‘Twas ever thus. No matter that he might be a cad, there’s a certain type of man who never seems to lack female attention – and so it is with the anti-hero of Mozart’s comic opera Don Giovanni. In this, the next production in San Francisco Opera’s summer season, the role of the shameless womanizer is sung by Italian bass-baritone Ildebrando D’Arcangelo, in his first performance for the Company. In another debut appearance, soprano Erin Wall sings the role of Donna Anna, soprano Ana María Martínez returns to SF Opera as Donna Elvira, and basses Erwin Schrott and Erik Anstine share the role of Leporello.
Leading the San Francisco Opera Orchestra and Chorus (director Ian Robertson) is the illustrious French conductor, Marc Minkowski, making an eagerly-awaited debut with the Company. General Manager of Opéra National de Bordeaux, Maestro Minkowski is renowned for his Baroque recordings with his orchestra, Les Musiciens du Louvre, and among performances for which he has won acclaim are those in his Mozart–Da Ponte cycle – Le Nozze di Figaro, Don Giovanni and Così fan tutte – at the Drottningholm Opera in Sweden.
Jacopo Spirei directs this revised staging of SF Opera’s 2011 production, and projection and scenic adaptation are by designer Tommi Brem – a first-time Company engagement for both artists.
Don Giovanni is the second of three works on which Mozart collaborated with librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte – the others having been Le Nozze di Figaro and Così fan tutte. Based on the tales of the fictional 17th century libertine Don Juan, it tells of Don Giovanni’s exploits in his desire to seduce any woman he chooses. Among his intended conquests are Donna Anna – whose father, the Commendatore, he kills in a duel – Donna Elvira, a former lover, and a village girl, Zerlina, who’s about to marry a local farmer Matteo. He manages to draw his servant Leperello into his escapades, even persuading him to switch clothes with him to disguise his identity, but ultimately the Commendatore takes his revenge. He rises from the grave, gives Don Giovanni one last opportunity to repent, and when this is met with a firm refusal, he commits the reprobate to hell, and Don Giovanni meets his end in a fiery furnace.
Ildebrando D’Arcangelo is acclaimed by critics not only for his “sensually bronze-toned bass” (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) but for the “devilish charm” which he brings to his character’s “reckless libertinism” (The Independent, London) – “a magnificent Don” says the Rochester Post-Bulletin. Mr D’Arcangelo has appeared in this role at Berlin’s Deutsche Oper, the Vienna State Opera, La Scala and Los Angeles Opera, and headed an all-star cast in the Deutsche Grammophon recording led by Yannick Nézet-Séguin. He has also appeared on the stages of The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, the Opéra Bastille, the Liceu Barcelona, the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, the Théâtre du Capitole de Toulouse, the Teatro dell’Opera in Rome, the Metropolitan Opera and the Salzburg Festival.
Canadian soprano Erin Wall has sung the role of Donna Anna for Lyric Opera of Chicago, and also appeared for the Chicago company as Marguerite in Faust, Pamina in Die Zauberflöte, Fiordiligi in Così fan tutte, Helena in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Konstanze in Die Entführung auf dem Serail and Antonia in Les Contes d’Hoffmann. She has in recent seasons debuted in leading roles at venues such as the Metropolitan Opera, La Scala, the Vienna Staatsoper, L’opéra National de Paris, the Bayerische Staatsoper, Theâtre du Châtelet, Theater an der Wien and Los Angeles Opera, and appeared with Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony in their 2010 GRAMMY® award-winning recording of Mahler’s 8th Symphony in the category Best Classical Album.
According to Opera News, Puerto Rican-American soprano Ana María Martínez “harks back to the golden age. Her range is even, from a dusky chest-voice through a claret-colored middle and up to radiant top, and is impressive in its quiet moments as it is at full power.” Ms Martínez appeared with San Francisco Opera last summer as Elisabetta in Verdi’s Don Carlo, and her leading roles during the 2016-17 season have included Marguerite in Faust with Houston Grand Opera, a role debut as Tatyana in Eugene Onegin with Lyric Opera of Chicago, and Cio Cio San in Madame Butterfly at The Royal Opera House Covent Garden, and appearances with tenor Andrea Bocelli on a multi-city tour. Ms Martínez can also be heard in the forthcoming season of Amazon’s Mozart in the Jungle.
Uruguayan bass-baritone Erwin Schrott has received wide acclaim for his appearances as both Don Giovanni and Leporello. Among the companies for which he has appeared as Don Giovanni are The Royal Opera, Covent Garden, the Teatro alla Scala, the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, the Washington Opera and the Los Angeles Opera, and the Metropolitan Opera on tour to Japan. Mr Schrott has appeared as Leporello at the Salzburg Festival, the Vienna State Opera and the Metropolitan Opera, where his most recent performances in this role were in April and May this year. This appearance as Leporello marks his first performance for San Francisco Opera.
Sharing the role of Leporello is American bass Erik Anstine – also appearing at San Francisco Opera for the first time. Commended by Bachtrack for his “likeable, common-sensical Leporello and fine comic timing”, he has previously sung this role with Seattle Opera. Mr Anstine is a former member of Los Angeles Opera’s Domingo-Thornton Young Artist Program and the Santa Fe Opera Apprentice Program, and during his four-year tenure with Opernhaus Zürich, he performed roles such as Colline in La Bohéme, Bartolo in Le nozze di Figaro, Biterolf in Tannhäuser, Zweiter Soldat in Salome, Anfisa in the premiere of Eötvös’ Drei Schwestern, and Zweiter Geharnischter in Die Zauberflöte.
Zerlina is sung by Sarah Shafer – praised by the New York Times for her “luminous voice” and “intensely expressive interpretations”, and described by Opera News as “a singer to watch”. Previous appearances with San Francisco Opera include the role of Rosetta in the world premiere production of Marco Tutino’s Two Women, a role debut as Pamina in the Jun Kaneko production of Die Zauberflöte, and the role of Mary Lennox in the world premiere of Nolan Gasser’s The Secret Garden.
As Don Ottavio, French tenor Stanislas de Barbeyrac not only makes his first appearance with San Francisco Opera, but his first in North America as well. He has performed to great acclaim at venues such as The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, Opéra National de Paris, Staatsoper Berlin, Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich, Dutch National Opera in Amsterdam and Grande Théâtre de Genève. This current season has seen him appear as Renaud in Armide at the Vienna State Opera, Tamino in Die Zauberflöte, Benedict in Beatrice et Benedict and Pylade in Iphigenie en Tauride at the Opéra National de Paris.
Bass baritone Michael Sumuel, who sings the role of Masetto, appeared earlier in the season as Belcore in L’elisir d’Amore for Houston Grand Opera, and as Alidoro in La Cenerentola at Norwegian National Opera. Concert engagements included appearances with the Cleveland Symphony as Pilatus in Bach’s St John Passion, with the Phoenix Symphony, in Mozart’s Requiem, and with the American Classical Orchestra in Beethoven’s Symphony No 9 at Lincoln Center in New York City.
Andrea Silvestrelli, appearing as the Commendatore, “is carving for himself a very good name in the US”, says the Houston Chronicle, with a voice which is “… one of quality and he can use it well”. Also appearing as Sparafucile in San Francisco Opera’s current production of Rigoletto, Mr Silvestrelli’s current season includes appearances as Fafner in Das Rheingold with National Taichung Theater in Taiwan, Oroveso in Norma with Lyric Opera of Chicago, and Hagen in Götterdämmerung with Houston Grand Opera.
San Francisco Opera’s production of Don Giovanni, sung in Italian with English supertitles, opened today, June 4, at the War Memorial Opera House and runs for eight performances until June 30, which is the date of the free live simulcast at AT&T Park. For more information and tickets, visit the San Francisco Opera website.