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Good Enough, but Falls Short of the Best.
on 10 January 2014
Although this Operhaus Zurich production of Don Giovanni is well enough staged and performed it nevertheless has some serious flaws that come close to spoiling it altogether. One of the worst of these is the miscasting of Cecilia Bartoli in the role of Donna Elvira, which she performs as if it were a comedy character. From her first appearance on stage with a profusion of luggage she adopts a comic stance, which she never loses throughout the whole performance. I'm a great fan of hers and she's brilliant in comic roles and maybe Mozart's Don Giovanni is best appreciated as a dark comedy, but it doesn't need to include an hilarious Donna Elvira to achieve this.
Rodney Gilfry is an excellent Don Giovanni who doesn't always seem to receive the correct inter-action from the other performers that one would expect. The role of Mesetto is turned into such a soppy character that one wonders why his love interest, Zerlina, bothers with him. (Liliana Nikiteanu was good in this role.) In the several productions of this work it has been my privilege to enjoy I've never seen his role portrayed in such a silly fashion. This is just another example of the lack of cohesion that is prevalent in this production. It's like a farmyard hen who makes a brave effort at flying, but whose weight brings her down before she can get very far. Ah! Now it really will take off! But no, not quite, not yet.
I always think Mozart was good with female characters. I think he was quite good at understanding the female point of view. Sadly, the acting of the female characters in this production, with the exception of Zerlina,, verge towards the lacklustre or, in the case of Donna Elvira, the comic. Then their's the case of Don Giovanni's servant, Leporello, played by Laszlo Polgar, who is good but not outstanding. Again, it's hard to shake off this lack lustre feel and Isabel Rey isn't all that convincing as Donna Anna.
Mozart is special. He's the Great Master. When it comes to staging his works, getting them right is a must. Glitches that are easily passed over in the great works of others cannot be risked with him. Along with Beethoven, he is the greatest and this production is not worthy of him. Good and worth watching, but no more.