Don Giovanni – ROH, 11-06-2007

by George Hall (The Stage)

«Neither Maria Bjornson’s designs nor much of Francesca Zambello’s production set the pulses racing, but as spruced up by revival director Duncan Macfarland this Don Giovanni packs one helluva punch, much of it provided by Uruguayan bass Erwin Schrott in the title role.

Film star looks and a body to match don’t do him any harm at all in this role. But his hedonistic relish as opera’s leading sexual obsessive, combined with the imagination and colour of his singing, make him its outstanding exponent today.

He’s surrounded by a strong cast. Kyle Ketelsen seconds him admirably as a lowlife Leporello and their duo-scenes are impeccable.

Marina Poplavskaya stands in early as Donna Anna due to Anna Netrebko’s illness. Much of her singing is superb, though there’s the odd tentative moment. She’s well partnered by Michael Schade’s finely vocalised Don Ottavio, and if his character remains a stick that’s presumably intended.

Ana Maria Martinez returns to Donna Elvira, and delivers the role with more aplomb than before. The peasant couple – Sarah Fox’s Zerlina and Matthew Rose’s Masetto – are excellent, with Rose in particular making his mark. Reinhard Hagen’s Commendatore sounds a little out of sorts.

In one of his infrequent Royal Opera appearances, conductor Ivor Bolton balances the score immaculately though it could do with a little more impetus. But the show will be remembered for Schrott’s unbeatable Don. He’s not to be missed.»

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