Don Giovanni with Erwin Schrott, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, February 2012Posted on 17 February 2012
Erwin Schrott was a remarkable Don, good looking, devilishly charming, but with a nasty streak hidden by an insouciant devil-may-care attitude. And his singing was equally remarkable, with an easy casualness as if he were simply talking. As his counterpoint and servant, Alex Esposito as Leporello sang and acted the part with utter conviction. His Madamina aria, where he recounts to the lovesick Elvira all Giovanni’s conquests had a wonderful leering quality, and his stage actions were always expressive but never over the top.
Yet this was more than just Schrott and Esposito, and the rest of the cast was excellent. Ruxandra Donose came over beautifully in her Covent Garden debut as Donna Elvira, as did Kate Lindsey as Zerlina, who really fell for the Don at first meeting, smartly interposing herself between him and her betrothed Masetto, very well portrayed by Matthew Rose. In her first Donna Anna at Covent Garden, Carmela Remigio brought charm and power to the role. Her sudden realisation in Act I that Don Giovanni is her father’s murderer was very powerful, and her late Act II aria Non mi dir was charmingly delivered to her betrothed Don Ottavio. He was nobly sung and portrayed by Pavol Breslik, also making his role debut at the Royal Opera, and Reinhard Hagen sang the Commendatore with the presence he has shown before in this and other roles.
The singers were very well served by this Francesca Zambello production, superbly revived by Barbara Lluch with attention to detail everywhere. The dialogue between Giovanni and Leporello at the start of Act II was enlivened by the Don almost fainting as his servant says they have to leave the women alone, and it was then really played for laughs as he temporarily left the stage. After he had brutally shoved Leporello into a wall, and later beaten up Masetto leaving him lying on the ground, Zerlina came along to her betrothed and started slapping him, to great amusement from the audience. The joke about Leporello’s wife came off beautifully too, giving just the right degree of lightness before the statue made its ominous pronouncement. Then at the end, after Giovanni has been consumed by the flames of hell, Masetto offers his hand to Leporello and gives him a hug. A nice touch. The flames were so bright they lit up the whole auditorium, and Paul Pyant’s lighting was particularly good in showing the darkness at appropriate times.
Finally, the orchestra was very well paced under the direction of Constantinos Carydis, and the dramatic moment just before the statue appears at the banquet came over very strongly. One cannot easily find Don Giovanni better performed than this, and Erwin Schrott is unmissable.
Performances with this new cast continue until February 29 and seats are still available, though not in the Amphi — for details click here.