The digital revolution has made many wonderful things possible, but culturally speaking, one of the grandest is the live-in-high-definition broadcast of opera from the world’s major opera houses. The leader in bringing the enormous multi-art undertaking that is grand opera is New York’s Metropolitan Opera, with its Live in HD programming, now nearing its fifth anniversary. The most recent broadcast, on Oct. 29 (all live broadcasts to theaters occur on Saturdays), is a new staging of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Don Giovanni. The recorded show will repeat (or encore, as they say) on Nov. 16 at 6:30 p.m. and local opera lovers can choose between Brier Stadium 14 or North Hills Stadium 14.
And this weekend, Wagnerites will be converging on the cinemas for the live broadcast of Siegfried, the third installment in the Ring cycle. (I'll be there, readers, for all six hours of it.)
But we're here to discuss Don Giovanni—aka Don Juan—the antihero few can resist. A swaggering, lusty liar, seducer, betrayer and murderer, his only positive quality is the unmitigated zest with which he undertakes his loveless misdeeds. The Met is presenting a new staging by Michael Grandage; the music is conducted by newly-named principal conductor Fabio Luisi, who also plays the harpsichord flourishes preceding the recitatives. The music was not as sprightly as I prefer my Mozart, but it well supported the singers.
The strong cast, led by Mariusz Kwiecien as Don Giovanni, sings beautifully, although generally the singers seemed somewhat distant from the passions of the story. Kwiecien has sung the role many times on many stages, and often his delivery seemed rote. The most enjoyable aspect of his characterization were his conversations and asides with his servant, Leporello, the highly amusing and smooth-voiced Luca Pisaroni, who makes a marvelous low accomplice, festooned with the last shreds of conscience.
The sparkle so essential to Mozart is supplied here by Mojca Erdmann as Zerlina. Her character is about as moral as a kitten, but also as sweet. She goes right along with the Don when he seduces her moments before her own wedding to the hapless Masetto, but she is so bubbly and adorable, so playful in a voice so pure, that we forgive her humanity, and by extension, Don Giovanni’s, too.