The cast was still uneven, but less so. Tenor Patrick Miller wasn’t up to the vocal demands of Don Ottavio’s “Il mio tesoro,” his only major aria in the version of Don Giovanni Pearlman has consistently used — the original one Mozart composed for Prague, in 1787, before he replaced “Il mio tesoro” with a slightly easier aria and before he added the great “Mi tradí” for Donna Elvira.
Nathan Berg was back, but this time as Don Giovanni himself. Soprano Nicolle Foland, who sang the title role in Gluck’s Alceste under Pearlman in 2005, was by far the best of his Donna Annas, singing this difficult role with technical brilliance and cool (almost too cool) ease. Amy Burton was more sympathetic as Elvira than she was as Zerlina in 1997. Bass-baritone Mark Schnaible delighted the audience as Leporello, though his shticks were a little calculated. Heidi Stober sang a solid Zerlina, though she missed the character’s simple peasant heart; as her outmaneuvered fiancé, Masetto, baritone Anton Belov was feistier than most. Resonant bass Gustav Andreassen walked away with the vocal honors as the imposing Commendatore, who’s killed by Don Giovanni before his statue-come-to-life brings his killer down to Hell.
LA CLEMENZA DI TITO: Opera seria without a dull moment.
Don Giovanni is far more complex than Agrippina. Although Helfrich expertly moved his singers around the cramped Jordan Hall stage, and it was chilling to hear the chorus of demons erupting from the back of the auditorium, he worked more for easy, cynical laughs than for moral ambiguity. Most of the characters seemed unlikable and selfish. Anna was a cold fish, Zerlina a golddigger eager to drop her new husband for the promise of money and position (though she sings about how torn she is). Don Giovanni wasn’t Mozart’s aristocratic duelist who reluctantly kills the father of the woman he’s been trying to seduce; ignoring Mozart’s slashing swordplay music, Helfrich had him stab the Commendatore with a switchblade after the old man had dropped his sword. And at the end of act one, Helfrich had Don G put a pistol to Donna Anna’s head, holding her hostage in order to escape his pursuers. Modern-dress productions of Mozart have become as traditional as traditional versions, but this willful, trendy misreading of Mozart’s characters is a kind of coarseness to which Peter Sellars — a role model for finding witty contemporary counterparts — never stooped. Berg gave a vivid, compelling performance, and he sang with stylish panache; but Helfrich’s misconception of the role all but obliterated the mysterious sympathy Mozart and his scintillating librettist, Lorenzo da Ponte, wanted you to feel.
: Music Features
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