On Wednesday night the premiere of Don Giovanni took place at the Met. The cast included Swedish baritone Peter Mattei in the title role, Luca Pisaroni as Leporello, South African soprano Elza van den Heever as Donna Anna, Emma Bell as Donna Elvira, Kate Lindsey as Zerlina, and James Morris as the Commendatore. This performance was the beginning of another run of the Michael Grandage production which opened in the 2011-12 season.
Peter Mattei was the highlight of the show. His voice shimmers and has a sincere, sweet quality to it that has worked for his Don Giovanni, as well as other heavier roles such as Amfortas in Parsifal. This sweetness was particularly prevalent in “Là ci darem la mano” and “Deh vieni alla finestra”, as he used that tone especially well when serenading and flirting with various women in the opera. I, on cue, practically melted in my seat. His intensity on stage was also admirable. For a man well over six feet tall, he was able to stoop down to other singers’ levels, jump on tables, and sink into the fires of Hell without letting his vocal quality decrease. His diction was also impeccable; I had never heard “Fin ch’han dal vino calda la testa” sung with such crispness. Overall, Mattei was the highlight of the evening, wowing with me with every line that poured out of his mouth. He had the entire audience in the palm of his hand.
Pisaroni played a hilarious Leporello; his comic timing is priceless. He had the audience howling with laughter when Giovanni forces Leporello to put his own clothes on in disguise to woo Donna Elvira. His reluctant facial expressions and his collapsing out of fake infatuation for Elvira were hysterical. Pisaroni’s singing was largely lyrical, just as it was in La Cenerentola last season in the role of Alidoro. His “Catalog Aria” was not overdone; it was sung beautifully.
Elza van den Heever wowed the audience with her “Non mi dir”. She played a largely independent Donna Anna, rarely putting her head on Don Ottavio’s shoulder. I only wish that “Non mi dir” and “Or sai chi l’onore Rapire a me volse” could have been on the more exciting side. The tempi seemed to drag under the baton of Alan Gilbert for many portions of the opera. I felt the same way about Emma Bell’s “Mi Tradi”, one of, if not the most exhilarating aria of the evening. It did not feel driven enough, in my opinion, as entrances were hesitant and long lines tended to drag.
Kate Lindsey’s voice seems to grow richer each time she steps on the stage. She is sounding more and more like a dramatic French mezzo, or the likes of Susan Graham. As the petite Zerlina, she sounded grounded and steady. Her voice did not waver or go sharp, which can happen to more “flighty” Zerlinas. Her counterpart, Masetto, sung by Adam Plachetka, was very solid in his Met debut. Russian tenor Dmitri Korchak also made his debut on Wednesday in the role of Don Ottavio. Other than some unsteady approaches to high notes and taking more time then needed on some phrases, he sang a lovely performance.
The Met Orchestra was captivating. The Met Orchestra musicians always play Mozart so well, as they keep it very chamber-like and crisp. The Met Chorus also did a wonderful job; they sounded lithe and graceful in the happy scenes and dark and menacing in the scary scenes!
Performances of Don Giovanni run through March 6. Go see this Mozartian drama before it is too late!