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2006-1, Vienna, Don Giovanni

Don Giovanni


Composer: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Librettist: Lorenzo da Ponte
Venue and Dates: Vienna Staatsoper
18, 20, 22 January 2006
Conductor: Philippe Jordan
Director: Roberto de Simone
Staging: Nicola Rubertelli
Costumes: Zaira de Vincentiis
Don Giovanni : Simon Keenlyside
Leporello : Kwangchul Youn
Donna Anna : Ricarda Merbeth
Donna Elvira : Melanie Diener
Don Ottavio : Ian Bostridge

Commendatore : Dan Paul Dumitrescu
Zerlina : Ileana Tonca
Masetto : Eijiro Kai
Orchestra and Choir of the Vienna Staatsoper (Choir Master: Ernst Dunshirn)

Notes: Debut of Ian Bostridge at the Wiener Staatsoper, and both SK Philippe Jordan’s first Don Giovanni there.



Click here to read what SK thought of the production: Interview for Der Standard, 26 January 2006.



Click below for reviews and comments on both the Vienna and Munich Don Giovanni productions in January and February 2006. They are written by members of the audience, several of whom attended both productions.

Don Giovanni, Vienna and Munich 2006, audience reviews


Vienna’s Don Giovanni returns with an all new cast
Moore Parker for the Opera Critic


“Simon Keeleyside [sic], presented his Don here for the first time – suave in style, beautifully-phrased, particularly in the more lyrical moments (the La ci darem with the delicious Zerlina of Ileana Tonca) was one of the evening’s highlights.”


Tanz der Vampire, Julia Urbanek, Wiener Zeitung, 20 Jänner 2006


Translated by Ursula Turecek

Dance of the Vampires

Resumption of Mozart’s „Don Giovanni“ in de Simone’s production at the Vienna State Opera

The jubilee year is only 19 days old and the enthusiasm for Mozart is already in full activity. The opera house is completely sold out when in “Don Giovanni” for the 20th time in Roberto de Simone’s production there is seduction, languor and revenge.

However good the quality presented on stage, the surrounding conditions are anything but spectacular. It’s in a brummagem-anaemic atmosphere that the grand emotions are supposed to be delivered. The right backdrop for “Dance of the Vampires” [Roman Polanski’s “The Fearless Vampire Killers”], fair enough. But Don Giovanni ?

The evening was in any case a dance of the voices. Kwangchul Youn is a great Leporello – with humour, charm, perfect articulation and a most powerful voice.

Under his wings, Simon Keenlyside with his first Don Giovanni at the State Opera. His acting came across as a little clumsy at first but he conquered the stage for himself and finally noticeably enjoyed his part as a seducer that he knew how to realise vocally. Even nearly acrobatic actions like peeling an orange while singing could not deter him from anything.

Ian Bostridge celebrated his debut at the State Opera as Don Ottavio. A little stiff in the beginning too, he displays his strong voice and shows powerful solos.

Fashionable journey

As monotonous the stage design, as brisk were the costume changes for the actors in the course of the evening. The facades are pushed from grey to dark grey – meanwhile the singers go on a wild fashionable journey through the centuries. What confuses at first, is after longer consideration, a refreshing diversion in this dreary haunted castle.

Refreshing also the female trio: Ricarda Merbeth as Donna Anna acts best of all and has a perfect body language. Her solos are partly excellent, like the effectively touching “Or sai chi l’onore”.

Melanie Diener as Donna Elvira is on the whole a great diva who knows how to be ice cold, cool and burning. Her interpretation is solid to breathtaking, her role debut receives much acclaim. Ileana Tonca’s Zerlina is sweet with very beautiful passages. Her good Masetto (Eijiro Kai) is rather unimpressive, but surprisingly lively at times.

Less sparkling but extremely solid was Philippe Jordan at the rostrum. Anyway, the audience was out of all bounds. Well, if that’s not the “Spirit of Mozart” I don’t know what is !


Von Walter Weidringer (Die Presse) 23.01.2006


Translated by Ursula Turecek

Review State Opera:

„Don Giovanni“ behind powder and wig

Viennese Mozart days: Philippe Jordan conducted Roberto de Simone’s “Giovanni” at the “Haus am Ring”

Sometimes it can be a pity when technology takes a part. Thus the successful transfer of Roberto de Simone’s “Don Giovanni” from the Theater an der Wien to the “Haus am Ring” burdens the audience of the State Opera with too much stark standing and striding on stage, draped with supernumerary junk and filled up with masses of fabrics, leather, wigs: Zaira de Vincentiis did not provide costumes but disguises that threaten to burry Mozart’s and da Ponte’s Dramma giocosa under an historic fashion show.

Instead of emphasizing the timelessness of this work it thus rather moved further away. At first even a singer-actor of Simon Keenlyside’s quality had trouble to give shape other than that of a merely self-important coxcomb to the title-role, but he warmed up in view of Ileana Tonca’s endearing, vocally somewhat small Zerlina: This Giovanni takes effect from noble, subtle understatement in singing to show his vocal and acting grandeur in the impressive downfall. As Leporello, an unconstrained Kwangchul Youn stood by his side.

It was Ian Bostridge, giving a vocally somewhat bonily unbalanced Ottavio, who fitted in the gothic-horror-ambiance of Nicola Rubertelli’s stage design most coherently. Ricarda Merbeth managed Donna Anna with technical skill, but by doing so she ventured to her limits. Melanie Diener interpreted more of an enduringly floating than of a furiously blazing Elvira. Little enjoyable: A Commendatore as weak breasted as Dan Paul Dumitrescu has gambled away the credit of a supernatural being.

Philippe Jordan implemented with the animated orchestra his clear view of the score determined by care. The rigour of baroque seria met alert buffa-esprit. With rigid precision at first, later more relaxedly, Jordan brought exciting viola parts to light or spread a subtle piano-carpet under the voices. Please go on like this, Mozart-year !


Stefan Ender, Der Standard 24. Jänner 2006


English translation by Ursula Turecek

Love eat up fear [sic]

“Don Giovanni” …

Vienna – Who is Don Giovanni ? An “emissary of lust” that “the bourgeois are very quick to forbid”, knows Theodor W. Adorno. A man inspired with “pure rage of life”, explains Michael Haneke in an interview for ZEIT, driven by the “fear of losing his own self”: Fear was actually the profoundest feeling, thus Haneke at rehearsals for Mozart’s “Dramma giocoso” in Paris.

Fear was not what Simon Keenlyside displayed at his first Don Giovanni at the State Opera, neither of Dan Paul Dumitrescu’s vocally weak Commendatore who lacked authority nor of Roberto de Simone’s antediluvian production full of stuff. Keenlyside performed an athletic-gallant, confidently present Giovanni; the Briton conducted his subtle-warm baritone as assuredly as his epee.

Ian Bostridge also strutted bravely de Simone’s ghoulish staircase-landscapes; the celebrated British lieder singer’s Don Ottavio knew how to convince mainly by the soul caressingly pliant, expert singing. Melanie Diener gave and sang Donna Elvira demurely, Ricarda Merbeth as Donna Anna was far more dramatic; Kwangchul Youn assisted Keenlyside (as Leporello) orotundly. Philippe Jordan presented a tender, calculated, marginally stiff Don Giovanni: More dancing master’s imprints of a dancing-master instead of taskmaster’s would have been emotionally more becoming to the work.


Oper in Wien (Dominik Troger)


Extracts translated by Ursula Turecek

Wiener Staatsoper, 18.1.2006

“Rather anaemic“

At the State Opera „Don Giovanni“ now is played in Roberto de Simone’s production again. This is no advantage. The events on stage develop barely any esprit or satiric edge, Don Giovanni’s erotically attractive and at the same time disgusting air remains undetected.

Simon Keenlyside gave a more diffident Don Giovanni debut. Partly it must have been the conductor who gave him a harder time (champagne aria), partly the production with its constant changes of costumes. But somehow this seems to have applied for all the participants……

The applause was vigorous but not rapturous.


Kurt Vlach, Der Neue Merker

Translated by Ursula Turecek

Wiener Staatsoper: DON GIOVANNI (this time also with Don Ottavio)- 18.1.2006

As was to be heard after the performance, an overhaul of Zeffirelli’s costumes and stage settings (which are already rather decrepit as could be seen clearly in January 2005) would have afflicted the budget of the State Opera too much and therefore Roberto de Simone’s production was unearthed at relatively short notice which enraged purists quite a lot.

Maybe I’m treading on thin ice now but I liked the interpretation. Like with Cosi fan tutte already we retrieve a really luxurious production here – certainly, sometimes dreary (but that’s what Zeffirelli’s was too) and it definitely demands a certain flexibility in changing clothes (I did not count the different costumes) from the singers. Of course you can question why the director makes our main character, Mr. John, appear in ever so many costumes (probably to accent the figure’s validity through the centuries – but a reasonably intelligent spectator will notice anyway if he reflects on the libretto a little….), but – to quote director Holender in a “conversation“ with the audience, answering the question as to how he liked Lohengrin – “there is worse”.

But let’s get to the singing now. As mentioned in the headline already, this time there was a Don Ottavio who even attracted attention. One of the most thankless tenor roles, the part degenerates to a “non-event” if the interpretor is not extraordinary. The exceptionally gifted lieder- and cantata-singer Ian Bostridge made a very successful debut at the State Opera. Yes, he had his own style and his arias sounded like a mixture between Schubert lied and Bach cantata, but a clear, wonderfully caressing voice, perfect intonation and phrasing. It certainly helped that the orchestra was subdued during his arias but Bostridge was audible in the ensemble scenes too which I had not at all been able to imagine before. True, he did not invent acting – he came across as rather wooden, certainly due to his tall, lanky stature, but I most willingly forgive him for this. In any case a credit to this role!

Another Briton made his role debut as Don Giovanni at the State Opera, Simon Keenlyside, a favourite of the audience. A slightly inhibited beginning, he compensated for smaller problems with the tempo of the champagne aria (he and the orchestra were pretty far apart there) particularly in the 2nd act when he produced the serenade with incredible tenderness – this was lieder singing in perfection too. Physically he is perfect for Don Giovanni of course and thus he whirled around the stage wherever it was possible. Would I wish for more volume and depth ? Yes, without question.

In this respect Kwangchul Youn was certainly a perfect supplement to Bostridge. Everybody who had Furlanetto’s register aria from 5th november still ringing in his ears became aware that Youn is a vocal light(er)weight in comparison. Nevertheless or exactly because of this he was perfectly cast in this performance. Articulate with the words, perfectly acting and a rascal he was his master’s faithful servant. Maybe Leporello went into business for himself after the end of the opera and now sells his love potions as Dr. Dulcamara in Italy.

Eijiro Kai gave a solid Masetto without convincing completely. As Commendatore I found the otherwise really good Dan Paul Dumitrescu disappointing. His rather soft bass simply does not have the material for this part – in this case Don Giovanni was impressed certainly more by the apparition than by the vocal power that did not radiate any menace at all.

Let’s now get to the ladies’ squad. Another role debut at the State Opera was made by Ileana Tonca who for me was not as convincing in the role of Zerlina this time as she had been as Sophie in “Rosenkavalier” for example. Not that she was bad, but I would have liked for a little more voice volume. But concerning the acting she is certainly nearly ideal.

After Regina Schörg had cancelled Ricarda Merbeth accepted Donna Anna – and she did a good job (and also came to grips with the changes of costume well). She also sang “Non mi dir” with much presence and expression, hit all the notes (certainly not as splendidly as Edita Gruberova but in exchange she did not give such an artificial impression) and was rightfully acclaimed. Melanie Diener as Donna Elvira completed the circle of role debuts, succeeding in making the audience feel this loving woman’s desperation nearly physically. Concerning the singing there was nothing to be criticised.

Last but not least the conductor – Philippe Jordan conducted the orchestra vigilantly and solidly. The difficulties in the coordination with the singers he had at times should be history from the second performance on.

Altogether an interesting evening with a performance that was absolutely adequate to the “Mozart-days” of the State Opera.


Martin Robert Botz for Der Neue Merker


Extracts translated by Ursula Tureck

Wiener Staatsoper: DON GIOVANNI, 3rd performance 22. 1. 2006

Gentlemen first ! This is not a macho-sentence but the artistic result of this evening. I agree largely with H. Vlach’s review for the first performance. Therefore only a short report. Simon Keenlyside/title role and Ian Bostridge/Ottavio were totally exceptional and were celebrated by the audience. For “Dalla sua pace” and “Fin ch’han dal vino” there was not only applause but also a lot of cheers…..

Huge exultation was the end of a remarkably beautiful evening.

Kronen-Zeitung, 20. 1. 2006 (Karlheinz Roschitz)

Translated by Ursula Turecek (and with thanks to Gesine Menardi)

State Opera: Philippe Jordan with „Don Giovanni“, Keenlyside

Mozart-„Time-travel“ with five debuts

„Don Giovanni“ at the Vienna State Opera’s Mozart-days! It was mainly a considerable success for Philippe Jordan at the rostrum who after his Salzburg “Cosi” proved once more a subtle Mozart-conductor with a feeling for the stage – even if more rehearsals certainly would have allowed for an even denser performance.

Jordan lead his ensemble – with five debuts – securely, full of spirits. He breathed with the voices, supported them reliably, attended carefully to the correspondence with the orchestra that – except for little slacknesses – followed him attentively here. The dialogues between voices and instrumentalists were conducted skilfully (a pity that Simon Keenlyside made himself independent almost to the point of abortion in the “champagne” aria). Jordan’s dramaturgy of sound pleased with clear lines, dramatic power and elastically springing elegance.

The ensemble did not always produce a homogeneous impression but pleasing individual performances: Simon Keenlyside is a vocally slim protagonist with exquisitely accomplished singing and a very British reserve who commanded the stage at the Theater an der Wien [as Almaviva in Le nozze di Figaro in 2001 and 2002] with more ostentation. Sadly his beautiful baritone voice took a back seat alongside Kwangchul Youn coming it strong as a bruiser-like Leporello

Ian Bostridge completed his State Opera debut that had been anticipated with particular eagerness and was acclaimed: His idiosyncratically conducted tenor with the characteristic (countertenor-)colouring gave appropriate aura and shyly subdued, rather mannered expression to Don Ottavio. An elegant baroque character!

Ricarda Merbeth impressed as Donna Anna with radiant soprano. Melanie Diener is an Elvira with a somewhat sallow middle register, Ileana Tonca a pale Zerlina lacking liveliness, Eijiro Kai her solid Masetto, Dan Paul Dumitrescu a Commendatore without demonical possession.

Roberto de Simone’s odd “time-travel”-production, pure luxury from the costume agency but ripe for the waste site, was no help to the ensemble.



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