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Don Giovanni Wiener Staatsoper 24.1.2007

 
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marilyn
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 31, 2007 10:55 am    Post subject: Don Giovanni Wiener Staatsoper 24.1.2007 Reply with quote

Hi Everyone

Wednesday 24th January 2007, today was the day. I awoke at 5am very excited. I got up to look out of the window, its raining, our hotel room faces the Opera House which was dimly lit, it looked almost as if it was asleep but the low lights gave it a glow as if it was waiting for something wonderful to happen and it would at 7pm to night when the curtain rises on Bryn Terfel as Don Giovanni.
I was to meet Bryn at 5.30pm at the stage door to sort out the backstage list and for Bryn to show me the way to his dressing room as they were being strict with numbers for backstage visitors. The Tenor kindly let me have his four passes as Bryn was restricted to 5 passes. Bryn’s dressing room was on the ladies side of the House as he had to make 7 costume changes during the performance and he needed to be closer to the stage. I had a quick preview of the costumes, it was interesting to be in his dressing room before the performance, every thing was all laid out and his dresser and makeup were waiting for him, they both gave him a very warm welcome. I met members of the Terfeliaid at 5.45pm outside the Opera shop. It was nice to see old friends and to meet new members which I had never met before. It was very cold so after everyone I had to meet had arrived we went into the Opera House. I must admit it was not as grand as I had expected and I had been told that everyone dressed in their finery which was not the case and I felt very overdressed as did poor Jim we only saw one other person in a dinner suit!! We had to wait for the bar to open, I was a little disappointed with the lack of atmosphere and there weren’t many of us in the champagne bar so you missed the air of excitement. My palms were beginning to sweat as they do when I am going to see Bryn so I knew I was getting excited. Soon it was time to take our seats; we were 5 rows from the front and next to Faye and Helen which was amazing as we had not booked our seats at the same time. The orchestra struck up and we were off on our Don Giovanni experience. The set was dark and well worn and this applied to the costumes as well. Then there was our Don (Bryn) in his 1st costume which was grey and raggy. The singing was wonderful and Leporello really was Don Giovanni’s protégé, through out the Opera they interacted very well. There were a lot of steps which I felt restricted their acting at times. The lighting was very dim and when they did face the audience you couldn’t always see their faces clearly and to me they did seem to spend a lot of time with their backs to the audience. The direct sea back drop confused me a little as Seville is not on the coast. I think the short rehearsal time allowed all of them to add their very personal touches to the production. I have never seen Bryn in such ridiculous costumes and when he appeared in this long orange wig that looked as if it had been set in Carmen rollers, he resembled Lenny the Lion. I had to stifle a hoot of laughter but you could see Bryn was enjoying every moment. Matthew Polenzani, Don Ottavio, the tenor from New York was fabulous; a lady at the stage door after the performance told him he was the best Ottavio for a long time. The interaction in the second act between Don Giovanni and Leporello when Leporello was disguised as the Don was excellent, probably the best I have seen in any Don Giovanni. I couldn’t really follow the era that the production was set in, but learnt afterwards that it was supposed to be bringing Don Giovanni through the ages to the present time to show there is always a Don Giovanni. In the final scene Bryn wore a black shirt and black trousers. There was rapturous applause as they took their curtain call especially for Bryn, my feelings now where quite sad, as it is probably the last time Bryn will sing the role. It had been a wonderful experience.

Hwyl Fawr

Marilyn
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 31, 2007 12:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you for such a great report Marilyn. Although I was disappointed not to have been there in person it was almost as good to read all about it in your report, and to see the photos of the lucky Clwb members who were there.

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 31, 2007 4:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

A link for two pictures of Bryn as Don Giovanni. Click on the small camera next to the headline “Don Giovanni Vienna State Opera”.

http://www.theoperacritic.com/singers.php?singer=bryn_terfel
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 31, 2007 5:56 pm    Post subject: Vienna Don Giovanni Reply with quote

I thought that Bryn as Don Giovanni and Erwin Scrott as Leporello were so good together! I would now love to see them reverse roles...Erwin as Don G. and Bryn as Leporello. It would be a bit different dynamics, but I think it would be great and would be so much fun.

Phyllis Very Happy
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 31, 2007 6:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Oh, Marilyn, I'm so glad to know I was not the only one confused about some of the costuming! I could not for the life of me figure out why Elvira's first aria was done in trousers, and the whole coastal theme (and was that a nickelodeon box?) confused me as well. The outrageous wig to which you referred also gave me some giggles - I thought it was a little too "...and featuring Bert Lahr as the Cowardly Lion" for me. It was only in the end, when Bryn wore the monochromatic black trousers, shirt and suspenders (and very complimentary on him they were, too) that I realized the costumer was making a point about how Don Giovanni is not a man but an idea, an eternal part of the human condition. Not a bad point, actually, but perhaps it might have been more clearly made.

We fell in love with Vienna - my son was very taken by the enormous helpings of wienerschnitzel we were served at a restaurant called...Figlmueller's, I think...it had been recommended to us by the consierge and it was memorable. I was taken by the coffee houses so my dear hubby was very patient with me even as I got a little over-caffeinated!

After an early supper it was off to the opera house! I thought it was a lovely old building but a little dark - in fact I believe I crashed into Bjorg, I think, when I missed a last step and nearly took a tumble. I swear, I really was only drinking coffee earlier!

In the lobby, we met up with Phyllis and Lisa Johnson from Texas (and Marcy, was it? I am so bad with names, I'm sorry!) and found that - as with Marilyn - though we'd bought our tickets seperately, we were all seated in the same row, which was excellent. I loved meeting so many Terfeliaids who were all so friendly and excited! After we were seated, Phyllis showed me a wonderful photo of Bryn, taken from the production and on sale in the gift shop, and purchased for her by Lisa. I turned to my husband and he rolled his eyes and said, "yes, I know, we'll come back and buy one tomorrow..." He is too good!

I thought the opera house was all right, and my husband was happy to see the translators before him. Our son Jack - who is responsible for our Bryn madness, as he (via his own music studies) is the one who introduced us to Terfel's music - was very excited to be attending his first professional opera performance, although he was appalled by the odd "test pattern" thing which covered the stage. It was pretty ugly, I agree.

Then the overture - I had goosebumps in anticipation and Edwin Schrott was just a wonderful Leporello from the get-go; he was very energetic, charismatic and personable - he and Bryn had a marvelous chemistry on stage.

I agree with Marilyn that the first act sometimes seemed poorly lighted, and to me some of the acting felt a bit rushed, as when Donna Anna cried over her father's corpse while Ottavio looked on. (Ottavio, btw, was splendidly sung by Matthew Polenzani, and he has a glorious and soaring tenor.)

But really - none of that mattered, Bryn was there, singing and acting up a storm and simply commanding the stage, which we loved! As the saying goes, "a rising tide lifts all boats" and one got the sense that Mr. Terfel, by the sheer force of his own huge talent, inspires everyone around them to their best, as well.

The second act seemed much more comfortable and less rushed - the pacing was more at ease, and the lighter moments really came through. I agree that the clothes changing scene between Bryn and Erwin was particularly well done. That they worked well together was also evident in the graveyard scene, where Bryn cheerfully and charismatically threatened to kill Erwin if he did not invite the Commandantore's statue to supper. Truly, they played so well together that I, like Phyllis, am hoping they will switch roles sometime - that would be a gas.

The supper scene! Ah! Gripping! It's always gripping, in every production I've ever viewed on DVD, but to see it live...those three great voices and the stirring strings beneath them, Don Giovanni's stubborn bravado, Leporello's fear...it was astonishing to watch, and my only gripe was that Bryn was almost fully in darkness as the scene approached its climax. But even so. Just astounding. I was happily exhausted by it and Lisa Johnson said she felt the same way. I think all of us were very moved by it.

How do you end a great night like this? Only one thing could top it and that was having the opportunity to meet the man himself, and I must say that a week later we are still smiling over the memory of meeting Byrn.

He was...honestly, completely overwhelming. He was warm, friendly, down-to-earth, immensely kind, charismatic, comfortable in his own skin...all in all, those are very powerful qualities in any human being - and yet he made us feel welcomed. He showed us his dressing room and how heavy the costumes were and could not have been more gracious and forthcoming. My husband remarked later that when Bryn shook our hands he gave the impression that he'd been looking forward to meeting us all day. I'm sure he makes everyone feel that way, and what a gift that is! The end-results of great parenting, I'm sure!

Our son, Jack, who is generally a very gregarious and outgoing kid, found himself unusually tongue-tied as well. He's a music-mad 17 year old who is currently auditioning at music schools in hopes of pursuing a career in opera (he just got his first acceptance letter today, in fact) and he just couldn't believe his idol Bryn would take such a warm and lively interest in his music. He asked Jack what he was learning and Jack fumbled around to tell him anything ("my mind just went blank," he told me later, "all I could think of was, wow, that's Bryn Terfel! He's talking to me! And I'm six feet tall and he's towering over me, too!"). Bryn gave him some very helpful advice about his coming years and choosing the right music school - one with a good sized and competitive program. He said to Jack, "when I left Wales to go to Music school, I went found myself surrounded by good singers, and I was just one of many, and that was good for me - it made me work much harder to stand out and succeed; I had to push myself a little."

Believe me, Jack is keeping that bit of advice very much in mind as he auditions at different schools.

Some Terfeliads might recall that last June, when we were all talking Tosca, one of the forum threads got into "dream roles" for Bryn - and somehow the idea evolved into writing a Welsh-themed opera for him. We had fun with the thread, and afterwards, I played around with it a bit, wrote a "treatment" of the story and even threw together a sketch of the second act, just for amusement's sake. I put it away of course, but as Vienna and Don Giovanni drew closer (and I had a little free time after finishing a project) I dragged the story out again and spend a few hours on it and turned the thing into a little three act operetta, The Dragon of Cymru. All in fun, of course, as I am no lyricist - although it was amusing to try my hand at rhyming. I had hoped to be able to put the silly thing into Bryn's own hands and tell him that he was likely the first opera star to have a story written for him by his fans! I don't think I actually got those words out, though. Being terrifically shy and a bit of a bumbler, I managed to step on Bryn's foot (he was lovely about it but I was mortified) and once I did that, I just got too flustered to say much of anything beyond, "you're great! Thank you! Goodbye!"

Some people meet Bryn Terfel and they manage coherent conversation with a lovely man who seems exceedingly easy to talk to. I meet him and I step on his foot and babble. This is why I should never be allowed out in public.

And I'm sorry, Lisa and Phyllis, but I never did get to deliver your messages to Bryn. When one is babbling and stammering after stomping on someone's foot, all messages fly right out the brain.

Meanwhile - the best indication of just how glorious was the night, and the opera, is that when I mentioned to my husband that Bryn would be doing his last Figaro soon at the Met, he beamed and said, "well, then we'll definitely have to see it if we can get tickets!"

And when I said, "and you know, he might just end up doing the Count, someday, too - and possibly at the Met...and I'd love to see him sing the Count, and Scarpia! I have to see him sing Scarpia!" my husband said, "we can do that."

But when I mentioned Wotan he narrowed his eyes. "Wagner? I don't know about Wagner!"

I'll just keep working on him! Smile

I must say, though, looking at Vienna and how cold it was, and reading Bryn's schedule - noting that he'd be there for a while yet, even as we all left - I thought to myself...it must get lonely, he must really, really miss his wife and kids. And it made me wonder how my own son will deal with being in different cities all the time, missing family - assuming of course, he actually has a career, someday. It certainly made it quite understandable to me why Bryn would want to take 2008 to stay closer to home.

Marilyn thank you once again, for your gracious help, and thanks to Bryn for a thrilling meeting!

Lizzie


Last edited by BrynFlynn on Thu Feb 01, 2007 2:50 am; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 31, 2007 6:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Lizzie,

Thank you so much for your story in meeting Bryn. I know it was a wonderful experience for your son Jack and you and your husband. Bryn is indeed a lovely man and does seem very interested in his fans!

I just reread my email before yours about Erwin and Bryn trading roles of Don G. and Leporello and saw that I made a typo...I typed "Scrott" instead of "Schrott."

Phyllis Smile
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 31, 2007 9:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Neil & I also had a very similar experience seeing the opera but on Sat. night. The whole experience was amazing from the costumes, scenery & of course Bryn who was in fabulous voice!! The only down side was no backstage meeting with the man himself as he apparently had a function to dash off too. We had snow on Sat. night which added to the magic of the evening.
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 01, 2007 5:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Festive Greetings Fellow Revelers!
I too enjoyed seeing Bryn in Giovanni, albeit on opening night Jan. 22, when they had a few kinks to work out. (Although, at least, most folks were very dressed up...) One was the orchestra being way too loud in the first scene, even for Bryn, who we all know can REALLY project. Things settled down once the wedding party showed up, but I was pretty irritated until then. That trio as the Commendatore is dying is perhaps my favorite part in the whole opera, and it was no where near as effective as Bryn's version from the Met (now on DVD, although I prefer the version I had taped off of PBS- it had more long shots that established mood better and was so much easier to watch and hear.) I agree that the lighting for this staging was way too dark and frequently misplaced. Almost as if they were trying to downplay any of the characters' individual importance. It was certainly true that no attempt was made to heighten Bryn's effectiveness or enhance the plot. I think lighting is as important as story and stars- it can make or break a film or staging for me. These guys stunk.

I saw the performance with a German friend from Innsbruck who translated all the local reviews for me afterward- There were a few nasty remarks about Bryn's "barking" the Champaigne aria, being past his prime, and a better Leporello than Giovanni. I do think he was a fabulous Leporello in the Abbado Giovanni with my other favorite baritone, Simon Keenlyside. But I still ultimately prefer Bryn's (Met) Giovanni to Simon's (which I saw twice last summer in Zurich). This is because I agree with Bryn's interpretation that Giovanni is a sadistic pig. Although I would walk through glass for Simon, I think his Giovanni, while sounding totally beautiful, is too much a contemporary interpretation, presenting the guy as oversexed but somehow not malicious, who doesn't quite know why he has this effect on women. I say that is a bunch of crap. (I hope I don't offend here...) His manservant is keeping a list for him, for godsake. He is totally aware of what he is doing. This is not a harmless hobby. I think Bryn comes off as more truly sexual and predatory, as creepy as a guy who pursues this "project" would be.

I am lucky that I was prepared for this production with its costume changes. I had read reviews and seen photos of Keenlyside in this staging a year or two ago, so I knew what they were doing. I don't think we needed to have the universality of philanderer through the ages pointed out so overtly, however. It didn't bug me as much as it had bothered my fellow Keenlyside fans, though. SK fans are seriously devoted to certain of his admittedly barihunk attributes. Bryn is able to convince us that we should have as much fun as he does when looking ridiculous, and it somehow doesn't affect our view of him. We have seen myriad photos of him looking like his lovable farmboy self, and yet we know he can turn on the big time charisma when he wants too. This just adds to his mystique. For me, anyway. (I have not been able to meet him yet, so I envy all you folks who have had the actual Bryn Experience.)

While in Vienna, I also got to attend a Keenlyside lieder recital, which was truly wonderful. I know he did the same stuff at Wigmore Hall in London last week, but it sounds like he was so much more relaxed at the Vienna show, totally appreciated and embraced by his German-speaking audience, that he was really on top of his game. He is a much more shy guy than Bryn, and tends to do a lot of nervous pacing, etc., when in recital.

All-in-all, a fabulous musical experience for just a week in Vienna... but I wish I'd been able to meet up with fellow Terfeliaid members! Maybe another time!

Chrys

ps: I agree that Polenzani was an absolute revelation as Don Ottavio! It was such a nuanced and fresh interpretation! Great dynamics. Unexpected pausing. Wow!
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 02, 2007 1:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for all the reviews and the photos. The real joy of this club is that you can be part of so many performances, even if you can't be there in person.
Keep up the good work!

Sue
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 02, 2007 2:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I echo your sentiments, Sue. Sitting at home watching the Met. Don. G. DVD on the 24th, after a lovely meal and well supplied with wine and chocs, was the next best thing, but it is wonderful to read so many reports of the actual experiences of members, and to see the pictures.
Fantastic - and thank you all so very much. Laughing
Gillian Laughing Laughing
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 02, 2007 10:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Knowing that Bryn was performing Don Giovanni for the last time made a trip to Vienna a must as I have never seen him perform the role live before. So I booked my flight and two tickets to see performances on the 24th and 27th.

Some people probably think I am mad (or made of money) for booking tickets to see the same thing twice. I may be the first, but am certainly not the second! Trouble is, I think I am sometimes a bit slow to catch on to what these productions are all about and I often get so much more out of the second viewing/hearing. In this case, the two performances on Wednesday and Saturday were of such different quality it entirely justified my decision.

As with all Bryn performances, I went with very high expectations and while I wasn’t disappointed, I did think that Wednesday performance lacked sparkle. Most of the operatic performances I have seen by Bryn have been either his debut in a role or a new production where there has been a good rehearsal period for the cast and time to work with the directors. This Vienna Don Giovanni was neither and the notoriously short rehearsal time at the Staatsoper was apparent.
The performance was professional but pedestrian. It was a bunch of highly skilled, talented professionals going through the motions of a production that they had not had the chance of bedding in through extensive rehearsal and directorial input; what I would call a ‘bread and butter’ performance.
Certainly, the co-ordination between the orchestra and singers was noticeably poor at times and the orchestral volume was insensitive to the needs of the singers on more than one occasion. It seemed to lack any real sense of development or involvement of the characters though Bryns Don Giovanni and Erwin Schrotts Leporello showed all the signs of developing into a good double act.
First impressions? The incredible fashion parade of costumes Don Giovanni appears in during the first act. The costumes for all the characters were period. Just what period was questionable and variable and not necessarily the same period as any of the other characters. Most striking was Bryn’s second costume, an elaborate court dress from Louis XIV time ( I think) topped with what appeared to be a dead animal of some kind on his head that on closer inspection was revealed as an amazing waist length, red, curly wig, that also seemed neither straight nor securely attached to his head! (I have to confess there was some badly suppressed tittering from the Terfeliaids around me.) By the time he reached the descent to Hell scene, Bryn had made his way through about 6 or 7 outfits from history and was now dressed in his usual ‘concert outfit’ of black shirt and trousers. Had the final scene costume got lost, or was all this just trying to make the point that the story of Don Giovanni is relevant to any age?
The second thing to strike me on first seeing was that I couldn’t see very much at all! The production was darkly lit throughout. The set was uniformly grey and with the dim light for the night scenes it was very hard to see the singers properly at all. For once the inability of Donna Anna to recognise her assailants face and the Don Giovanni/Leporello swop was completely believable but it became a trifle irritating when you couldn’t see the singers faces. In ‘Deh Vieni alla finestra’ Bryn was almost completely in the shadow and unlit!
Donna Elvira seemed to have been given the theme of travel as well, both through time in her costumes and by the backdrops of sails and rough seas that appeared at her main arias. I took this to be representing her journey, both physical as she seeks for her errant spouse and emotional as she realises the extent of his philandering and betrayal of her love. As I said, nothing great but neither was there anything awful about the production to stop you enjoying it – far worse things have been done to this opera!
The singing was all perfectly adequate as well. It goes without saying that Bryn sings the role effortlessly and beautifully, which he did on both days. His colleagues were all un-noteworthy with the exception of Erwin Schrott who is such a character on stage and also a fine bass-baritone, and Matthew Polenzani, whose Don Ottavio was the most pleasant surprise of Wednesday evening. Usually Don Ottavio is one of the more wooden and lifeless characters and sung by a pallid and uninspiring tenor to boot. Matthew Polenzani was the complete opposite to all of this. A lovely, lyric tenor with oomph and a gleaming top, he had me transfixed on his mezza voce, beautifully controlled reprise of ‘Dalla Sua pace’ and revelling in his control of the coloratura in ‘Il mio tesoro’. He really made the most of a character that is big on words but lacking in action as well.

By Saturday night the performers felt like they had relaxed into their roles. Bryn even seemed to enjoy some cheeky flicking of his ‘dead dog’ wig, occasionally using it to whip his errant servant, Leporello. The rapport between these two was much more noticeable this time. Both Bryn and Erwin have huge stage presence and here they combined their talents- playfully throwing an orange back and forth during one scene. Also much more apparent was Bryn’s characterisation of the Don. Tonight he seethed with unsuppressed fury, playing Giovanni as a bored hedonist, completely detached from life, caring about nothing, laughing even at death when it came in the form of the Commendatore stomping into supper. His Don Giovanni was a man who possessed great riches yet had nothing of real worth. His decent into hell was a wonderful angry departure, throwing furniture over as he disappeared in a mass of smoke and red light.
Perhaps all of this was there on Wednesday but I just didn’t register it, perhaps it was just a performance more worthy of Bryn’s exit from one of the greatest of bass-baritone roles, either way the Saturday night performance justified my decision to see it twice!


Helen
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 03, 2007 5:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Helen!
Smart choice to see 2 performances! I wish I could have seen it on Saturday also... I would have loved the more relaxed interaction between Bryn & Erwin, as well as the full steam ahead dash into hell!
Chrys
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 03, 2007 7:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Very well done, Helen!
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