A Blazing Don Giovanni at Covent Garden – 25-06-2007

by Matthew Westphal and Matt Blank (PlaybillArts)

«Writing from London in The New York Times last week, chief music critic Anthony Tommasini observed that the Royal Opera’s current run of Mozart’s Don Giovanni, in a “grippingly spare and psychologically probing 2002 staging by the director Francesca Zambello,” is “especially suited to big-screen close-ups thanks to an exceptionally attractive and involving cast.”

Heading that cast, and eliciting raves (of more than one sort) from audiences and critics alike, is Uruguayan bass Erwin Schrott, “who gives,” according to Tim Ashley in The Guardian, “what is probably the most completely realized performance of the title role you are ever likely to see.”

Tommasini described him as “riveting [and] … seductively handsome … [with] a strong, dusky voice and chiseled physique. Exuding charisma, he galvanized the audience with his unabashedly narcissistic portrayal.”

As it happens, Schrott played Leporello in this very production (opposite Gerald Finley as Giovanni) for his Covent Garden debut in 2003. This time around, his Leporello is bass-baritone Kyle Ketelsen — “almost, but not quite, Schrott’s Doppelgänger,” wrote Ashley, “eye[ing] both his master’s body and conquests with embittered envy.”

The biggest name in the cast is Anna Netrebko as Donna Anna, a role she played opposite Schrott in the Met’s 2006 tour of Japan. She missed the first two performances due to a throat infection; filling in, to considerable acclaim, was Marina Poplavskaya, one of the emerging stars of the ROH’s Jette Parker Young Artists Program. Netrebko is now back onstage, scheduled for three of the remaining four performances, with Poplavskaya taking closing night.

Soprano Ana María Martínez “gave a vocally agile and emotionally fraught portrayal of Donna Elvira” (Tommasini). Tenor Michael Schade’s Don Ottavio was “a rationalist prig down to his fingertips … hopelessly oblivious to the Don’s impact on everything around him” (Ashley). Soprano Sarah Fox and bass Matthew Rose also attracted praise as Zerina and Masetto. Robert Murray is alternating as Ottavio in some performances, while basses Robert Lloyd and Reinhard Hagen are sharing the role of the Commendatore.

Conducting the Orchestra and Chorus of the Royal Opera House is Ivor Bolton; for the final two dates, David Syrus takes over the baton.»

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