A Nicely Played but Uneven Don Giovanni at the 2016 Quincena Musical de San Sebastien

SpainSpain Mozart, Don GiovanniOrquesta Sinfónica de Euskadi, Coro Easo, Manuel Hernández-Silva (conductor), Kursaal Auditorium, San Sebastian, 13.8.2016. (JMI)

Concert Version

Don Giovanni: Christopher Maltman
Leporello: José Fardilha
Donna Anna: Irina Lungu
Donna Elvira: Nicole Cabell
Don Ottavio: Toby Spence
Zerlina: Miren Urbieta-Vega
Masetto: José Manuel Díaz
Commendatore: Daniel Giulianini

The 2016 Quincena Musical has begun in San Sebastian, one of the European Capitals of Culture this year. That recognition would seem to call for a special edition of this established musical festival, but things have not evolved in that direction. In fact, the Quincena Musical program is one of the least attractive in recent years: for instance, there is only one opera offered, on just one day, and in concert version. We’d have to go back many years to find such a disappointing opera schedule.

This staging of Mozart’s masterpiece was hampered by some incomprehensible musical decisions. A Mozart opera with an orchestra of 58 musicians seems odd. The singers were placed behind the orchestra on a high platform and labored to make their voices reach the audience: the overall result was a performance with few nuances and excessive sound. To this one must add that Manuel Hernandez Silva does not seem to conceive of Don Giovanni as a drama giocoso and often forgot the adjective giocoso in his reading. He offered the most complete version of the opera (the Prague, plus “Mi tradí” and “Il mio Tesoro”), but there were many cuts in the recitatives. Despite all this, the orchestra gave a fine performance under his baton.

There’s no doubt that Christopher Maltman is one of the best interpreters of Don Giovanni at present, but his performance here was disappointing, although he was in very good vocal condition. I’ve always enjoyed his Don Giovanni and Count Almaviva, but this time his singing was quite monotonous.

José Fardilha was a rather modest, but vociferous, Leporello, and his “Catalogue Aria” left much to be desired. Soprano Irina Lungu did nicely as Donna Anna. She has an attractive voice, and her dark tone is an advantage in the character. Nicole Cabell was Donna Elvira, but her light-lyric voice is better suited to a different repertoire, such as Musetta. Donna Elvira requires a more important middle range and better low notes.

Toby Spence was the best Mozart singer of the entire cast in the part of Don Ottavio, although his voice is rather modest. Miren Urbieta-Vega displayed an attractive voice as Zerlina, but her interpretation was a little bland. Jose Manuel Diaz made a modest Masetto, and Daniel Giulianini was correct as Commendatore, though he sounded more bass-baritone than true bass.

This was a concert version, but the singers acted and moved about on a raised platform. There were some video projections at the back of the stage that did not add much to the production.

The audience gave a warm welcome to the artists, although there were many desertions in the second act. The biggest applause came for Christopher Maltman and Irina Lungu.

José M. Irurzun

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