Dashing across the stage with a drawn sword, pursuing every female surrounding him with a voracious appetite, the baritone, Mariusz Kwiecien—singing the title role in a new production of “Don Giovanni”—never had the audience suspecting that he had so recently returned from surgery. Forced to miss several performances due to a herniated disc, he had his opening night on Tuesday, Oct. 25 at the Met Opera. It was worth the wait for lovers of the true anti-hero. Kwiecien’s rich voice and superb acting lit up the stage, as he enchanted both the women that he so desired and the audience that so desired him.
At the helm of the entire production, however, stood the man everyone is talking about. Conducting the orchestra and playing the harpsichord solos was Fabio Luisi, in his first production since being named principal conductor of the Met. Standing in for the injured and ailing James Levine during the first half of the season, Luisi was confident with his baton—conducting the orchestra with precision and passion—and reinforced the widely held belief that he will soon become the next music director of the opera.
Mozart's “Don Giovanni” offers a morality play in which the Don, a true libertine, is eventually made to suffer for his crimes. When attempting to force himself upon Donna Anna in the dead of night, he is caught and challenged to a duel by her father, the Commandatore, sung by an imposing Stefan Kocan, whom the Don kills before making his escape. Accompanying him—a perversion of the great Spanish sidekick, Sancho Panza—is Leporello, the Don’s manservant and companion, dragged along on all of the sexual escapades, and forced to clean up after his mess. Brought to life by an enthusiastic Luca Pisaroni, the two clown around on stage with each other, adding a touch of comedy to an otherwise dark opera.
No comments about this opera would be complete without a word on the Don’s pursuits. Marina Rebeka provided Donna Anna with a beautiful, steeled voice for her suffering, reminding us how she has been mistreated, demanding justice for the Don’s transgressions. Barbara Frittoli lent some much needed elegance to Don Giovanni’s spurned lover, Donna Elvira—a pathetic character who cannot accept that the Don has no desire to be with her after he has had his way with her.
Set in the streets of a city and in the house of Don Giovanni, the stage turned into alleyways and ballrooms through clever employments of monumental pieces of set. Instead of offering a minimalist approach—as some new productions at the Met such as the formerly extravagant “La Traviata” have—Peter Gelb, general manager, preserved Don Giovanni in its time with proper period costumes and offered a traditional, yet exciting compliment to a true work of art.
After several misadventures and further attempts at seduction throughout the streets, Don Giovanni and Leporello find themselves in the graveyard where the Commandatore is buried. The Don mocks the Commandatore, inviting his statue to dinner. He is shocked when it shows up and reciprocates Don Giovanni’s invitation, asking him to come and dine in hell. The earth opens up, and the Don is dragged below, as fire shoots out of the stage—a fitting end to a despicable man.