If Robin Ticciati launched himself less than dramatically into the slow introduction of the overture of Mozart’s Don Giovanni, the rest of his compelling reading of this concert performance with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra was instinctively and stylistically secure. Dedicated to the late Sir Charles Mackerras, this Don Giovanni was a young man’s account. With no over-elaborate ornamentation, no halting pauses, Ticciati secured modern playing but of a historically sound nature, with brisk tempi, bouncing and bristling.
It helped that the role of Don Giovanni was characterfully sung by Florian Boesch, who effortlessly combined the demonic with the seductive. Giovanni’s sidekick Leporello, a lithe Vito Priante proved an excellent comic foil. Maximilian Schmitt’s graceful portrayal of the hapless Don Ottavio complemented Susan Gritton’s theatrically intense Donna Anna. Out of an outstanding international cast, Kate Royal’s soft-grained Elvira made the most of the expressive possibilities of “Mi tradi” and Malin Christensson made a heartbreaking, beguiling Zerlina.
The recitatives were treated with care and the instrumentalists often sounded as though they were in humorous or piquant duet with the singers. Among the orchestra’s finest moments was the underlay of Don Ottavio’s “Dalla sua pace,” an accompaniment as sumptuously rendered as the melody over it. Natural horns, buoyant woodwinds and precisely articulated strings added to the vitality of the evening, in which Ticciati, conducting with poise and a gathering sense of the unfolding drama, made sure that his performers were constantly alert to the interplay between the characters. With the lightest of semi-staging, the performance conveyed the opera’s various perspectives though never at the expense of its layers of emotion.
The concert coincided with the welcome news that the 27-year-old Rattle protégé Ticciati has extended his initial three-year contract with the SCO until 2015, parallel to his guesting job with the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra. That should give both him and the SCO time to plan other ambitious projects that will surely stand him in good stead for a top job with a British opera company in due course.