Bechtolf Round Two – Don Giovanni

Sven-Eric Bechtolf’s second Mozart/daPonte for Salzburg was Don Giovanni which premiered in 2014.  There are some similarities with his Così fan tutte.  He uses a symmetrical unit set again and shows a fondness for creating symmetrical tableaux vivants but there the similarities pretty much end.  I could find a consistent, believable set of humans in Così but not so much in Don Giovanni.  The problem is really the man himself.  Bechtolf, in his notes, seems to be arguing that Don Giovanni can make no sense in an age of pervasive accessibility and exposure to all things sexual.  Da Ponte’s Don requires a climate of sexual repression for his essence; to Bechtolf a kind of Dionysian force (he cites Kierkegaard), to make any sense as a human.  I think I get that but then, I think, the challenge becomes to create a Don Giovanni who does make sense to a 21st century audience as, in their different ways, do Guth and Tcherniakov.  Bechtolf seems to treat the character not so much as a human rather than as a kind of energy focus who exists by igniting aspects of the other characters; whether that’s lust or jealousy or hatred.  He caps off this idea at the end by having Don Giovanni reappear during the final ensemble as a kind of mischievous presence still chasing anything in a skirt, even if it’s, perhaps, from another world.  It’s an idea that I could not really buy into.

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A new Salzburg da Ponte cycle – Così fan tutte

Every few years the Salzburg Festival replaces the productions of the three Mozart/da Ponte collaborations with new productions.  At least in recent years they have entrusted all three to the same director but the “refresh” happens in different years and not always in the same order.  I reviewed Claus Guth’s offerings here (Le nozze di Figaro, 2006; Don Giovanni, 2008; Così fan tutte, 2009) and noted the way that certain linking elements developed over the course of the “cycle”.  I was interested to see whether the same thing held for the newest iteration by Sven-Eric Bechtolf.  All three have now been released on Blu-ray (though due to availability issues I have the Così on DVD) so I thought I should watch them in the order they appeared at the festival and see what transpires.  So here we go with Così fan tutte recorded in 2013 in the Haus für Mozart.

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