(Previous section here.)
I was looking forward to Malin Hartelius as Elvira, because one, I had seen a review of this DVD in which the reviewer said something along the lines of “Malin Hartelius IS Donna Elvira” and seemed to be very excited about it and two – well, Malin Hartelius, right?
I had a feeling of wanting to like this performance more than actually liking it. It’s not that there was anything wrong with it – there are moments of beautiful quiet phrasing in bits of “non ti fidar, o misera,” for example, that perfectly capture the character’s vulnerability. But for whatever reason, this performance didn’t really click for me. Hartelius gets some interesting orchestral backup from Franz Welser-Möst – the beginning of “mi tradì” for example is big and quick and agitated, and then the music slows down really abruptly; the aria itself sounds quite gentle. (There is a similar kind of vibe to Elvira’s first aria – maybe the goal is to communicate her violent contrasts of feeling? I’m not sure.)
Keenlyside as Don Giovanni has the advantage in this case of not getting saddled with a mullet wig (as in one other performance of this by him that I’ve seen), and he sounds pretty good too. It’s a funny thing about this role – the more times I hear it, the less I feel like I get it. However, that is my problem, not Keenlyside’s. And he gets a nice foil in Anton Scharinger as Leporello, who not only is pleasant to listen to, but also easy to pick out: one can always hear his part in the ensembles, which I found that I liked. He’s a little less sympathetic than some other Leporellos – there are some moments when you see he thinks that Don Giovanni is pretty awesome, and he seems to take pleasure in creepily groping Donna Elvira. There are some moments of crotch-grabbing between Leporello and the Don that are enough to suggest that these two may have a certain amount of unresolved subtext. (In general – I have had this thought before; it’s not just this production – maybe that’s why Giovanni’s a compulsive seducer of women? He can’t admit to himself where his interests really lie . . .)
But the three plum-sized rocks of compassion. I am being facetious here, but I’m not sure what else to call them. They are related to a second piece of stage business: the woman in white. This is a woman in a loose white dress and headwrap who enters during Don Giovanni and the Commendatore’s duel. She kneels over the Commendatore’s body – Anna shoes her away at one point – and then leaves. Soon after this the body has vanished. (Anna’s “mio padre, dov’é?” makes a certain amount of sense here.) The woman in white reappears during the recitative before “mi tradì,” carrying an African statue that will remain and become the Commendatore’s statue in the final scene. She sets the statue down, kneels behind it, and as Elvira approaches, places three small rocks gently in her hand. Then she leaves as the aria begins. (We see her again later in the graveyard scene, kneeling by the Commendatore’s body, which is stretched on a couch.) Elvira’s handling of the rocks during the aria suggests that they represent her feelings of hurt and anger; at the end, she places them on the floor and walks away. The woman in white has combined forces with the aria and allowed Elvira to externalize her feelings of betrayal and revenge and leave them behind, which I guess is a fitting set-up for the final scene. The woman in white herself seems to be an “agent of death and/or the afterworld” type. And I should add that Don Giovanni picks up the rocks as Leporello is reading the statue’s inscription. He puts them in his pocket – I guess that is what allows the statue that the woman has brought to cause his death.
And at the end, after Giovanni himself has disappeared, one notices that there is a pile of presents left on the bar. The remaining characters parcel them out and unwrap them. Zerlina and Masetto get what I think is an orange-press (there were slices of orange in some of the drinks concocted earlier, and at one point when Don Giovanni is talking about Zerlina, he sticks his finger in a very obvious way into a cut orange – and symbolism aside, it’s not an unreasonable gift for newlyweds, right?), Ottavio, boring man that he is, gets a watch, Elvira a rosary, and Anna doesn’t open her box. Instead, she leaves it on an empty chair. At the end, everyone turns to the back of the stage and waves goodbye to their reflections.
I wonder if the rocks were in the box?