New York Opera Review: DON GIOVANNI (Metropolitan Opera)

by Cindy Pierre on November 29, 2012

in Theater-New York

Cindy Pierre’s Stage and Cinema review of DON GIOVANNI at the Met in New YorkEXHAUSTING BUT ENJOYABLE LUST

You’ll have to suspend disbelief, endure belaboring, and excuse doltish behavior to enjoy the Metropolitan Opera’s production of Don Giovanni, but once you disengage from sense and allow sensibility to take over, you’re bound to have a fun time. Produced lavishly in two acts with a running time of 3 hours 21 minutes, this tale about Don Juan, his exploits, and the emotional carnage he leaves behind may not tickle your logical bone, but there are enough solid vocal performances and a hot final scene to keep you engaged and amused.

Cindy Pierre’s Stage and Cinema review of DON GIOVANNI at the Met in New YorkSet in mid-18th century Spain, the story centers on Don Giovanni (bass Ildar Abdrazakov), a love ’em and leave ’em (and sometimes ravage ‘em) scoundrel who has a taste for every kind of woman; he tours around Europe, leaving an army of disgruntled and sometimes murderous women behind.  Despite constantly complaining and being revolted by his master’s behavior, Giovanni’s servant Leporello (the deliciously hammy bass Erwin Schrott) follows closely behind to tie all the loose ends, comfort the broken-hearted, and sometimes lie to cover up the Don’s shenanigans.

Cindy Pierre’s Stage and Cinema review of DON GIOVANNI at the Met in New YorkWhen Don Giovanni opens, the mischief is already in full swing as Leporello keeps watch during one of his master’s selfish endeavors.  Leaning against the giant, impressive facade of a dilapidated building designed by Christopher Oram, Leporello hangs by as Edward Cardner fervidly conducts the wonderful sounds of composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s music.  Things go quickly awry when Donna Anna (soprano Susanna Phillips) rejects Don Giovanni’s advances, and her father, the Commendatore (bass Raymond Aceto) dies while trying to defend her honor.  Without so much as a repentant nod, the Don continues on his way to his next supple victim.  What he doesn’t realize is that Donna Anna has a fiancé named Don Ottavio, played passionately and earnestly by Queens native and tenor Charles Castronovo, who has vowed to do anything to avenge his fiancé and her father’s untimely demise. Offering to be both husband and father to her now, he has promised to do anything to soothe her pain. Phillips and Castronovo make a beautiful pair, as his heroic gestures and enveloping love play wonderfully against her captivating role as the bereaved betrothed.

Cindy Pierre’s Stage and Cinema review of DON GIOVANNI at the Met in New YorkAs Donna Anna and Don Ottavio pursue Don Giovani, a ball of his deceit and cruelty forms only to roll downhill and entangle gullible Donna Elvira (soprano Emma Bell), a formerly-conquered and embittered woman, and fickle Zerlina (soprano Ekaterina Siurina) and her fiance, Masetto (bass David Soar, playing a good fool) in its momentum.  And here is where Don Giovanni’s plot, penned by librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte, becomes convoluted and exhausting.

It would have been enough to have Donna Anna and Don Ottavio chasing Don Giovanni to get the point across that this guy is trouble and deserves to be punished.  However, with the addition of other characters that are crossed, encounter each other, and then form a motley crew of justice, the audience is forced to not only stretch their patience but also their understanding of the truth.  Each character adds a layer of unbelievable details, goofy disguises that go undetected, silly escapes, and a song, sometimes a solo, that extends the life of Don Giovanni’s stage time far more than needed.  We’ve already been told and shown in many ways that Don Giovanni is no good; there’s no need to get bludgeoned over the head with this concept.

Cindy Pierre’s Stage and Cinema review of DON GIOVANNI at the Met in New YorkAnother aspect of the production that could have used some restraint is the party scenes.  Choreographed by Ben Wright and staged by Louisa Muller, there are moments in Don Giovanni’s home that simply appear too busy and chaotic, despite the theme.  Other scenes, like the first-time reveal of the Don’s harem, and the multiple appearances of some spooky ghosts, fare much better.  Lighting Designer Paule Constable also does a good job of spreading darkness around Don Giovanni, and light when his victims experience relief.

To say that Don Giovanni is an intriguing character would be an understatement.  His refusal to change his ways and to love one woman honorably, despite pleas from Donna Elivra and Leporello, earn him his fate.  In one poignant scene, he says “I’m so generous that I love them all,” choosing to give each woman as little as possible.  In the end, he gets repaid in kind.

Cindy Pierre’s Stage and Cinema review of DON GIOVANNI at the Met in New York

photos by Marty Sohl

Don Giovanni
Metropolitan Opera in New York City
scheduled to end on December 20th, 2012
for tickets, call 212-362-6000 or visit

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