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Maestro Muti makes Mozart: A libertine in Turin

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His last “Don Giovanni” was 23 years ago. Riccardo Muti rarely conducts opera anymore. The risks associated with a production are too great for him. The 81-year-old has always consistently rejected interventions in libretti, which are becoming increasingly radical in the international opera scene. Rather, he conducts operas in concert.

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A conductor is not only responsible for the musical rehearsals, says Muti, he has to ensure that a coherent whole emerges. In the 1980s he was able to live up to this claim in an ideal way, especially with the brilliant theater man Giorgio Strehler. After the ranks thinned out among the old companions, it almost looked as if Muti would remain as the last dinosaur of a bygone era.

Chiara Muti learned her trade from Giorgio Strehler

But then the Joker found himself in the ranks of his own family. Daughter Chiara Muti comes from the same stable. She first trained as an actress at Strehler’s Piccolo Teatro in Milan, while also learning her craft as a director from him. The collaboration between father and daughter got off to a very promising start in 2018 with a wonderfully light-footed “Cosi fan tutte” in Naples.

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Her “Don Giovanni” in Turin, mostly in black and white, now seems much darker, analogous to the plot. Alessandro Camera’s unified stage dominates the facade of a stately home that collapsed from the start. Chiara Muti cleverly uses their windows for moments of surprise, in which figures suddenly appear or disappear. And when things get mystical, smoke rises from the hatches.

Donna Anna’s father disappears in the mist after Don Giovanni draws his sword against him. The Commendatore does not leave a corpse, from the very beginning he is already the stone harbinger of death. Rather, the injured person after the battle is Don Giovanni himself: the end of the opera is thus reflected in the beginning.

The old love affairs pour in for the register aria

Chiara Muti says that Don Giovanni would not exist at all without the women who become his prey and who struggle in vain to escape their humiliation. And she staged the play accordingly: Donna Anna, Elvira and Zerlina only become her characters before the eyes of the audience when they get into their clothes, which hang down on poles above them. And in the end, back in their slips, they collapse like puppets with their strings cut. After Giovanni’s death, they have lost their roles, appearing only as relics of the characters they once were, with no chance to reinvent themselves.

The director arranges simple, unspectacular scenes of great vitality imaginatively and with few resources. The best idea came to her for Leporello’s register aria. From all sides, chimeras of the long-desired lover’s former loves stream towards Elvira: the chambermaids and baronesses, elegant and dainty figures, young girls and in the midst of them an old woman with a cane.

But the wedding scene of Zerlina and Masetto also acquires its charm when the two make love and hug each other in a rustic nest made of twigs under the sheet. Riccardo Muti gives the music the necessary drama from the opening chords of the overture with great power, but otherwise leads through the score with the steady hand of the wise man.

Thanks to the largely moderate tempi – with the exception of the annoying champagne aria – each motif can develop in a filigree manner, a tender aria like Zerlina’s “Batti, batti, o bel Masetto”, played around by a virtuoso tender cello solo, is recommended as intimate chamber music. Apart from the fact that Francesca Di Sauro astonishingly elicits the most beautiful, bright top notes imaginable from her voice as a mezzo-soprano.

Luca Micheletti, big on voice and convincing as an attractive daredevil, is an ideal choice for the title role. The other parts are, if not outstanding, at least respectable. Jacquelyn Wagner plays a maturely hysterical Donna Anna, who treats her Don Ottavio roughly, with a confident use of coloratura and increasingly slimmer in the course of the evening. Mariangela Sicilia convinces with her agile soprano as a desperate Elvira, often in tears. Alessandro Luongo’s Leporello impresses as a brilliant comedian.

But the most magical moments occur when the music becomes almost inaudibly quiet, as in the da capo of Don Ottavio’s first aria “Dalla sua pace”, with which Muti casually advertises the Viennese version he prefers over the shorter Prague version, which this aria does not contain. The otherwise somewhat narrow tenor Giovanni Sala, noticeably fanned by the atmospheric crackling in the orchestra, also surpasses himself with the most tender tones imaginable.

This inevitably gives rise to an idea of ​​what Riccardo Muti means when he says that in Mozart’s work there is an infinity between one note and another – even if they are closely linked. His new “Don Giovanni” is, as expected, a stunner despite some minor flaws.

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Source: Tagesspiegel

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