Wild animals live in the woods. Robbers hide there. Mystery is at home
there. And, when the woods are on the stage of Salzburg's Haus für Mozart,
a notorious ladies' man and his unsavory accomplice can also find shelter
there. For here, in the dense forest planted by director Claus Guth, is
the home of the rugged macho Don Giovanni, who, assisted by Leporello,
lures the ladies with the heady scent of danger.
In Guth's almost cinematic Salzburg Festival production, every character
in Mozart's most realistic opera seems to carry a back-story of thwarted
love and frustration. Everyone appears to be seeking either salvation or
damnation in the woods - a compelling concept that removes the opera from
its traditional pseudo-Seville squares and palaces. And when Don Giovanni
is played by Christopher Maltman, it's no wonder that Donna Anna (Annette
Dasch), Donna Elvira (Dorothea Röschmann) and even Zerlina (Ekaterina
Siurina) are ready to throw themselves at his feet. With a physique as
striking as his full-bodied baritone voice, Maltman embodies Don Giovanni
as an almost reluctant seducer, a man fated to bring misery to women and,
ultimately, to himself.
Next to Maltman, it is Uruguayan bass-baritone Erwin Schrott who rivets
the audience in this production: "Schrott's Leporello is an event in his
own right, the event of the Salzburg 'Don Giovanni'" (Die Welt). This
Leporello is no bumbling sidekick or nobleman's scapegoat, but his
master's worthy companion on the road to perdition. Among the women,
Röschmann gives a heart-stopping account of rage, passion and love in her
arias. And as Don Ottavio, Matthew Polenzani has nothing in common with
the traditionally sweet but boring characterization of the eternal fiancé.
Under Bertrand de Billy, the Wiener Philharmoniker play with refreshing
verve and spirit.
Four further "Don Giovannis" are available from UNITEL CLASSICA, from
Furtwängler's 1954 Salzburg Festival production to Martin Kusej's
"Mozart22" staging of 2006 with Thomas Hampson in the title role.