I watched a lot of it yesterday during livestreaming. Some random impressions:
– Not at all surprised that Karina Gauvin impressed vocally as Vitellia. What I didn’t know was how brilliant an actor she is. Absolutely the best acting on the cast, which I suspect the director Denis Podalydes figured out early on: he made her the central character of the production. (Sesto and Tito come after her for the curtain call, but it makes no difference: this is a Vitellia/Karina show.)
– It’s one of the most grown-up productions of Clemenza in recent memory. The sexual blackmail at its centre is made very obvious. Vitellia’s dominance over the much younger Sesto – ditto. Vitellia’s desire is in this production closely tied to, well–her power to manipulate another human being into committing a murder, so quite literally, somebody else’s death. If you observe Vitellia while Sesto is singing “Parto, parto”, all will be clear. (And terrible. And sexy.) Also the first finale before the intermission, when Sesto smears blood over her face, and she is both aroused and horrified–I can’t even begin to describe how brilliant Karina is in this. Also, reminded me of a certain scene in a Catherine Breillat film where blood is used as a seduction tool.
-Period instruments in the pit, harpsichord for the recitatives: fabulous.
-Sesto (Kate Lindsey) is somewhat characterless. Sesto and Annio (Julie Boulianne) made to look exactly alike. No idea why many directors do this. Is there only one way to inhabit a trouser role per production?
-I have yet to bother to read a bit more about the Konzept behind the production, presuming there is one. Maybe I’ll do it one of these days.
In other Mozart news, Warlikowski’s Don Giovanni at La Monnaie is making waves (“Le sex addict Don Giovanni”, it’s been described as, and Warlikowski cites McQueen’s Shame as inspiration). Table d’écoute recently analyzed this work, and the panel, with the regulars Camille de Rijck and Martine Dumont-Mergeay and the guesting Topi Lehtipuu (Ottavio in Warlikowski’s DG) and Jean-Sébastien Bou (DG himself), chose a surprising winner. Give it a listen; you can follow the versions heard and eliminated by consulting this list. The early and the final interactions with the Commendatore were analyzed, as well as La ci darem, Fin che han vino and the mandolin aria. Lots of fascinating: everybody knows the score, the singers particularly inside out, and can question the decisions that the conductors had made. (“Mozart only specified the dynamics in the final bars of La ci darem, everything else in the aria is up for grabs,” for ex.) Why does the mandolin aria slow down so much, is the voice no. 1 enjoying itself a little too much, is the approach 2 a little too analytic–an intellectual DG, do Germanic singers have a different approach to the character of DG than the southern European ones? Why does DG scream at the end of Fin che han vino? Is there enough terror, loneliness in the final scene with the Commendatore?
But never you mind all that: if Kristine Opolais says Mozart is passionless, Puccini is better, then it must be true! Click to read what it looks like when a singer talks n’importe quoi over on Listen mag website.