Brilliant, modern and sexy – Iván Fischer’s Don Giovanni in New York and Edinburgh was preceded by high expectations, and the conductor and the Budapest Festival Orchestra did not fail to deliver.
“When Don Giovanni looks around, he doesn’t see tables or chairs. He sees hips, shoulders, bosoms, arms and legs”, says conductor Iván Fischer whose aim in directing the opera was to show what the world would look like through the eyes of Don Juan. He first directed the opera in 2011, which was described even back then by The New York Times as “more involved, imaginative and theatrically daring” than many full opera-house performances. This year, Mozart’s grand opera is making a comeback with a brand new cast featuring one of the world’s most popular Don Giovannis, Christopher Maltman, in the now-familiar staged concert format.
The production premiered at the Edinburgh International Festival and the Mostly Mozart Festival in New York. Both venues hosted three sold-out runs of the opera. on 21, 23 and 24 September, the production will be brought to Müpa Budapest.
The latest article of The New York Times calls Fisher’s production refreshingly unique among Don Giovanni stagings, as well as a “Gesamtkunstwerk,” particularly since his conducting harmonizes so closely with his visual presentation.
“This Don Giovanni is entirely about the music, and what the production does is set aside needless things. The ensuing empty space was filled with musicians and singers who expressed Mozart’s drama to the final degree. Nothing could be more operatic”, said a review from the New York Classical Review, calling the performance brilliant and rewarding, noting that “the orchestra, one of the world’s finest, played with vitality and lyrical tenderness”, and describing the singing as “flawless ... the performers uniformly embodied their characters in a way that went beyond just acting”. In addition to Maltman, lead singers included José Fardilha (Leporello), Laura Aikin (Donna Anna), Lucy Crowe (Donna Elvira), Jeremy Ovenden/Zoltán Megyesi (Don Ottavio), Kristinn Sigmundsson (the Commendatore), Sylvia Schwartz (Zerlina) and Matteo Peirone (Masetto).
According to Concertonet “...the orchestra under Fischer was the undisputed highlight of the show... they turned and twisted to their leader’s every move with amazing precision, superb phrasing and just the right amounts of modesty and sardonic humour.”
Other reviews highlighted the sexy minimalism and overwhelming dynamism of the production, describing it as “intoxicating” due to the “explosive fusion of the dramatic and the playful”. The performance also featured students from Budapest’s University of Theatre and Film doubling as scenery, choir, sexual objects or jubilant crowd as applicable. According to the New York Public Radio, “You just had to be there, if only because everybody else was” and the performance “lives up to its successful reputation”. And as Classical Source put it in its five-star review, "this is a sensational staging, an exemplar of the maxim ‘less is more’".
Upcoming performances: 21, 23, 24 September, Müpa Budapest