Opera review: Don Giovanni

National Theatre, Munich

****

The majestic National Theatre in the bustling heart of Munich has been home to the Bavarian State Opera since 1818.

One of the world’s premier houses, it hosts 30 productions annually, culminating in a month-long festival in July, with live broadcasts on outdoor screens in the café-lined squares.

Subsidised by the state, ticket prices range from a modest €11 to €130.

Rebuilt twice, following destruction by fire and, later, war-time shelling, the theatre has a staunch local fan-base swelled by international visitors.

While the Bavarian State Opera trades on tradition, avant-garde directors have pepped things up. In his 2009 staging of Mozart’s Don Giovanni, Stephen Kimmag seemed to take his inspiration from the dockside TV drama, The Wire.

 

In this version, singers spill out of shipping containers onto a boardwalk of pallets; bizarre props include pig carcasses and giant penguins.

The ghostly Commendatore (Ain Anger) upbraids the rascal Don from an abattoir. There is the customary nudity: an elderly naked man shivers on stage throughout the overture.

While the staging seems bizarre and pretentious, it did demonstrate the impressive feat of engineering that is the stage machinery: the stacked transit containers rotate and glide forward and back, silently.

The constant movement, combined with a superfluous video projection of blurry images, make this viewer feel seasick and distract from the main event — the singing.

The high-calibre cast is superb under Greek conductor, Constantinos Carydis. Englishman, Christopher Maltman, as the nonchalant Don Giovanni, makes it all sound so easy. His serenades to mandolin accompaniment, in his supple, high baritone voice, seem impossibly sotto voce for such an enormous house.

The loudest cheers are for American tenor, Charles Castronova, as an ardent Don Ottavio. Also, with her beautiful, clear tone, it is apparent why French soprano, Veronique Gens, is in such demand for her Mozart roles.

There was token booing from the smartly dressed audience on this final night of the run, before sustained warm applause at the curtain calls for the singers.

Next live streaming: Lucia di Lammamoorm, February 1, www.staatsoper.de, features Irish tenor Dean Power


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