The 1999 Vienna “Don Giovanni” Liveblogging Thread

opernglas

Welcome to the White Shirt live comment thread for Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” from the Vienna Staatsoper @TADW in 1999, starring Anna Caterina Antonacci (Donna Elvira), Adrianne Pieczonka (Donna Anna), Angelika Kirchschlager (Zerlina), Ilebrando d’Arcangelo (Leporello), Michael Schade (Don Ottavio), Carlos Álvarez (Don Giovanni), Franz-Josef Selig (Commendatore) and Lorenzo Regazzo (Masetto).

Riccardo Muti conducts, the staging or lack thereof has been hoisted upon us by Roberto de Simone.

Snark away!

453 thoughts on “The 1999 Vienna “Don Giovanni” Liveblogging Thread”

  1. Also, I seriously feel cheated out of Pieczonka in a nightgown in that first scene.
    (nevermind, Giovanni would never have gotten through that corset tank without a machete)

    Like

  2. Schade already has a nice Tito core here, doesn’t sound all that mellow. More meat than sauce bechamel.
    And Pieczonka really kicks it up a notch with “Fuggi, crudele fuggi”

    Like

    1. yes – tempi a little slow so far, but Muti adapts well, and he really manages to keep the pit down to allow for mezza voce.

      Like

  3. What’s with that seaside veil? Does this symbolize Elvira’s voyage from Burgos to Sevilla? BY BOAT? (since Sevilla has such a nice sea harbor…?!)

    Like

    1. I like the commedia take on Leporello, gives him good physicality (and d’Arcangelo does this nicely) – and it plays nicely off this Giovanni.
      Álvarez really manages to carry this with dignity and blasé eyerolls.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. es, everytime I hear a mezzo Zerlina I think “Why don’t we always get this?” (then again, Persson was fabulous, too)

      Like

  4. excuse me while I will be distracted by all of Pieczonka’s assets for a few minutes. (her voice is like a perpetuous Grace Kelly here: effortlessly oozing class)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. now that there is no distracting cleavage in sight, I will recognize that Schade sailed into that Dalla sua pace like a veritable tenor dreamboat. DANG those high piani.

      Like

      1. that would be Alien 4 indeed.
        (Which I happen to know because of… reasons. Gay reasons. – Best movie in the series, for SW/WR, and that basketball toss)

        Like

        1. oh, I only know that one of the series, for similar reasons (not a scifi fan otherwise)😉 also majorly crushing on WR at the time so I slaved through everything up… that one I think. The other night I re-watched The Age of Innocence and had a ball with her atrocious acting.

          Like

  5. and another argument for a mezzo Zerlina. Two of Mozart’s most seductive arias, period – the second even more so
    (@Masetto: kick the sandals and the smurf hat for a wig, and chicks will dig you, too!)

    Liked by 1 person

  6. and now the Wig Curse has reached IdA – makes him look like a monkey.
    Ottavio seems to channel Large from the Adams family going to Halloween as Little Bonaparte.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. oh, no, this is 1780s Rocky Horrow Picture show – Giovanni clearly is Frank’n’Furtner with the gowns and the fab eyebrow game and the heels, Leporello is the majordomus and Anna and Elvira and Ottavio are Janet and Janet and Brad in a ménage-a-trois.

    Like

  8. You know a Giovanni production is lacking in the horizontal tension department when the most sexual thing to happen in the entire first act is Leporello and Masetto comparing sword sizes.

    Like

  9. the speed works great. Go Muti! And Álvarez is so spot on in all the presto parlando. Bartolo must be his spirit animal.

    Like

  10. t think this was the same year the Stuttgart “Alcina” got staged. The mind boggles. But the singing is f***ing flawless.

    Like

  11. listen to how she takes back the sound nearly completely on “Mortal” and just freezes everything – and then the corresponding accent from the orchestra, WOW.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. why do they have a statue of Giuseppe Verdi on that dais? And why does Giovanni look like that famous Tolouse-Lautrec poster??

    Like

  13. what – an extra on the horse and the commendatore as Giuseppe Verdi to the side? Who thought THAT would b ea good idea?

    Like

    1. clearly, he has been waiting from 1787 to 1852 for Anna’s hand in marriage (or tried getting her out of that dress, who knows)

      – very hassle with tassles.

      Liked by 2 people

  14. that wig on Schade is just NO. Also, who put Pieczonka in that frill clavage kill? it looks like something to go into a stamp collection, while the skirt is some Lindwurm prop part and the seam clearly has had a not so steamy affair with Carmen.
    What was the costume designer on??

    Like

          1. convos there must go:

            Q: We’re staging Nixon in China. Which way should we go with the staging/costumes?

            A: Think what Mozart would’ve wanted!

            Like

  15. my latest theory is that Ottavio has declared Civil War on Anna’s wardrobe choices. (Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn!)

    Like

  16. zerlina has turned itno her own grandmother?
    Anna is auditioning for a Czekov play?
    Elvira is applying to clown school as a black pierrot?

    Like

    1. glad you all enjoying it. i thought so too, and i think probably much more fun than the Abbado’s staging.. no idea what they tried to pull here but it was great. i also love that they left so much room for the ladies to express their feelings rather than playing into the sex-drive plots..

      Like

          1. *snort*
            (ah, well, I am sure we could have found some volunteers for unwrapping. Moustache-free!

            Like

        1. oh jes, independent of this (perhaps), Agathe (and may be Dehggi), i’d suggest you take a look at that Amsterdam’s “many-beds” for really thought-provoking staging. I think you’d really enjoy it.

          Like

          1. you know, you two reallu killed her for me. It’ll take me a while before I am able to look at her work (minus Semiramide, that one escaped rather nicely, perhaps thanks to AH).

            Like

          2. i’ll be nice and ignore this comment :p
            (though you got almost unlimited brownies for getting me deep in with ACA from your venture-into-unknown-territory post of hers at wigmore hall a year ago..😉 )

            Liked by 1 person

          3. That Giovanni is part of the da Ponte triptych Wieler/Morabito did for Amsterdam in 2006 for the grand 250th birthday bash – Così was with Beaumont, and the Figaro (another hotel setting, if I remember correctly) wasn’t bad, either, though they’re not floating around YT, as far as I know.

            Like

          4. oh, these triptych things be tricky (I’m saying this after that rubbish Alcina/Tamerlano thing which wasn’t a triptych but fit the over-arching idea. Though at least one good thing came out of that Tamerlano (Galou)).

            Like

          5. This one was a mixed bag, too – too much in too little time. But probably still better than the upcoming TADW Macbeth Double, or that weird Iphigenie-mash for the Gluck anniversary.

            >

            Like

          6. …looked up the cast, since I did not remember Spagnoli:
            Pietro Spagnoli (baritone) – Don Giovanni; Mario Luperi (bass) – Commendatore; Myrtò Papatanasiu (soprano) – Donna Anna; Marcel Reijans (tenor) – Don Ottavio; Charlotte Margiono (soprano) – Donna Elvira; José Fardiha (bass-baritone) – Leporello; Roberto Accurso (bass) – Masetto; Cora Burggraaf (soprano) – Zerlina

            For a staging by white guys, it takes on gendered voyeurism well- Leporello is filming and documenting all the conquests, Giovanni is. Free love ex-hippie, disenchanted and tired of being everyone’s projection space, and perhaps he isn’t real to begin with.
            Zerlina and Masetto don’t manage to address their sexual fantasies (Zerlina has kinks, Masetto doesn’t get it), Anna is a neurotic, hallucinating wreck on pain meds – victim of heteropatriarchy in implied sexual abuse through her father and images of femininity at large, And Elvira is a late-blooming wallflower who channels her entire sexual desires through Giovanni and does not dare to tie them to herself. My favorite part is that the whole thing never feels gratuitous.

            Liked by 1 person

          7. ja, i saw this after TADW version and also notice how drastically different the orchestral take was, but it fits very well with the much darker / somber staging idea. The staging of Anna is indeed quite unnerving.. and you do need the right amount of acting to bring it across (in particular to not overact, subtly is the key). Leporello is also very good in acting i find.. actually everyone was. again, very minimal gymnastic tumbles, perhaps that’s the key (unless you have PP). Re. whether DonG truly exists or not.. it’s interesting that in the final scene neither he nor the “father” was present. We can work the entire staging then into the deep desire/past of each characters and perhaps D.Anna did have a desire of someone coming to off the abusive/repressive father from her life?

            And yes, the huge contrast to the pretended show-and-tell of Aix’s Così in term of effectiveness of the idea.

            Like

          8. I’d say the father and Giovanni don’t need to be present since they are ingrained into everyone’s system as a priciple – the patriarchic order, with all its implications of sexual violence, and the wish to escape, the idea of fantasy and liberation through sexual liberation that then does not work out.

            Like

    1. yes, i just wrote my comment up there somewhere, i think you’d really find this staging stimulating. i sat through it last night for a 2nd time (but now knowing the plot), very though-provoking, i really like the staging. of course one hears the orchestra completely differently.. but it fitted very well with how they want to carry the story.

      Like

  17. alright, you ladies have a good night! i off to get boba milk tea and get the day started… (and might come back to listen to Elvira/Anna again and read up our comments..)

    Like

  18. i’m falling off my chair laughing re-reading these comments.

    so we can separate out the costume, the staging idea, and the singing perhaps? i’ll skip part 1 for now except to note i think it’d be rare to find something that can beat this😉 . But the staging idea is not bad no? I haven’t seen enough of this opera to know what other variety you can have.. So far my experience has only been: the one with the car in the forest and D.Röschmann angrily chasing after DonG, which i’m deducing now that she sang Elvira , the many-beds staging which after knowing the storyline i find very intriguing, even more so after Anik’s deeper thoughts above, and this one. Ignoring the cleavage for now😉 , i like that it puts the ladies at the center and letting their phrasings do the character development (rather than forcing them into awkward gymnastic poses to comply with some concepts). I have read some comments how dictatorship-like Muti can be but one has to say he knew this work well and kept the orchestra exactly driving the story forward, quieting it down to 100% accommodating / hightlighting the singers, leading the phrasings (e.g., that absolute drop after “mortal” by ACA, then picking it up that Anik mentioned), accentuating the lines (the singers gliding on the supporting orchestral waves). I’m guessing the singers had ZERO moment to rest because as soon as off-stage they were 100% occupied with macheting off the corset to don on 20 more layers + hats + wigs.. and yet, perhaps because the staging didn’t force on them too much movements they had the energy and time to almost entirely focus on phrasing! It’s the case of not tripping your singers and depriving them from doing their best? I admit i originally suggested it because of ACA (though i didn’t see any of her 2 takes before) but after sitting through i think it’s also a very rare occasion you manage to gather that many talented singing actors/actresses into 1 intimate hall, with the right orchestra and the right conductor who didn’t feel the need to flex his muscles.. may be he did, whatever, but the effect was at the highest quality, and the acting was exactly on-point. You can even say they were quite spontaneous? At least for this one i’m also very impressed with IdA’s comic timing and phrasing. and yeah.. i’ve been relistening to ACA after the break.. from the window scene to “mi tradi..” .. very sad the clip is not on tube..

    (ok, we can now open the floor again for discussion on wigs/costumes/hats. perhaps even a vote for our fav😉 . btw, what’s OTP ?)

    Like

    1. This staging, despite the wig excesses and quite a few little weird details (did any one notice Masetto putting his knife into the horn?) was quite reluctant in any character interpretation other then that simply given in the libretto/music. While this means missing out on opportunities it still helps to focus on the storyline itself, which is, I admit, sexist, of course, but still an engaging story with very human characters and a good arch of suspense, which is not self-evident in opera. I noticed just yesterday again, how quickly the story progresses (and, haha, good point on the poor singers having to change in between scenes). Then, while this surely wouldn’t be enough to have an one of us interested in a Don Juan story, its expression in the music is just as brilliant as it can get, and I agree with you that the musical interpretation worked out very well in this production. These amazing singers who in most cases were also very good in subtle acting were given the room to do so and I think these were the moments where we all managed to overlook the costume hilarities for a moment. Of course there have been hundreds of papers written about Don Giovanni; for me the most fascinating thing is its ability to really make me feel with the characters, most of all Donna Elvira, who is rejected and ridiculed but still keeps her integrity, and ACA’s interpretation was really excellent in this regard.

      Like

    2. well, dear T, in case you didn’t know, Roschmann is one of the greatest Elviras out there (cos I said so😉 ) and you can still catch her sing it somewhere. She’s also wicked funny in this role = and her Ah chi mi dice mai??? is my favourite ever. That nervous shimmer in the voice warms my heart. That being said, I really enjoyed ACA’s caressing of the Italian language nad her own brand of fire/phrasing/cleavage😉

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Re:costumes – I’m still baffled by the strange arc, with DG going from Sun King wig to his own hair and Don Ottavio’s “aging” in 2hrs (maybe he caught on to Donna Anna’s lukewarm feelings, of he got discouraged by the impenetrable dress). Why does Donna Elvira’s swachbuckling oufit never return? They’re just absolutely mad with the change of costumes rather than sticking with 1, 2, max 3. And why is the comedia dell’arte stuff so lacking in colour?

        Like

        1. and why are the only ones linked to commedia Leporello and Elvira?

          The entire staging looked very black and white with a daring touch of gray now and then, safe for the5 cubic metres of red curls tehy used on the wigs of Giovanni, Elvira, and Anna.

          Like

      2. Yes, Röschmann is singing Donna Elvira in Berlin, soon, and I’ll be so lucky to hear her then. This production also includes Olga Peretyatko as Anna and Luca Pisaroni as Leporello, the staging is that of Salzburg 2014(?) with Leopard fur jackets involved, I’m not sure what to make of it from the short YT clips yet, but am very much looking forward to that evening!

        Liked by 1 person

    3. OTP = One True Pairing, a fandom shipping term

      Wig favorites: I’m torn between Giovanni’s Louis XIV spaniel that requires paying dog taxes and Anna’s Candyfloss that came with the Ferris Wheel included.

      As for the staging, I’d ask “What staging”? If I focus on the directing, nothing happened in that evening that wasn’t enabling singers to stand in a spot and sing beautifully. Any storytelling was one by the singers on their own, with no larger cohesion or a recognizable concept (not even the commedia references nor the move to the 19th century were understandable).
      If I try to describe the staging work (not the opera experience, not the singing) – anything that is storytelling or personenregie – I’d call the evening, from my perspective, an embarrassment and an insult to the craft. But this depends very much on what “directing” is to whom.
      Vienna is a large house with a lot of singer tourism and a very conservative viewership, both local and international, that likes to celebrate themselves, not being challenged or, good forbid, taken out of their comfort zone. So of course that contributes to “stagings” that are mostly just stagings in the older sense of arranging people on a stage where they will sing well and if they can act some (but not too much, please), that’s fine, too. Plus houses like this need stagings where a lead can fly in at 3 p.m., get a half hour walk-through on set, if at all, and lead the show by 7 p.m. So catering to individual singer-acting folk during production? Not so much.
      What irks me is that even under those circumstances, you can make great (again, form my perspective), thought-provoking opera productions that run for decades. Just take the Berghaus “Barbiere” in Berlin! Or if you look at Vienna, take this spring’s “Jenufa”, which was a fairly conservative staging, but the psychological cues were clean and readable, and you had a cast that acted their hearts out and musically, it was through-the-roof-leves of amazing. And it was palatable for all kinds of crowds.

      And then there are costume battles like this “Giovanni” where you wonder if a concert performance wouldn’t have been the better option because the evening spends a whole lot of money of not telling anything and merely illustrate some story surface without even taking a stance there. I got zero out of Anna, who got a first scene with Giovanni that looks like politely telling him to leave the garden party after having attacked the turkeys for his wig. And that is a job that you cannot push onto the singers. Of course you can get lucky and you have an Antonacci who can also work without much input (or despite of it), but it is not their job.

      For a house like Vienna, not even this musically splendid cast is that unusual – the Staatsoper recipe to success is organizing fantastic A-list casts and conductors served over a more or less generic staging, and it’s up to the singers themselves to make the evening moving beyond the singing. Of course, that is accompanied by many B-list evenings on regular repertory nights, which do not do anything or anyone involved justice (also musically).

      So I look at this “Giovanni” as an evening of fantastic singing under a really, really good Muti (who does not really work with acting priorities on the stage, true) where the singers tried their best to bring some acting to the table despite being hindered by costumes and positions. The infuriating thing to me is that it could have been so much better, and that there has been an actual rehearsal process for this which such few, poor and vague results. Imagine what these singers could have done when someone had tried to tell a story and not simply illustrate all the Giovanni cliches o the 1950s. Yes, that would have meant that some of Muti’s tight tempi might have been screwed, but if that’s the issue, do a concert performance. Use the music to tell the story, and be done with it.
      It is, of course, an entirely different aesthetic and an entirely different philosophy: de Simone does old school Italian arrangements that serve a different purpose than my expectations of a good opera evening (I once worked with a director who had assisted Pizzi and described his rehearsal as “Of seven weeks, six are used to teach the singers how to walk with their trains and coats and how to drape them around themselves. The last week is lights.”)

      Ultimately, it boils down to the question of what do we want opera to be? Beautiful singing in lavish sets and outfits? Or contextually aware storytelling that, if things work out, features great singing, can be great entertainment, and moves you and challenges you and possibly changes your life? (You may guess at this point that I am in camp #2)

      Cueing and storytelling is the core description of directing. It’s the craft’s 101. Do that, and an evening can be very good. And, yes, I would expect a good director to be aware of bigger social and philosophical contexts in addition and to take them into account. And personally, I am delighted when, even beyond that, I get to discover new angles and am challenged to rethink things, and get to make a connection between a story and the time in which it is told. But of course this is only my perspective of having seen a lot, of having worked on the production side of things for some years, and of now being paid to think about some of these aspects and teach them to the next generation. Other people will want other things, and their wishes are just as valid.
      It is already different when you go in from the directing side or as a singer – as a singer, you need to sell a character’s story, and you need motivations and cues. Your principal focus is not on how your role is repeating/challenging/relating to greater patterns in society. That is what the **** directing team si for, and that is their angle, though they never, ever – and many “concept” directors are completely blasé about this – may neglect the fact that the signers still need cues for their individual characters. They must give their singers that, and it tops any “concept”. Ideally, they should do both.
      One of my favorite examples is Donna Anna, where, as a singer, you have to figure out how she relates to Giovanni and with what chemistry you can work. You don’t really, in most cases, start out thinking about rape culture tropes and the sexual objectification of women through a 19th century reception lens. But the director should be aware of that. It is like this year’s big “Bury Your Gays” discussion in TV – no, your story does not exist independent from a context. There is not “the story”. “The story” will always be a little different, depending on the time where it is told, and by whom it is told, and ignoring that aspect is willful ignorance. What happens when you play “Fidelio” in a dictatorship? What happens when you play the “Abduction” today?
      In this “Giovanni”, the only one who is able to deliver a moving story (also thanks to less ridicule in the costume department) is Antonacci, who does a truly wonderful job with Elvira – doubt, conviction, vulnerability: it is all there, and I pin much of it on her, given her other work, and little on the directing. And much of it stems from, I imagine, her thinking music from the text, from a storytelling point of view. She has never been about pretty sound just for prettiness’ sake.
      In many of the others, you see that they could have done much more if only they had been given a line to work with: Kirchschlager and Regazzo fill the cutesy peasant setting with life (no easy fit with a tambourine) but remain far more on the surface than both their abilities suggest. Alvarez had no place towards which to direct his impeccable sense of timing (other than the pit), neither did d’Arcangelo, who still could save a lot via physicality. Pieczonka was unfairly ridiculed and restricted in her movements by the costumes, the same goes, to a lesser degree, for Schade.
      So, as thadieu suggested: there is the musical aspect (wonderful), the individual work of the singers (commendable to excellent – I do not blame the staging’s shortcomings on the singers), and there is the staging (from my vantage point: not ‘traditional’, but plain sloppy).
      In the end, should we be content with just beautiful (amazingly beautiful) singing? Or should we want for something more, beyond something that is a barking wig and a tambourine?

      (I guess this got a little longer. Don’t mind me, I’m just rambling to myself.)

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Plus houses like this need stagings where a lead can fly in at 3 p.m., get a half hour walk-through on set, if at all, and lead the show by 7 p.m

        I’ve noticed how this type of thing is said with pride when reminiscing about old school singers. I even remember one singer telling how the only thing she asked, upon arriving with little time to take the stage, was to be told just which one of the men on stage she was supposed to sing towards during her next scene. Some night of theatre, eh?

        I’m also very much into the singing part of things but if there are costumed people on stage interacting with each other and with props, I want something intellectually stimulaing, not just wardrobe inventory. In fact, I actually hate too much fuss on stage, I prefer one good idea to throwing everything and see what sticks (to me that’s a sign of phoned in direction), one set of costumes that actually fit the singers (big pet-peeve) and is comfortable (I was thinking throughout this one here how those collars must’ve bothered them and how hot they must’ve been under those layers) to changing them every 5 min in some misguided hope of matching every scene and generally a focus on personnenregie rather than some far fetched concept/prettiness for prettiness’ sake. The concept will come out anyway from how these people interact with each other, if somebody has actually cared to think about that.

        but if there’s none of that, I’m glad for good singing, because I try to get something good out of spending a few hours with something*😉 and if I notice the orchestra that means they must’ve done something well, too. In this case I was really thrown by the speed.

        *unless it rubs me so wrong I can’t watch it after the first few minutes (Aix Alcina, Geneve Alcina and some other things I put out of my mind).

        Like

        1. yes the supposed good old days “when we didn’t need acting and everything was about the singing!” Which is complete BS, all the way back to Nicolini, but those perky backwards-projections are so hard to debunk (like the “glorious 1950s”).

          Absolutely agree that throwing too much at the stage (and covering up the lack of ideas by material – one my pet peeves) genrally deos nto work. The only one who could pull off prop orgies with some sort of coherence was Ponnelle, from the ones I have seen.

          Also yes on the costumes. People have to WORK in these things. I don’t mind a barren stage, and some sackcloth. I want to be engaged, and I want to see that a crew has in turn engaged with the story they tell. (thadieu, now I am kind of seguing over into an answer on your commetn) That can be “traditional” – a staging doesn’t necessarily get better with a time period update, or with an overarching concept. Do clean character work, and I’ll be happy. Look at stagings like Chereau’s late Aix Così, or even some of the McVicar stuff (when he does not lean back into pretty decor) when the singers are good enough actors/actresses. I don’t mind “traditional”, I mind sloppy and lazy (that includes non-transporting concept stagings, since Dr T mentioned the Capuleti).

          Generally, I’ll try to find something to draw focus, too (even if it’s just marking all the missing cues) and rarely leave before the end, and I try to take into account who might have a bad day (me included), but there are some productions I annot deal with, and usually it’s those with lazy directing and bad acting (you know whom I mean). Among a cast, you usually find at least someone who’s vocally intriguing at least. But even in that case: if it’s just pretty sound, I’ll be bored.

          Liked by 1 person

    4. short version: I see no “staging idea”, just nothing covered with many layers of cloth. The singers did their best to work with that against all odds and sang wonderfully. Ah well, for the Staatsoper, that’s a staging. End of story.

      Like

      1. back to reply to your detail essay🙂.
        I’m thinking from a “beginner” but not-so-beginner perspective. But perhaps more importantly, as with ACA or with VK, i’m often relieved in the case even when there’s no clear staging idea at all that at least it’s not hindering them. I can relate your reaction here to perhaps mine (though i have no experience with production side) during Munich Capuleti, which was the first opera that I was very much invested in and hoping for a staging that makes sense and engaging and not just look beautiful and park-and-bark. Judging by the amount of essays I wrote complaining about it versus how silent/content everyone else was, I’m guessing that was the time i’m as much irked as you normally are about “staging”.

        However, speaking from the perspective of someone who doesn’t know the storyline and is not exposed to all the “typical” cliche attached with characters and stories of DonG or read as Agathe mentioned many papers written about it, I feel lucky with this one because my first and foremost criteria were met: 1. the orchestra remains sharp and driving the story forward, 2. ACA who was my focus managed to get me to understand the character deeply (i’m still thinking about Elvira!), 3. the rest of the singers phrase their lines and manage to get a coherent story that at least makes sense in my head. With these three I typically can ignore everything else simply because my own head can sort out and connect the dots. So without knowing how the Staatsoper functions typically (just play safe + beauty, leave the singers at their own devices), as you say here it’s great that despite all that they manage to work together to bring the (or any) story forward in a coherent manner. I can see that with this little idea and if with the B-cast and lack of rehearsal it could turn into another head-scratching experience like my first-year Capuleti where you come out not understanding at all why the characters are doing this/that. Yes, if they have better idea for staging it would have been very rewarding, but my experience with these kinds of over the top costumes is that the staging can trip the singers and hinder them.. so a huge relief that it’s not the case. Even with ACA, PP, or VK, or whichever great singing-actress/actor, sometimes their best still get hampered by extremely irritating ideas…

        Come to think of it, there is a reason only certain staging idea lasts long because they’re too rare i find. Sometimes the idea works only with a certain cast rather than being portal. Look again at the example of Capuleti this year, as you point out: how much the singers ditched in order to make the story works amongst themselves. I can imagine if this DonG “staging” were to continue with another A-list cast they’d eventually ditch the 20 layers clothes and sort things out (e.g., VK ditched the leather jacket entirely during her Romeo run even though it was forced on everyone else).

        In the end, i’m extremely glad we have Paris’ Mitridate for example where everything came together. The others i could think of, was the Paris’ ACA’s Nerone or Salzburg’s Tito. In my limited viewing experience they come in so few and in between are so much of Geneve Alcina, Aix Così, Brussels Mitridate, that again, i’m often relieved when i can make sense of the story at all and identify with the characters. So i’d say these two, in addition to the orchestra making sense and moving singing wrap up my “contentment”. Any amazing staging is an extreme bonus simply because they are so rare you come in with the low expectation and hoping in head “your” singers are not tripped by it.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Thank you for this – will reply later when not buried under a cubic metre of Lego (traditional holiday costume at casa LaChev)! You kept me thinking.

          Like

        2. I can follow your view thadieu, since my personal focus is also a bit more weighted towards the singing/musical site of a performance and that’s why for me, an outstanding piece like Don G can still work in such a poor staging (although, as Anik said, maybe this had been better in a concertant or semi-staged version without the costume distractions) while ín other pieces, where the music does not as strikingly speaks for itsself, staging becomes more important for me. But of course our listening/viewing experience so much depends on our personal history, so naturally, when you dicover such a piece for the first time the experience is a very different one compared to someone who has worked on productions and written about it for many years.
          What I find interesting about Don G is, that this has inspired people to think and discuss about the characters long before modern regietheatre, so there must be something about them, independent of any clear interpretation from the staging side? Still, I can see your point, Anik, that having those characters and not taking the opportunity to do something with them as a director is really a shame.

          Like

          1. yes, particularly Giovanni! There is so much in that piece (as in most of Mozart, I would say), so it should not be too difficult to find some aspect to engage in as a directing team.

            There is a lot “about the characters” that is readily available and intriguing to viewers (and what we see of it, as you say, depends a lot on our experiences and biographies, all of them just as valid as the other) – though I would argue that as soon as you start staging it, even if “completely straightforward”, it is always already having a perspective, and it’s a little different every time because of the focus and the experiences a director brings to the table. And I guess I just want them to be conscious of that.

            (kind of like the young man who accosted me on the bus a few weeks ago with “Do you believe in Jesus?” and “Do you read the Bible, for the one truth?” to which I said, “I read the whole thing, in one of the versions, but we will likely not have had the same experience, nor hold the same idea of truth” – to which if course he repeated that there would be only *one truth*, which he continued to try to impress onto me for the remainder of my bus ride)

            Like

        3. These “staging that are supposed to accomodate anyone within half an hour” are a category of their own – and they really depend on someone who can pull them off. But of course even that cannot be the same as a result of 1-2 months of teamwork (if things worked out there). perhaps also a reason why the medium-sized houses or at least those off the top-ten-circuit, have the more intriguing, in-depth and moving stagings?

          Like

  19. I’ve been thinking about your reply Anik, given that it was a rather strong reaction in relation to what I got out of this performance.

    It seems my bar is set pretty low when it comes to staging, with mainly a hope that staging is not interfering with singers as the zeroth bar. I’m thinking if one were to take pride in ones craft that is not where you set the bar. So for anyone on the production side indeed it would be sloppy / lazy if you only toss things out and let the singers fend for themselves. That’s the lazy + easy way out because you don’t offend anyone (given the singing is top-notch like this), and as you said, don’t act too much for fear of also offending the crowd. For the more critical thinkers, the way to advance is always to push the envelope, even at risk of major failure. But there is a difference between risking versus total crap pretending to scratch a subject while tiptoeing around. And often good staging such as that of.. (sorry i can never remember the names) the many-beds or even the Paris Mitridate, got booed live (Paris) or loooong into the future (check out the comments on yt). I did read somewhere MP gave an interview defending that staging saying it was a good one (good for her!) So from that perspective of always pushing the envelope to advance and challenge everyone (artists, audience) one must not just stall and play safe and or be afraid of failing. Is this a good excuse for the other sorts of stagings we’ve seen lately?

    From a “casual” “tourist”‘s perspective, i’m thinking of myself as one because I can totally imagine myself walking into the theater with this staging as my first true DonG, I was very drawn to this performance and now having it playing again for the 3rd time. Yes, i admit am an ACA fan, but i’ll provide an “objective” view of why i’d keep coming back. Bypassing the various things I’ve already explained in the previous response (my 3 main criteria), it is true actually ACA’s acting starting with the book (that whole scene she didn’t even need to sing 1 note and yet the facial expression said it all.. totally reminded me on PP’s during Lungi da te), and by the time she’s standing at the window changing her dynamics revealing her self doubt / vulnerability i’m completely heart broken. So yes, for this particular character we get an in depth view. But I was intrigued by your comment that you don’t learn anything new from D.Anna. For a total beginner (i finally can tell D.Anna and Elvira apart for the first time😀 ) , actually i learned quite a few things about this character. I don’t know if any new beginner would pick up immediately as I did, the same way we’d get a 1-d generic seductive DonG or 1-d jealous Masseto.. But indeed i was not convinced here her heart is with D.Ottavio hence i got confused with her very emotional “non di mir..” . So it’s true she revealed that to the audience, not clear enough so one would walk out confused.. but immediately one gathers an impression there is something going on between her and D.Ottavio, esp. with him keeping on pushing . I see that that’s what written in the libretto (or translation) but would have loved an angle to understand what could have been the reason (see the many-beds staging for example, poor her! — actually when she was popping the pills i wasn’t sure if it was birth-control.. and when Masseto showed up inspecting her other drawer i was wondering if he found 1 condom less hence started acting up…). On the point of “translation” though, as I also noticed how different it was between Paris and Brussels, it seems a translation is also done to fit the staging.. and since i don’t understand the original Italian text I can gather it’s “free” enough to have as many interpretation as one wants? (sort of like the bible!)

    i still remember the one friend who helped me translating VK’s 1997 portrait mentioned how much she enjoyed when VK discussed the dragging and tiring process of rehearsing because she came from theater side and found that kind of insider info very interesting (if you recall VK said sometimes you’re at it for a whole month and nothing progresses, similar perhaps to what you said about just learn how to drape yourself over in “beautiful” pose, then onto lights). And this same friend, when I complained about the sink in Capuleti and what the poor soprano has to do standing 1 leg on it, she said she liked the sink+risky stance very much because it symbolizes fragility and from theater perspective it’s good to push the envelope.. So we can already see depending on our background / preferences everyone will have something to say. In addition to your critical review perhaps it’s also because you have seen too many from the Staatsoper’s pattern.. because i think once we see a pattern we flip quicker.. as opposed to for casual audience like me who perhaps have more music in mind than understanding of staging..

    I guess to wrap up, of all my attempts to watch DonG, i must say this was the one i took out the most.. I don’t know why, except for the reasons i mentioned.. if anything, probably it just showed me the “story” as was written just so I know what it’s about? but i think more because finally the music makes sense and even with such lack of staging (and fun/ridiculous outfits) i actually got the most out of it than anything before.. In fact i’m not at all bothered/distracted by the clothes..

    Finally, a last detour because i really feel in your reply the same level of “irkness” i had during Capuleti: Because I knew what VK was capable of but the musical direction and staging deprived her and the audience of something potentially much more moving (at least that was my reason). But i see now i was flippant because of the conductor: he is TRASH in my harshest words (i was infuriating, the staging was sencondary). To me he just did not drive the story forward to support the characters the way i hear it in this DonG or Paris’s Mitridate or R.Jacobs’ ACA’s Nerone.

    (I think through this i’ve just answered my own question: indeed for me the orchestra is the single most important factor! I do go for very specific singers too but i get tooootaly flippant if the conductor “betrays” my singers, there you have it! I think many times “my singers” manage to escape unscathed but it is not the same as how amazing the show could have been if the conductor actively participates and supports the singers instead of leaving them hanging dry. And to get back to this, now that ACA is going the recit of “mi tradi”, i hope we all hear how well Muti supports her here! it remains the single most moving recit in this entire DonG for me.)

    Like

    1. oh, more from me🙂
      i was reading “reviews” of this production actually.. with quite a few calling ACA being completely miscast or that she needed some warm up.. and i’ve been thinking about her “Ah chi mi dice mai” and ended up fielding a whole range on tube, including DR’s version sitting at the bus stop (with what i thought was a bit showy Erwin Schrott).. i think in general you can’t really get a full feel for the character simply from this aria alone because you need to see the entire show to gauge her full feeling.. for example i see ACA’s rather internalized “Ah chi mi dice mai” as quite intended, and as she knew exactly what she was “saying” yet we are not sure if she’d act it.. As for DR.. i think i’ll need to sit through that whole show again to get a feel.. but i found one Elvira who will do exactly as she says🙂 (though might be too offended for the don’t act too much crowd..)

      Like

      1. Actually, that one (it’s a Flimm) is a very good example for me for a traditional staging (period setting, no concept approach) that works. The cueing is sharp, I recognize character aspects and how the individual parts interact.
        Gilfrey does a fantastic Giovanni in a sense of exploring the blurry borders between seduction and menace (whether eroticizing that link is evidence of systematic injustice is another question that is not the focus here) in both voice and acting. (on a side note: Oh, how I miss Laszlo Polgar!) And I love Bartoli’s Elvira – if she does spitting mad, she will do it right. Nothing about her performance is complacent here. Oh, it may be too much for the purists, and the ones looking for sheer vocal beauty or purity will wince, but what engaging take!
        Just as ACA’s more fear-driven, existential take was engaging. And it is so typical of a certain elitist belcanto lover breed to criticize Antonacci’s casting. Yes, in this vocal smorgasboard, her tone stands out because it is not creamy legato or even elegance (which she can do, but with her, it is not a simple material thing), but she is telling a story, she is never just emitting pretty sound for pretty sound’s sake, and she manages to move listeners. To me, that is a very good choice of singer.
        How often do we all say words simply because we’re used to certain phrases, and we don’t put put thought into the fact that we use them, what they mean, or why we use them? – my favorite kind of singing is the one that has stopped and taken a look at all these aspects: not just thinking about the words, but the motivations that led to these exact words.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Thank you for your thoughts!
      I keep wondering now how I would feel if this had been my first Don Giovanni – I would have been ruined for a lot of less stellar musical takes, perhaps. I definitely would have latched onto Donna Elvira, but I wouldn’t have been drawn to the other characters – perhaps Zerlina, perhaps Leporello – and their stories like that.
      I got into opera as a kid, so I connected to productions by being mmoved and finding a personal connection to a story or a character. I did not start out looking for intellectual insight. That changed with the years, or rather: it amplified. On a personal level, of course I like to connect to a story emotionally, but I can also appreciate a take that is intellectually intriguing or even one that hurts. As a teenager, I hated period updates in operas. I wanted “the stories as they are”! And it took me a degree that dealt in history and narratology (and a relationship with a Psych MA) to realize that “what the stories are” is one thing (and that librettist/composers did a lot of backdating to discuss issues in/about their own day) and wanting them to confirm you instead of challenge you is another.
      When I watched my first Berghaus staging, I was so disturbed that I cried. It was “Freischütz”. I couldn’t fall into it, nothing about it was relaxing and pretty. And it stuck with me, as I needed years to appreciate the clarity of how Berghaus dissected the village-community violence, the constant threats of violence and the superstitions – and how it didn’t need cliffs and wolfs and trees, but how it all worked in green and yellow and flat surfaces. As a teenager, I also had one of these daily calenders on “Music”, and much of it was on opera, and I still remember one image I disliked, which was of a Neuenfels staging of “Rigoletto” (I think), with Barbara Hendricks and possibly Franz Grundheber. I remember a figure pointed a bow and thinking “what is this? What does this have to do with Rigoletto?” But today, I remember this image, yet I couldn’t tell you any of the pretty period pictures I used to cut out and collect. I stopped being content with pretty along the way. I don’t think wanting to fall into voices (opera is about sensual pleasure) or an aesthetic is negatvie, or worth less as an approach. It is just my experience that with the years, that aspect wasn’t enough for me any longer.
      Today, I believe that you can do engaging storytelling and serious discussion of plot elements in any staging, no matter the period. I may be most fascinated by “pushing the envelope” productions because they keep me on my toes, but as long as a production is thought-through and engaged and committed, I will enjoy it. “”phsing the envelope”, as you point out, has a risk of failure. I would put produciotns there in three cateogies:
      1) the brilliant ones that get booed at first because they get uncomfortably close and real and confront us with uncomfortable truths (e.g. Chéraus’s 1976 Bayreuth “Ring”). 2) the ones that have good ideas, but fail to transport them, because the production did not work out within the team, or some angle isn’t clear enough for the audience (e.g. that Aix “Alcina” which a as an idea, I still find intriguing, but I cannot get behind the execution. Or look at the Lacroix Capuleti: doing it over not-touching is a good idea, but on a technical level, the physicality suggested to the singers made that impossible to uphold) and
      3) the ones that throw around ideas without actually having one and try to hide lack of craft mastery behind flashly updates or shock value elements.
      And then, of course, there are the productions that don’t even try anything, or do so half-heartedly, and still mess up (that would be this Giovanni for me) – hiding behind decor that can turn out to be hindering, going for pretty poses instead of enabling character stories, simply repeating and rearranging stereotypes.
      There is “born too soon”, there is “you tried!” (which I can accept – you win some, you lose some) and “plain bad”.
      E.g. look at Ponnelle’s detail crazy work, and at his lavish Baroque aesthetic: he used an overflow of decor and constricting costumes as a *storytelling device* (as opposed to self-serving illustration) – when he staged “Mitridate” at the Teatro Olimpico, he used rigid stances and limited motion to create a purposefully stylized aesthetic that made you think about expression and delivery. It was deliberate, and it was technically excellent.

      In the end – and this addresses your orchestra point – I come back to the point that action and singing flow into one another in a sense of causing each other. People developed opera because they looked for a more affecting (and effective) way to transport the meaning of WORDS. “It’s all about the music/voices/singing” is a cop-out and a really lazy (and 19th-century emo driven) argument because 1) then you don’t have to stage anything and b) the music *is* engaging (at least it should be) storytelling – what you describe as drive, what I would also call structure, and making it visible and telling it with a purpose. It is not an alternative plan (“we want this and the acting/stage hinders it!”), it is another layer tied into it. Singing is storytelling. If you put it on a stage, it is not adding a new thing, it is working with a thing that is already there. Like you, I want that connection. And I want it to be more than mere illustration.

      Like

      1. not quite replying to your comment here.. but i just sat through the Stefisterio 2013 DonG.. urgh.. that’d be in your cat 3 above.. you know the type of staging that makes you coming out very upset and want to swear? URGH X-(

        but i’m somehow very curious now about DonG.. quite motivated to slowly going through the various versions on tube.. and thought i come by here to say i think i also know one of the main reasons why the Vienna’s version clicked for me: 1 mezzo, 1 warm-voice soprano, 1 *very*-warm-voice soprano/mezzo/in-between (ACA). As we already sorted out my brain can absorb dark + warm + low voice much better.. so i finally can tell who is who and the details of their music (from hearing)!🙂 . hurrah! this makes discovery from now on so much easier!

        Like

        1. true, I hadnt thought about it from that angle.
          The voices (even the male ones) are all in the “favoite” corner for me, too – that must further something for sure.

          The Sfisterio Giovanni – you mean the Macerata? (is it the 2009 or is there another one form 2013 floating around? I just tried to look it up) That one deserves its own cycle of hell. It is convservative to the point of boring, but I didn’t manage to sit through it all yet, I always switch it off at some point because I cannot deal with the rampant sexism and misogyny that are passed off here as sexy. Lots of gratuitousness, lots of voyeurism, very little character exploration, convenient tossing around of stereotypes. If Rape Cuture could stage an opera, this is what would look like.
          Not even the singers can save this – I prefer d’Arcangelo as Leporello either way, his Giovanni (at least here) boils down to “I’m too sexy for my shirt” and various Robin Thicke songs. And I’d usually be thrilled to watch another Donna Anna take by a certain Greek soprano, but if I turn away within the first minutes with the thought of “I would feel like a goddamn creep if I looked at this any longer”, something is off. And I don’t mean a state of dress or undress, or any implied affair with the Giovanni, I mean the way the production deliberately invites the audience’s gaze to objectify Anna and take pleasure from it (and I would bet my lunch that it happened unreflected).
          (That’s my URGH. What’s yours?)

          Liked by 1 person

          1. i composed this offline earlier and thought it was too impolite to post in public… here is my “URGH”:

            just sat through MP’s 2013**’s D.Anna, the one where i said already from the outset i had problem with the staging.. oh man, i see this, and i really think our sat. outing was *good* staging! this is truly.. as we say in vietnamese, “oẹ” , (sorry, i’m going to translate now.. that’s the sound we make when vomiting).  urgh. this is the exact type of staging that turns me off completely.. there’s all kinds of posing and draping and looking sexy.. even D.Anna is told to drape over D.G while she was being forced on.. and Leporello is draping himself over an “over-joyed” D.Elvira.. makes no sense except for show.. let’s not even go to the draping of Zerlina stripping and piling on top of Masetto.. urgh.. even their final bow was a fake! and i finally saw the stage director at the end credit: Pizzi..

            Vocally, MP really stood out, esp. in her key aria “non di mir..” . but wow, IdA sounds tired and generic.. i have only heard him once (on tube) as .. whatever that character in Rossini Cenerentola, the one with voodoo magic, in that fun staging w/ V.Genaux and the bar, and i thought he was good.  And i really like his Leporello in Vienna (very spontaneous).. but wow, here, it’s like reading from a book before falling asleep… (all my opinion of course.. but i was able to go back to the many-beds staging without needing to compare to Wien.. so i think there’s validity here in my complaint i hope).
            –** i might have mixed up the year, but i think we are talking about the same one w MP as D.Anna in Italy at some music festival, which made it to dvd with her photo drapping around DonG in a pose for front cover…

            Liked by 1 person

          2. …I purposefully keep this discussion not in an after show thread but below 400+ live blog comments – I think nobody will accidentally end up here and complain about lack of politeness.😉

            >

            Liked by 1 person

          3. yep, that’s the one. See, I had deliberately forgotten that this was Pizzi.

            And my reaction is pretty much the same as yours, so either we are both the same brand of crazy, or this production is really unpalatable to demographics that do not deal in casual sexism.

            Also, I am SO incorporating “oę” (sorry, closest approximation my keyboard has on offer) into my reviewing vocabulary. I might need it now and then!

            Yup, Vienna doesn’t look so bad in comparison. I mean I still find it lazy and uninspired and barely existent, but at least it is not outright offensive (safe for that one wig. I still maintain you’d need a gun license for that one).

            Like

      2. (e.g. that Aix “Alcina” which a as an idea, I still find intriguing, but I cannot get behind the execution. Or look at the Lacroix Capuleti: doing it over not-touching is a good idea, but on a technical level, the physicality suggested to the singers made that impossible to uphold)

        I agree with you about both. Good ideas that didn’t work. The Alcina one had more chances to and yet… there are too many personal dislikes there for me that usually make me forget that the initial idea was good. The Lacroix Capuleti was simply stillborn. Mostly I just wanted the sink to fall off.

        Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s