The Met Live HD rolls out the hunks, hotties
Last Saturday, The Metropolitan Opera – in New York City – blasted its production of Don Giovanni on to a HD screen 2100 miles away in Teton Village on a blustery fall day. About 200 opera fans packed the center seats at Walk Festival Hall with their warm coffee, lunches and even of few Snuggies (why didn’t I think of that?). The three-hour-plus live silmulcast performance was one of the most compelling Don Giovanni productions this opera fan had ever seen and may have convinced me that seeing opera in this setting is a good thing.
What did this production, conducted by Fabio Luisi, have that set it above all others? Hunks, hotties and brilliant singers. Forgive me, but bloated, old singers waddling about on stage, flapping their arms, pretending to be sexy can be very distracting to anyone. I applaud contemporary opera producers for making an effort to cast more realistic singers as young characters. And in the case of Mozart’s Don Giovanni, I can assure you that Mozart did not write these sexually explosive and mischievous roles (accept for maybe the tenor role of Don Ottavio) for unsexy people, sorry.
Let’s start with the hottest and go down from there: Probably a tie between Mariusz Zwiecien (Don Giovanni) and Luca Pisaroni (Leporello). Zwiecien nailed the role of the privileged sex crazed Libertine; young, long-haired, handsome, sweaty and energetic. His voice met the demands of a world class singer, but he wasn’t afraid to use other dimensions of this voice. I like how instead of over singing his high notes in the traditional way, he used super-controlled falsetto which added depth to his character. Pisaroni as Leporello stole the show for most. At first I was surprised to see a tall, trim, handsome brut as the traditional baffoon sidekick, but maybe this role doesn’t need a rodeo clown, just a normal guy who doesn’t make great decisions (we all know one.) And like Zweicien, he acted well and his singing was great. Lastly, I had a few problems with Ramon Vargas as Don Ottavio, others who came with me, didn’t so much. He was a great singer, no doubt, but I found his expressionless gaze, and stiff acting too distracting. One friend said that’s what he’s supposed to be like – a nerd – and that’s why Donna Anna wasn’t ready to commit, would you marry him? Hmmm, I’ll have to ponder that.
The three women lead singers were monster talents and lifted the entire production as their singing was devastatingly good and their acting believable and worth watching. Marina Rebeka (Donna Anna), Barbara Frittoli (Donna Elvira) and Mojca Erdmann (Zerlina) were a tour de force ensemble, interacting well with each other and blending perfectly when needed. Erdmann’s Zerlina was darling but smart, just as Mozart would have envisioned.
My last miscellaneous comments would include: The ballet company was a little drab; Stefan Kocån as the Commendore was a great singer (though my 10-year old son who attended with me, commented that his ghost could have been scarier); the costumes were amazing; the backstage/behind-the-scenes commentary by soprano Renée Flemming were interesting (another thumbs up from my son) and the general musical performance was world class.
The MET Live in HD series presented by the Grand Teton Music Festival provides for both the skilled opera goer and those fearful of opera. If you’ve never been to an opera, but are intrigued, this casual unintimidating darkly lit concert hall is perfect to dip your toes into the turbulent waters of opera. And for those opera veterans out there, do not take this opportunity for granted. Be sure to bring snacks, food and comfortable clothes. There are very limited concessions offered, like wine, coffee and nuts (they ran out of regular coffee and I unfortunately headed to the Four Seasons for two cups of coffee to-go, for $9!) Bring a Snuggie! – Mary Grossman
The MET LIVE in HD at Walk Festival Hall series is scheduled through February. Tickets are $18 for adults and $5 for students at the door or www.gtmf.org. Check JH Weekly for current opera times and listings.