Mozart, Don Giovanni
Question: What does cannibalism have to do with Mozart’s Don Giovanni? Answer: nothing. Indeed, what did anything on the Volksoper stage this evening have to do with Don Giovanni? Also nothing.
The less said about the inept German opera director, Achim Freyer, the better. If he’s into kinky cannibalism, then I am sure I read in the news reports every couple of years that there are some dark web sites in Germany that will oblige him.
Not only did the staging have no discernible relation to the plot, but it was extra busy to the point of distraction. The stage hands were wandering around the whole time rearranging things (starting to do so even before the first note of the overture – they couldn’t set the stage up in advance before they opened the curtain? Really? Obviously Freyer was trying to make some point here, but what it was is beyond me. And why the stage hands in street clothes had to be constantly in view moving props – big and small – around was also unclear).
The language of the opera was also confused to the point of distraction – it was performed partly in Italian and partly in German, with no clear reason for the choice of one or the other (often changing mid-line, sometimes dialogues and sometimes arias or set pieces, with all of the characters going back and forth throughout, so not even a logic of certain characters being “Italians” and others “Germans”). Incidentally, the German version was not even the standard Hermann Levi performing version (that is arguably as good a literary performing version as da Ponte’s Italian original text), so again Freyer made a choice and chose strangely.
The female leads were good, particularly Manuela Leonhartsberger as D. Elvira, but also Kristiane Kaiser as D. Anna and Theresa Dax as Zerlina. The men less so (they often had difficulty projecting). Alfred Eschwé led a complete-sounding orchestra with just enough lightness, color, and Viennese charm – if sadly not enough to compensate for Freyer’s mess on the stage.
(And for the prurient who need to know: the cannibalism appeared in the final scene, the morality scene after the final banquet, where tonight the rest of the cast, and a few audience members who got dragged on stage as well, consumed Don Giovanni’s corpse.)