Perhaps the best bit of today’s Metropolitan Opera HD broadcast of Don Giovanni was Renée Fleming’s interval interview with Mariusz Kwiecien. As best I recall it went:
RF: What do you like best about this production?
MK: There’s nothing new in it so we get to do what we always do.
And that is very much the truth. British Wunderkind Michael Grandage gave us a production that I thought averagely dull for the Met until the interval and worse afterwards. The set consists basically of an “advent calendar” (I owe this brilliant terminology to Zerbinetta at Likely Impossibilities) of shuttered cells in “collapsed barn” brown and grey. For once I was grateful for a virtually continuous sequence of close ups which meant I didn’t need to look at the set. Costumes are traditional and blocking is pretty ordinary. The only point where there seems to be much of a directorial idea is in the final scene where Grandage goes McVicar on us. Don Giovanni is carousing with about ten cheap prostitutes though, it being the Met, they keep more of their clothes on than the average whore. It makes no sense. He’s an indiscriminate womaniser but there’s no suggestion that he has to buy his pleasures. We also get the advent calendar populated by statues of monks and some pretty ordinary pyrotechnics. It doesn’t work.
The production is a shame because the singing is consistently good and some of the acting is very decent. The star is Luca Pisaroni’s Leporello. He’s excellent all round. I also like Mojca Erdmann’s Zerlina which, I think is a bit less sappy than some I’ve seen. She definitely tops from the bottom in Batti, batti. Joshua Bloom’s Masetto is pretty good too helped by the fact that he isn’t twice as big as Kwiecien as so many Masettos seem to be.
No complaints about the conducting (Fabio Luisi) or orchestral playing though it’s a heavier sound than I prefer for Mozart but that’s what you get in a big house.