, we are in the real world, but we are constantly suspending disbelief.

have opened at the Met Friday after opening at the Paris Opera in 2019, Van Hove’s production is sleek, flexible, and agile, enough to walk a successful “Don Giovanni” tightrope. On the other hand, it does not erase its wit, even its stupidity.

That’s easier said than done, and Giovanni (long, circular and slippery) is one of the most difficult tasks for an opera director, and the attempt is either in constant misery or evocative frivolity. tend to. His three consecutive works on The Met, introduced in 1990, 2004 and 2011, failed to garner much love from critics and audiences.

Director Michael Grandage’s latest was particularly messy and loud. Featuring and directed with unexaggerated vigor by Natalie Stutzman.

Designed by Jan Versweyveld, the set surrounds the court with looming concrete buildings that move and rotate almost imperceptibly, so you never get a full grasp of the space. The solitary facelessness of the façade evokes paintings by De Chirico and Hopper. The lurking staircase is a nod to MC Escher’s winding maze. Several vaulted openings suggest Rome’s Palazzo della Civilta Italiana, a symbol of Mussolini’s fascist regime.

Therefore, this world is wild and unfriendly from the start.It is illuminated in different shades and from different angles.

But despite all the seriousness, there is a heat of emotion pulsing in the lives of troubled people on stage.

That’s how Don Giovanni works, a vaunted prodigal who sets the plot in motion when he murders the father of the woman he’s trying to rape. Baritone Peter Mattei, who is nearly 60 years old, looks and sounds remarkably youthful for the lead role.

But there is a sense here that no matter how endless Giovanni’s appetite may have been, over the years he has settled into a kind of calm routine. Or not a maddening look, or conversely not particularly boring. Mattei sounded uncomfortable on Friday.

His Giovanni is non-enthusiastic, rather calm and factual, mostly cool, but a bit sarcastic and gray in disposition, so these moments didn’t really work that dramatically either.

Mattei’s tone is buttery yet airy during the character’s long, charming lines in make-up, and is as charming as it was when he first sang the role at the Met 20 years ago. The soprano in her duet with Fang, delicate yet sexy Zerlina, her voice bright but softly rounded at its edges, almost hypnotically slowing time.

Soprano Federica Lombardi, stylish Donna Anna almost sensual person Like Giovanni, her tone lacked a grounded core that added fullness and creaminess, but she sounded sharp, precise and often exciting, especially in the confident high notes. I made.She has been pushed to her limits, but not beyond them In “My Trady” Soprano Ana Maria Martínez sympathized without missing an absurd plea for dignity to hapless Donna Elvira, and her voice warmed throughout the performance.

Bass-baritone Adam Plachetka, who sounds as stout as Leporello, Giovanni’s squire, was less satisfied with the neutral playing than Mattei. Prachetka seemed to want more than Van Hove gave him, so he took on a sharp restlessness that seemed unintentional.

Tenor Ben Bliss, who possessed poise and passion throughout Mozart’s unrelenting work for Don Ottavio, added positive embellishment to the repeated sections of his arias. It was a way of giving his character more complexity than usual, but such decorations were rare among the rest of the cast and therefore seemed strange. He was the commanding knight commander. Bass-baritone Alfred Walker is plausibly outraged as Masetto, but he sounded faded.

Music Director of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Stutzmann makes a splashy Met debut with not one but two new Mozart stagings. Simon McBurney’s “magic flute” will be released on May 19.

The orchestra sounded sophisticated to her, weighty without being too heavy, and the wind was beautifully present in the textures from the overture, which the singer never covered. She didn’t feel rushed as a lazy way to convey exuberance, but neither did her kindness bog down.

Even if his idea doesn’t work, it’s a very good job. References to Mozart’s time in the ball scene at the end of Act 1, strangely include a number of cheesy masked mannequins in the windows.

And Giovanni’s shift in the final scene — the dinner he prepares for a visit from the man he murdered — seems to come out of nowhere into a pasta-throwing, bread-juggling, table-flipping mania. If the point is that this farewell to a character we’ve come to know is abrupt and unsettling, it’s still unconvincing.

But the ones that arrive just a few minutes later are. Against all the production’s constant hints of smoky hellfire, Giovanni’s ending ends in a vision of the underworld projected onto the set, far more gloomy and more disturbing than the usual weak flames. happen.

The building then rotates back into place to reveal cheerful sunlit plants and a swaying curtain where there was once a relentless stone. The meaning underpinned by the perky, if not obscure text, music is that eliminating a single bad apple causes the garden of society to blossom.

This idea is reassuring, but hard to believe. Perhaps Van Hove is actually an optimist at heart, despite severe austerity.

Don Giovanni

Until June 2nd at the Metropolitan Opera in Manhattan. metopera.org.

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