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Awful 'Don Giovanni' in Aix-en-Provence

Remember Renaud Machart's critical review of the Aix-en-Provence Don Giovanni, in a weird staging by Dmitri Tcherniakov, mentioned in last Sunday's link dump? The Arte network broadcast the opening night performance, and you can watch the first half of it for yourself as an online video (the second half was removed because of some problem with the sound -- no sign yet if it will return). This was apparently Tcherniakov's first staging of a Mozart opera, which should probably come as a surprise to no one. He promptly decided to rewrite the libretto into something more akin to a Strindbergian Married to the Mob, making Don Giovanni and Donna Elvira husband and wife, Donna Anna the cousin of Donna Elvira, and Zerlina the daughter of Donna Anna, one big unhappy family gathered around the capo of the Commendatore. A sure sign that the libretto is not all that important to the director is that Tcherniakov includes a newly invented scene, played silently before the overture even begins. The applause is tepid after most numbers, and the audience begins to boo at several applause breaks not long into the first act, notably after Donna Anna's Or sai chi l'onore, during which she lies to Don Ottavio by telling him that Don Giovanni forced himself on her -- something that in this version is most certainly not the case.

Bo Skovhus channels the Marlon Brando of Last Tango in Paris (the costuming and hair style recalls the film quite intentionally), ultimately making the ball scene at the end of the first act into an Eyes Wide Shut-style orgy (Don Ottavio even kisses Masetto). Leporello, who is another relative in what seems to be a crime or big business family, has no catalog in the Catalog Aria, content simply to play with his yo-yo. The role is sung quite well by American baritone Kyle Ketelsen, whom we have heard in Washington a couple times, in Samson et Dalilah and Norma. All in all, the production is a terrible waste, especially with the excellent Freiburger Barockorchester in the pit, who play with a haste driven by conductor Louis Langrée.

In the summer months, you have to go where the musicians are: if you cannot make it to the best summer festivals, you now have online video (and audio) options. Here are some of the options, just to remind our readers, with a few of the more interesting offerings (now available or soon to come). Readers are invited to add other not listed here in the comments.

ARTE Live Web (video)
Selections from the Aix-en-Provence Festival and the Festival d'Avignon, Paavo Järvi with the Hessischen Radio-Sinfonieorchester at the Rheingau Musik Festival, the Philharmonique de Radio France with Vadim Repin at the Salle Pleyel, Chamber Orchestra of Europe with Julia Fischer

Medici.TV (video)
Thomas Hampson's Mahler Birthday Concert from the house where Mahler was born in Kaliště (Czech Republic), Verbier Festival, Festival de Saint-Denis, Concerts from the Louvre (including a recital by Stephen Hough), Glyndebourne Festival (including Don Giovanni conducted by Vladimir Jurowsky)

France Musiques (audio)
Selections from Dresden Musik Festival (Russian National Orchestra), recital by Alain Planès, Wiener Festwochen, Festival de Rougemont, Aldeburgh Festival, Festival Radio France Montpellier Languedoc-Roussillon, Lugano, La Roque d'Anthéron

The Proms (audio)
Bryn Terfel in Die Meistersinger, Plácido Domingo in Simon Boccanegra, Schubert recital by Mark Padmore, John Eliot Gardner's Brandenburg Concerti with English Baroque Soloists, recitals by Julia Fischer and Stile Antico, Osmo Vänskã with the Minnesota Orchestra, and lots more -- just look at the schedule

1 comment:

Tom Pease said...

I must agree with you that the production was pretty bad. I have a high tolerance for innovation and experimentation, but the effort must create at least some new insight or perspective for the audience. There were no such redeeming qualities to Tcherniakov's bizarre staging of Don Giovanni. This is too bad because the orchestra and singers were decent if not better.