The Met Streams Don Giovanni – Again

By Lynne Gray, PhD

Please note this can be streamed from www.metopera.org.

Friday, July 3
Mozart’s  Don Giovanni ~ 2 Hrs 55 Mins
Starring Marina Rebeka, Barbara Frittoli, Mojca Erdmann, Ramón Vargas, Mariusz Kwiecien, Luca Pisaroni, and Štefan Kocán, conducted by Fabio Luisi. From October 29, 2011.

This is the Met’s second streaming of the familiar Don Juan myth with its captivating combination of comedy, seductiveness, danger, and damnation. The first, back in May, was the classic 1978 Joan Sutherland and James Morris production, while this time we have an equally talented modern cast in an updated, but still traditional production. Mozart and his great librettist, Lorenzo da Ponte created this enduring masterpiece – a cornerstone of the repertory for over 200 years – in 1787. The opera offers a rare opportunity for two baritones to star alongside one another as the title Don Juan and his faithful yet conflicted servant, Leporello. The same baritone will often have both roles in his repertoire, and in fact, tonight’s wonderful Leporello, Luca Pisaroni, sang the Don just last year at the Met. The opera also has three memorable female roles— all multifaceted women who suffer the Don’s abuses and then plot their joint revenge.

Mariusz Kwiecien in the title role of the world’s most notorious lover leads this exceptionally starry lineup of singers in Michael Grandage’s elegant 2011 production. Marina Rebeka as Donna Anna, Barbara Frittoli as Donna Elvira, and Mojca Erdmann as Zerlina are the trio of women who seek revenge after being seduced by Giovanni. Ramón Vargas plays Don Ottavio, Anna’s fiancé, and Joshua Bloom is Masetto, with Štefan Kocán (we saw him as a great Sparafucile in Rigoletto) as the Commendatore round out the cast. Met Principal Conductor Fabio Luisi led the orchestra and played the harpsichord continuo (which accompanies recits) at the same time!

The curtain rises on Leporello’s humorous lament (he is Giovanni’s man servant) detailing how he works night and day with no rest, “Notte e giorno faticar.” Since at that particular moment, it is in fact late at night and he is keeping watch while the Don seduces yet another woman – Donna Anna – his complaints seem justified. This particular seduction does not go well, however, and Donna Anna escapes calling for help. When her father, the Commendatore comes to her aid, he is slain by Giovanni who escapes with Leporello. The distraught Donna Anna is comforted by her fiancé, Don Ottavio, and she extracts from him a pledge to avenge her father.

In the next scene we find the Don and Leporello in the town square – scouting new prospects – when who should arrive but the fiery Donna Elvira – searching for the cad who seduced her and ran. After a rather humorous scene in which the Don slips away and leaves Leporello to deal with the conflicted (angry, but still in love), Donna Elvira, Leporello counsels her to give up her hopeless quest. To bolster his case, he produces an (extremely thick) journal containing his list of the Don’s conquests all across Europe which he details for her in the wonderfully humorous ‘catalog aria’ – “Madamina, il catalogo è questo” (My dear lady, this is the list…of the beauties my master has loved). Elvira is certainly taken aback (“but …. in Spain, there are 1003!”) however, she is not dissuaded – ah, the inextinguishable optimism of a woman bent on reforming her man.

In the meantime, Giovanni has come upon a wedding party. The joyful peasants Zerlina and Masetto are about to wed and the Don, now turning his amorous attentions on Zerlina, invites the party to his palace – taking Zerlina aside and telling Leporello to distract Masetto. Giovanni’s next seduction attempt – with the famous – and very beautiful – duet, “Là ci darem la mano” (There we will give each other our hands), during which he tells her she is destined for a better life and promises to marry her, is just about to produce the desired effect when who should reappear but the now incensed, Elvira, who drags Zerlina away and takes her back to Masetto. As Giovanni wonders whether the stars are against him on this particular day, Donna Anna and Ottavio appear and seek to enlist his help in finding the murderer of her father – which of course he offers – until once again Elvira appears and attempts to warn Anna that she should not trust Giovanni, “Non ti fidar, o misera, Di quel ribaldo cor!” (Do not trust his duplicitous heart, miserable woman). Insisting Elvira is mad, Don Giovanni leads her away, but in his bidding Ottavio and Anna adieu, it slowly dawns on Anna that she has heard those words before and she recognizes his voice as that of her father’s murderer. She again urges Ottavio to avenge her, “Or sai chi l’onore…” (Now you know who sought to steal my honor).

Alone, Ottavio has his big aria, “Dalla sua pace la mia dipende” (On her peace of mind depends mine too… what pleases her gives life to me). Meanwhile, the Don is back to his usual tricks, instructing Leporello to get everything ready for an evening of wine and dancing with the wonderful drinking song, – “Finch’han dal vino calda la testa,” (Till they have got enough wine and are hot-headed), and separately, Zerlina has been reunited with Masetto, begging him for forgiveness, “Batti, batti, o bel Masetto” (Beat me, dear Masetto). The first act finally ends (I warned you they were long acts!) when Elvira, Anna and Ottavio attend the Don’s big party in disguise, save Zerlina from the Don yet again, and publicly accuse him of murder — he barely escapes (by pushing Leporello into accusers), still wondering whether the stars have not turned against him.

The second act begins as Giovanni convinces (with coins, of course) a most reluctant Leporello not to leave his service and instead to help him with his next conquest – this time it is Elvira’s maid – whom he proceeds to serenade, but only after he has first switched clothes with Leporello, and Leporello, now disguised as Giovanni, has led the unsuspecting Elvira away from the new seduction attempt, “Deh, vieni alla finestra, o mio tesoro,” (O come to the window, beloved).

Once again, however, the seduction is interrupted, this time by Masetto with a band of peasants hunting Giovanni. Disguised as Leporello, they do not recognize Giovanni and he manages to send the mob off in other directions – except for Masetto, whom he attacks and leaves lying on the ground. Happily, Zerlina finds the battered Masetto and in “Vedrai, carino….” (Come, beloved, shall I tell thee how what befell thee, soon can be cured), kisses away his pain.

We have still to see the outcome of Leporello’s impersonation of the Don and attempted seduction of Donna Elvira; Octavio’s last, lovely aria, “Il mio tesoro intanto Andate a consolar” (To my beloved, o hasten, To comfort, to comfort her sad heart) in which he re-dedicates himself to avenging her father; Elvira’s anger at yet another betrayal, “Mi tradì, quell’alma ingrata,” (Cruel heart, thou hast betray’d me); Giovanni and Leporello’s encounter with the (talking) statue of the Commendatore in a graveyard where they have both come to hide from the still angry mob; the statue’s dire warning and their subsequent extending of a supper invitation to the statue; and finally the supper that is, in fact, to be Giovanni’s last – “Don Giovanni! A cenar teco m’invitasti” – (Don Giovanni! You invited me to dine with you). The statue offers him one final opportunity to repent, but Giovanni adamantly refuses and is consequently dragged down to a fiery hell right before our eyes…. truly a fitting, and dazzling end to a brilliant – and beautiful – opera!

Picture Credits

1.              Mariusz Kwiecien in the title role and Barbara Frittoli as Donna Elvira in Mozart’s “Don Giovanni.” Photo Credit: Marty Sohl / Metropolitan Opera.

2.              Luca Pisaroni as Leporello singing “The Catalogue Aria” in Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” at the Met, 2011. Photo Credit: Beatriz Schiller / Metropolitan Opera.

3.              Mojca Erdmann as Zerlina and Mariusz Kwiecien as the title character in the Met’s 2011 production of Mozart’s “Don Giovanni.” Photo Credit: Marty Sohl/ Metropolitan Opera.

4.              Scene from Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” at the Met with Mariusz Kwiecien and ladies of the evening. Photo Credit: Met Opera Archives.

5.              Mariusz Kwiecien as the Don, Luca Pisaroni as Leporello, and Štefan Kocán as the Commendatore in Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” at the Met, 2011. Photo Credit: Beatriz Schiller / Metropolitan Opera.

6.              Don Giovanni descends to hell as Leporello cowers in horror (Kwiecien and Pisaroni). Photo Credit: Beth Bergman / Metropolitan Opera, 2012.

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