The dream cast put together for this second revival of Kasper Holten’s Don Giovanni production shines at the Royal Opera House, even if Marc Minkowski‘s musical direction didn’t match the otherwise high standards of the night. 

The scene opens with a dark facade where all the names of Don Giovanni’s conquests are projected, representing Don Giovanni’s own mind. And this is the central idea of Holten’s production: confronting his mind against the outside world. Is Don Giovanni a unscrupulous sexual predator or is he a madman victim of a society that expects from him anything but triumph?

As the drama continues, the facade starts revolving, showing a complicated structure of rooms and stairs like in an Escher drawing. There is no easy answer for the audience.

Mariusz Kwiecien is a seductive Don Giovanni, determined and aggressive and his gestures and movements empathize this side of his character. He is still pursuing Donna Elvira he can still be truly sweet, like in ”La ci darem la mano”.

Ildebrando D’Arcangelo portrays a Leporello more cynical than buffo. His singing is in top form with a superb phrasing and a very rounded voice.

Rachel Willis-Sørensen was a nice surprise as Donna Anna: full dramatic soprano with phenomenal control, bright penetrating high notes and rich expressiveness. She was the expected authority counterpoint to the well-intended but soft Don Ottavio. She crowned her arias with a couple of simple but effective additional notes, totally in style.

Donna Elvira’s bipolar madness found a suitable vessel in Hrachuhi Bassenz: ranging from strong revenge to fragile blind love through a warm voice full of nuances.

Pavol Breslik was the treat of the night. The sometimes dull and bland character of Don Ottavio can redeem himself if sung with true and credible ardent love. And he did so. His beautiful voice sounded soft and virile at the same time in “Dalla sua pace,” flaunting fantastic breath control. In “Il mio tesoro” his effortless agility was combined with subtle variations in the expression in the repetition.

Chen Reiss made a convincing house debut as Zerlina, smarter rather than naive, in truly Mozartian style. Anatoli Sivko was a correct Masetto. Willard W. White was less convincing as The Commendatore, as you expect a stronger voice confronting Don Giovanni.

The weak point of this run is how Marc Minkowski conducts the orchestra: weird balances between winds over a weak string section, unjustifiable rushed tempi and removing the momentary silences from the music, killing the drama as in the recitative “Come mai creder deggio”) and a general trend of playing everything loud, missing many accents and any dramatic crescendo.

However well-received he was by the audience to my mind he spoiled one of the best Don Giovannis in recent years.