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Pink Cadillac on Ponte Vecchio

Grand Théâtre de Genève
02/02/1999 -  and 5, 7*, 10, 12, 15, 17 February 1999
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart : Don Giovanni
Dimitra Theodossiou (Donna Anna), Susan Chilcott (Donna Elvira), Anna Maria Panzarella (Zerlina), Dimitri Hvorostovsky (Don Giovanni), Gilles Cachemaille (Leporello), Markus Hollop (Commandator), Bruce Ford (Don Ottavio), Markus Marquardt (Masetto)
Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, Choeurs du Grand Théâtre, Armin Jordan (conductor)
Matthias Langhoff (director)

One could imagine being somewhere on a renaissance bridge in Rome, but a pink Cadillac enters and bring us back to present times. A modern Don Giovanni appears with Texan boots but with a baroquish coat to bring us some authenticity, and Leporello with a cap and trench-coat is his chauffeur. The bridge is the only scene of the play. It slides here and forth in front of our eyes to show us different aspects of it that are more suitable for the different premises of the original scenes. Don Giovanni moves in this underworld of the bridge (especially under it) where prostitutes and misfits are his villagers. This production, though it was avant-garde when it was first performed in 1991, can be considered almost as a classic. The Cadillac has become a legend in Geneva.

The lyrical performance is really divine. Dimitra Theodossiou, Susan Chilcott, Hvorostovsky and Marquardt have performed for the first time in Geneva and they were at the top of their art. I could appreciate Hvorostovsky’s voice and acting at the Royal Opera House at Shaftesbury Theatre (Covent Garden is still in reconstruction) during the 97-98 season. He was performing Almaviva in Le Nozze di Figaro and it is the first time he sings Don Giovanni. Both of his performances were remarkable. He is undoubtedly suited for Mozartian roles. His voice is very strong and generous, it could suit an open air theatre marvellously. Anna Maria Panzarella was a very convincing Zerlina. Gilles Cachemaille has no need to be presented, he is the pride of Switzerland. Don Ottavio was sung by Bruce Ford with a pure and clear voice. Except for the slamming Cadillac doors or plastic bags shaken in the background to disrupt us from enjoying wholly the play, it was an auditive peak experience. This is when Theatre and Opera have some domestic quarrels; for Langhoff is mainly a play producer.

But let us admit, there is a grater snag: when the zombie like Commander appears with a set of end-of-twentieth-century joysticks to direct a ridiculous rusty robot of the Tinguely style, representing normally his effigy. The drama, that should be conveyed by this moment, is disrupted by this farce. Leporello’s silly responses to the statue is the giocoso in this scene of dramma. It is in contrast with the tragic Don Giovanni-Commander duo. Bringing a second element of laughter in, with an odd looking robot, throws the scene off balance. Anyhow the evening was still enchanting!

Zoltan Bécsi



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