The Los Angeles Opera has brought back its controversial production of Mozart’s masterpiece Don Giovanni. It is the production itself that is controversial - not the singers or the music, but the concept, by Polish theatre and opera director Mariuz Trelinski.
Like most Polish theater the production is rooted in movement, color, and surreal images. I happen to love this kind of concept, though it has its limitations. On the one hand it constantly surprises you with ever-shifting images; on the other it limits the actors' approach to their characters and the audience's response to them. Instead of living, breathing villains and protagonists in naturalistic settings, you have characters who are so stylized that you feel alienated from any sort of feeling you might normally have had for the dramatis personae and their situations.
This approach also really puts the focus on the score, as it’s the evening's only grounding in reality. Once again I loved it. Even Mozart can on occasion bore the average listener, with so much recitative and harpsichord. But because the images were so alive, I was constantly engaged.
The singing was superb. Starring as Don Giovanni was Erwin Schrott, repeating the now famous portrayal that launched his career into super-stardom. He is now considered the definitive Don Giovanni round the globe. His rich baritone voice, sleek sexy figure, basic good looks, and terrific acting are reasons enough to see this production.
Also outstanding was Charles Castronovo as Don Ottavio. His voice was made for Mozart, and his high notes were crystal clear. I also enjoyed Alexanda Deshorties as Donna Anna and Maria Kanyova as the irritating ex-lover Donna Elvira.
I must also mention the choreography, by Emil Wesolwski, another Pole. The scene where Don Giovanni has the Commendatore (Kang-Liang Peng) to dinner, and Don Giovanni’s subsequent descent into Hell, were absolutely riveting.
Don Giovanni plays in repertory with Puccini’s La Bohème until Dec. 15th at the LA Opera.