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2006-2, Munich, Don Giovanni

Don Giovanni


Composer: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Librettist: Lorenzo da Ponte
Venue and Dates: Bayerische Staatsoper
30 January, 4 February 2006
Conductor: Ivor Bolton
Director: Nicholas Hytner
Set and Costumes: Bob Crowley
Lighting: Jean Kalman
Don Giovanni: Simon Keenlyside
Leporello: Jonathan Lemalu
Donna Anna: Margarita De Arellano
Donna Elvira: Véronique Gens
Don Ottavio: Toby Spence
Commendatore: Kurt Moll
Zerlina: Alison Hagley
Masetto: Steven Humes
The Bavarian State Orchestra
The Chorus of the Bavarian State Opera
Chorus Master: Andrés Máspero



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

Every week the Munich newspaper Tageszeitung awards a “rose” for outstanding achievement, merit or performance in the cultural sector: for the week from 30 January to 5 February the rose was awarded to Simon Keenlyside for his Don Giovanni in Munich.

A Giovanni as he should be

M. Bieber, Tageszeitung, 1 February 2006

Translated by Ursula Turecek

No, we won’t get really used to Nicholas Hytner’s “Don Giovanni” production. It is far too minimalist. And the horse accompanying in a most undramatic hop the stone guest’s entrance at the strident dissonance that arrives from nowhere will give us nightmares for a long time. This is how a production goes beyond the music. But to hear: We want to hear this new cast many more times. Above all Simon Keenlyside whose role debut at the Nationaltheater left no desire unfulfilled. This man is capable of everything: languishing seductively (in which the mandolin player sadly did not succeed at all), roaring in fortissimo without ever blaring, doing marvellous parlando-passages, conjuring up a pianissimo that carries easily up to the chandelier – and even acting brilliantly. This is how Giovanni has to be: a large black hole the attraction of which nobody can escape.

The other role debuts were remarkable to excellent too: Margarita De Arellano’s Donna Anna (with some problems in the second act), Véronique Gens’s Elvira who does not perform overheated and frustrated fury but keeps an aristocratic attitude despite all dolour, Jonathan Lemalu as a strongly acting and vocally many-coloured Leporello (who is not too particular about rhythmic accuracy) – and Toby Spence who gave so much power and sensuality to the often underestimated Don Ottavio that he rose to the actual antagonist of the audacious Don.

The final applause was surprisingly weak. This may have been due to the Staatsorchester under Ivor Bolton. It played respectably, it is true, but far too routinely for the Opera of all Operas.


Volker Boser, Abendzeitung, 1 February 2005

Translated by Ursula Turecek

“Don Giovanni” at Munich’s Mozart-week

“Looking for tickets” – what usually can be observed only at first nights and guest performances of notables, a Mozart opera manages blindfold. Let the director of Vienna’s State Opera, Ioan Holender be ever so cross on television, the master from Salzburg is in fashion, particularly these days. And that’s why Munich’s Sir Peter Jonas adorned himself quickly with a Mozart-week at the Nationaltheater, successfully it seems: “Don Giovanni” was completely sold out. Although Nicholas Hytner’s production has been getting a bit long in the tooth for a long time and the cast list did not promise anything exraordinary either.

But sometimes the spark ignites even in a repertory performance. This time it was conductor Ivor Bolton who ignited it. At the very first beats of the overture he made it clear that he was willing to provide more than mere workaday routine. The sarcasm but also the drama of the music were demonstrated by the Staatsorchester with power and emphasis.

On stage light and shade: Simon Keenlyside in the name part opened the throttle only during the last twenty minutes. Why the ladies gave him such a walkover remained unclear: a slip of a baby-boy, more Papageno than Don Juan, a Mother’s dream of a Son-in-law with voice. But live we want to experience things visually too.

That the arias composed subsequently for Vienna were missing was a pity. Because Toby Spence (Don Ottavio) and Véronique Gens (Donna Elvira) sang irreproachably, as did Margarita De Arellano (Donna Anna) with little restrictions. And of course there were those who got on the gravy train. This time it was Jonathan Lemalu (Leporello) and the still wonderfully present Kurt Moll (Commendatore).

Egbert Tholl, Süddeutsche Zeitung, 2 February 2006

Translated by Ursula Turecek

Bolton’s Triumph

The State Opera’s revived „Don Giovanni”

Even if Nicholas Hytner’s production has grown old without patina over the past years and the settings have decayed pretty much: “Don Giovanni” ensures a full house for the Bavarian State Opera. And Ivor Bolton’s conducting alone makes the performance in the course of the Mozart week a real birthday party. With much appreciation of the depths, with emotional energy and appetite for savouring every phrase Bolton proceeds so vehemently that the singers, mainly in the ensembles, partly have difficulties to sing against the instrumental maelstrom from hell.

The cast is not exactly a festival of great voices, except for the indestructibly wonderful Kurt Moll. But that’s quite all right because in the main Simon Keenlyside as Don Giovanni and Jonathan Lemalu are acting wonderfully with each other. Vocally Keenlyside is holding his ground bravely, losing control only in the festive aria “Finch’han dal vino” but being mainly an artful, charming seducer, an agile chap, beautiful to behold. Next to him Lemalu blossoms as Leporello being vocally (in comparison to his aria-CD) unexpectedly precise, clear, and to the point.

Sadly Toby Spence as Ottavio remains a pale antagonist to Don Giovanni; the seducer has to be afraid only of Masetto, “Let-fly-and-have-done” Steven Humes. And the ladies (Margarita De Arellano and Véronique Gens) are suffering in an exquisite and beautiful manner.


Münchner Merkur, 3. 2. 2006 (Tobias Hell)


Translated by Ursula Turecek

The last cure

„Don Giovanni“ at the Nationaltheater

For one last time before this production is put away the Bavarian State Opera got Nicholas Hytner’s perception of “Don Giovanni” back onto the stage. Not without a last face lift as in nearly all the decisive parts new names were to be experienced. In the pit Ivor Bolton stroked speedy if sometimes irresolute tempi that not only met approval in the overture.

The slim Mozart-sound he seemed to aim at complied with Simon Keenlyside as protagonist who avoided playing the muscle-man and portrayed an elegant seducer who knew how to conquer the womens’ hearts with soft radiance of voice and endearing legato.Of a different stamp was Jonathan Lemalu’s sturdy Leporello who was able to score with theatrical talent, but also overshooting the mark a little and giving way to vocal grimaces.

The only one remaining from the cast of the first night was Alison Hagley who nevertheless has gradually outgrown Zerlina. Whereas Donna Anna seemed to come a bit too early for Margarita De Arellano. But with the brilliant vengeance-duet in the first act and her soprano outshining the ensembles she gave a serious promise for the future. With Toby Spence she had an Ottavio at her side who succeeded with an unusually passionate performance in liberating his role at least partly from its shadowy existence. We would not have begrudged at all the cut second aria to him nor to Veronique Gens’ Elvira who radiated noblesse. Surely we’ll have to wait for them until the new “Giovanni”.


Mozart’s added horse-power

Michael Shmith for The Age, February 7, 2006.


”On Saturday night, across the border in Munich where the Bavarian State Opera is staging 10 of the operas in a mini festival, I went to Don Giovanni, which this city first heard in 1791. This 1994 production, by Nicholas Hyntner, now the director of the Royal National Theatre, uses the original 1987 Prague version of the score: a pity for the Don Ottavio (Toby Spence), who lost his first aria, Dal’la sua Pace.

The amazing Simon Keenlyside – winner of last year’s Melbourne Festival The Age Critics’ Award for his athletic Die Winterreise – was truly the Don Giovanni from hell, or someone clearly destined to go there.

Hyntner’s staging reinforces the religious elements, with crosses and the penitential as props. The Don’s downfall was accompanied by a Grim Reaper on a white horse, a real one, an old stager who made a curtain call.

The cast and orchestra, conducted magnificently by Ivor Bolton (Munich is only a 90-minute drive from Salzburg), were received by an ecstatic audience, which cheered curtain call after curtain call, even as the scenery was being dismantled.

Mozart – bless him – would have loved it. White horse included.









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