Noilly Prattle: The Worst Don Giovanni...ever

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Worst Don Giovanni...ever

Seemingly following in the footsteps of New York's Metropolitan Opera, Milano's la Scala broadcast live the opening of its 2012 opera season with the premier of a new Don Giovanni to selected theaters. I was able to pick up the broadcast on NHK in Japan about a week after the opening. I was stunned (but not surprised) the see several gushing revues, with an occasional honest attempt to be more balanced in the review.

I wonder if professional critics are being paid to praise these mediocre performances, or do they simply have tin ears? This was, hands down, the worst Don Giovanni it has been my misfortune to listen to. I never thought that Mozart could be tedious, but this absolute horror of a production proved me wrong. I am no fan of Anna Netrebko, and she was up to her usual low-bar standards--but at least she didn't toss her curls over the edge of the stage into the orchestra pit as she did in I Puritani. Callas must be doing cartwheels in her grave at the idea that "Trebs" is up to her achievement. 

 How anyone other than a fan can be lulled into thinking she is a coloratura soprano is inconceivable. A true artist like the mezo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli can sing higher than “Anushka”. Even the tenor, was higher than she was. She was visibly struggling with the high notes. Her looks, on which her stardom (not her voice or acting skills) is mainly based, are shot. She must think that screechy volume is a substitute for tessitura. One wag referred to her in this performance as “Draculette”. 

Removing part of a costume that looked as if it was made from old furniture upholstery material, Barbara Fritoli looked utterly uncomfortable doing a semi-strip tease during her final aria. She looked hauntingly 10 years older as she gazed at the audience. I was saddened watching a singer I once admired mired in this production. Mattei is unsuited to the role of the Don as envisioned by Mozart and da Ponte, or at least in the way he was directed. In this “interpretation” the innocents are cast into hell, while il dissoluto is not punito. On a more positive note Bryn Terfel had some good moments, but was not at his best. 

It is hard to believe that Barenboim was conducting this muddled, hardly recognizable interpretation of Mozart. Furthermore, if one really wants to see T & A, there are much cheaper strip joints to go to than la Scala. Finally, the set looked like the grand old dame la Scala gazing at her own navel. Sadly, it seems that some of the major houses these days are going for the money to the detriment of quality music.

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