Notes and Editorial Reviews
Duration: 180 minutes
Disc Format: NTSC
Aspect Ratio: 16:9 (widescreen)
Region: 0 (all)
Sound: PCM Stero + DTS 5.1
Subtitles: English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Chinese
Daniel Harding, cond; Thomas Hampson (
); Ildebrando D’Arcangelo (
); Robert Lloyd (
); Christine Schäfer (
); Piotr Beczala (
); Melanie Diener (
); Isabel Bayrakdarian (
); Luca Pisaroni (
); Vienna St Op Ch; Mozarteum O, Salzburg; Vienna P
DECCA 074 3162 (2 DVDs: 180:00) Live: Salzburg 8/11–15/2006
This release is part of last summer’s project to record for DVD all 22 of Mozart’s operas in performances from the Salzburg Festival. This is the only one of the 22 that I have seen so far, but from the trailer, it looks like none of the productions are traditional.
, staged by Martin Kušej, with sets by Martin Zehetgruber and costumes by Heide Kastler, takes place in a sterile yet sinister environment, reminiscent of Stanley Kubrick’s
2001: A Space Odyssey—
or perhaps in the antechamber of Death. There are lots of ideas and symbols here. In fact, there are too many symbols. One recurring theme is a long black veil or a mask with which the characters try to blind themselves or each other. All of act I is dominated by a bloodstain left on the wall as a result of Giovanni’s murder of the (unarmed) Commendatore.
The other theme is Sex, and its commercialization. In many scenes, a crowd of model-like young women stands around emotionlessly, wearing white bras, panties, and stockings. (They seem to be refugees from some of Robert Palmer’s music videos from the 1980s.) During Leporello’s Catalogue Aria, they also pose in designer clothes, while other women scrub the floors and walls. A little girl in white jumping rope ends this disquieting tableau. As Zerlina sings “Batti, batti,” the models (back in their bras and panties) appear to be experiencing an emotional meltdown, although perhaps “malfunction” is a better word: they hold and massage themselves in pain, and one smears lipstick around her mouth. They reappear in act II, as horrifying hags during the Graveyard Scene, and in black (!) bras and panties at the climax of the Banquet Scene. (The final credits identify them as sisters of Proserpina, so there is a clue for you.)
Harding’s Virgin Classics audio recording of this opera has been pretty generally reviled for ludicrously fast tempos. Some of those tendencies remain apparent here, but overall, I thought this was an interesting, vital, and dramatic reading. I was quite surprised to hear Elvira embellishing the second half of “Ah! chi mi dice mai” and Ottavio doing the same to “Dalla sua pace.” On the minus side, there is a tendency for singers to distort notes and rhythms to make a dramatic point. In Puccini, this might be acceptable, but it is harder to justify in Mozart.
Hampson is not as frayed as he sometimes has sounded lately, but his singing is coarser than it was 10 years ago. He’s definitely a Giovanni who is worse for wear, in more ways than one. Diener is a hollow-voiced, sometimes uncomfortably or clumsily sung Elvira. She doesn’t seem particularly upset with Giovanni until she is confronted with the horrors of the Catalogue Aria. Schäfer’s Anna is fiery and exciting. Her recitatives have as much dramatic nuance as her arias, and her singing is, for the most part, very impressive. As Zerlina, the young Canadian singer Isabel Bayrakdarian sounds radiant indeed, and is very interesting dramatically—no sugary sweet maiden here. Leporello, solidly sung by the reliable D’Arcangelo, is relatively conventional in this production, until his 11th-hour slaying of his master. Beczala’s Ottavio is assured and manly, perhaps to a fault: “Il mio tesoro” is sung as if it were “Di quella pira,” although one can’t deny that this is an exciting voice well used. On the other hand, we have an angry but ineffectual Masetto (he even gets pushed around by Ottavio) in Pisaroni; his act I arias do have the requisite bluster, but bluster is all it is. Lloyd is impressive in his brief appearance in act I and in the Graveyard Scene, but for some reason, when he appears at Giovanni’s dinner table, he seems to have been asked to affect a woofy, forced vocal quality.
The production looks and sounds very good on DVD; a wide-screen format has been used. The English subtitles are excellent. There is a short bonus of Kušej and several cast members discussing this production, with rehearsal and production clips. It does little, however, to bring clarity to the more mystifying aspects of this staging.
As much as I enjoyed this
, it is difficult to give it a general recommendation. Although it is striking and always interesting, the visual aspects of this production will not please traditionalists at all, and many of the director’s decisions seem to have been based on perversity or shock value, rather than on clues derived from Mozart’s music or from da Ponte’s libretto. Musically, there is less to complain about, even though I have concerns about Hampson and Diener. (If it’s Hampson you want, his Teldec recording with Harnoncourt finds him in better vocal estate.) If you’re adventurous, this DVD might be for you.
FANFARE: Raymond Tuttle
Works on This Recording
Don Giovanni, K 527 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Luca Pisaroni (Bass Baritone),
Piotr Beczala (Tenor),
Thomas Hampson (Baritone),
Ildebrando D'Arcangelo (Bass),
Christine Schäfer (Soprano),
Melanie Diener (Soprano),
Robert Lloyd (Bass),
Isabel Bayrakdarian (Soprano)
Vienna State Opera Chorus,
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Written: 1787; Prague
Date of Recording: 2006
Venue: Salzburg Festival, Austria
Length: 180 Minutes 0 Secs.
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