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Saturday, September 22, 2018

Metropolitan Opera Preview: Don Giovanni

Two casts retell the story of the great seducer who gets his comeuppance.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Luca Pisaroni (left) here as Leporello and Peter Mattei (second from right) both return to
sing the title role in Don Giovanni this season. Photo © 2018 The Metropolitan Opera.

Frolicking, fun, fire and fury. That's the world of Don Giovanni which returns to the Met for two runs of performances. It's a dull production but it's got really good singers.

What is Don Giovanni
Don Giovanni is called a dramma giocoso, a rollicking comedy with a dark and morally instructive ending. It is the second of three operatic collaborations between Mozart and librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte, who injected notes from his own libertine lifestyle into this portrait of a Spanish nobleman who is absolutely obsessed with getting his ashes hauled. Want proof? Look to the "Catalogue Song", where Leporello ennumerates the Don's conquests, including 1,003 women in Spain alone.

What's the story?
In Seville, the nobleman Don Giovanni and his servant Leporello get into a series of lecherous adventures, all with the goal of getting jiggy with the females in the cast. However, the Don's libertine ways lead to a bad end as he is dragged off to Hell by the statue of the man he murdered in the opera's first scene.

Tell me something else interesting?
There are two "versions" of the opera. The Prague version is the opera as Mozart originally staged it. The Vienna staging removed the tenor aria "Io mio tesoro", adding three new numbers. Also excised: the anti-climactic final ensemble. Today, most directors opt for both tenor arias and make their own decision regarding the final scene.

What's the music like?
The show is loaded with some of Mozart's greatest writing for the voice, from Donna Anna's fiery Act I aria "Or sai chi l'onore" to the light humor of the Catalogue Song and the Act II serenade. The kicker is that final damnation sequence, where the composer whips up a storm of orchestral hellfire that can singe the soul and make one think seriously about repenting one's sins.

Who's in it?
The first cast features the bass-on-bass team of Luca Pisaroni and Ildar Abdrazakov as the Don and Leporello. The ladies are Rachel Willis-Sørensen, Federica Lombardi and the marvelously named Aida Garafullina. The second pairs Peter Mattei with Adam Plachetka as master and servant, opposite Guanqun Yu, Susanna Phillips and Rihab Chaieb. Cornelius Meister conducts all the performances.

How's the production?
This 2011 staging by Michael Grandage maintains the nocturnal atmosphere of the Don's adventures, with the actions set against moving walls of louvered doors that suggest more the dilapadated no-tell motels of the Jersey shore than the streets of Seville. The darkened sets don't give the actors much to work with, although the blocking of the complex Act I finale (with its three groups of musicians onstage all playing different melodies) is entertaining to watch. The fire sequence at the end is impressive.

When does Don Giovanni open?
The first cast takes the stage on Jan. 30. The opera returns with the second cast led by Peter Mattei on April 4.

Is there a Live in HD broadcast planned?
Not this season.

Where do I get tickets?
Tickets are available through MetOpera.Org or by calling the box office at (212) 362-6000. You can save some money on service fees by going to the box office in person at the Met itself, located at 30 Lincoln Center Plaza.

Box office hours are: Monday to Saturday: 10am-8pm, Sunday: 12pm-6pm.

Which recordings do you recommend?
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