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Mozart: Don Giovanni / Bohm, London, Weber, Della Casa, Dermota, Jurinac

Mozart / Smetana / Tchaikovsky / Offenbach
Release Date: 11/24/2009 
Label:  Myto Records   Catalog #: 217  
Composer:  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Walter BerryErich KunzSena JurinacLudwig Weber,   ... 
Conductor:  Karl Böhm
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna State Opera ChorusVienna State Opera Orchestra
Number of Discs: 3 
Recorded in: Mono 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

MOZART Don Giovanni & Karl Böhm, cond; George London ( Don Giovanni ); Ludwig Weber ( Commendatore ); Lisa Della Casa ( Donna Anna ); Anton Dermota ( Don Ottavio ); Sena Jurinac ( Donna Elvira ); Erich Kunz ( Leporello Read more class="ARIAL12">); Walter Berry ( Masetto ); Irmgard Seefried ( Zerlina ); Vienna State Opera O & Ch MYTO 217 (3 mono CDs: 210:01) Live: Vienna 11/6/55)

& Sena Jurinac bonus arias: SMETANA The Bartered Bride: “Endlich allein.” TCHAIKOVSKY Eugen Onegin: “Briefszene.” OFFENBACH Contes d’Hoffman: “Hoffman’s Erzählunger.” VERDI Aida: “Ritorna vincitor”; “O partria mia” Live: Hamburg 1951

It is not easy to know who might be attracted to this set, which has, admittedly, many virtues. Its cast is distinguished, and Böhm’s direction, save for a few instances, is commanding. Moreover, considering the quality of many live recordings from the mid 50s, the sound is quite acceptable; indeed, save for the slight shattering of the highest notes in the women’s roles, it is almost up to studio standard. And unlike what occurs in many live opera recordings of the period, the voices rarely sound too far off-mike.

Why then reservations? Perhaps the major one is that the work is sung in German. At minimum, it will sound strange for anyone familiar with the opera. Moreover, it sometimes alters the sense of the libretto. Consider, for example, Leporello’s famous “catalogue” aria from act I. Its first word, madamina , has the literal meaning of “little shop girl.” In a German-Italian mix it has become schöne donna (beautiful woman), which, of course, is not the same thing. And in the Don’s act I “champagne” aria, Böhm’s tempo is so fast that the words, especially in German, become garbled hash. The same blurring occurs in the fleet pacing of the concluding moments of act I.

Then there is the question of applause. In a recording of a live performance its inclusion is always welcome, if only to preserve the sense of occasion. But discretion is needed here: Myto has seemingly opted for including it all, down to the last single clap, creating too great a gap in the action and far too much for repeated hearings. And some purists may object to the use of piano for accompanying recitatives.

These reservations aside, there is much to admire in the performance. The singers are generally distinguished, the sense of the drama well conveyed. Certainly those who admire Sena Jurinac (which should include anyone familiar with her work) may want to hear this performance. Among other versions, my preferences lie with three: the superb 1936 Busch-Glyndebourne recording superbly transferred to CD for Naxos by Ward Marston (unfortunately available only outside the U.S.), and the stereo versions led by Colin Davis (Philips) and Giulini (EMI). Certainly the five “bonus” tracks in this Myto set will be welcomed by Jurinac followers. In short, this is a flawed but often arresting Don Giovanni particularly worth pursuing for those with interests in historical material.

FANFARE: Mortimer H. Frank
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Works on This Recording

Don Giovanni, K 527 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Walter Berry (Bass Baritone), Erich Kunz (Baritone), Sena Jurinac (Soprano),
Ludwig Weber (Bass), George London (Bass Baritone), Lisa Della Casa (Soprano),
Anton Dermota (Tenor), Irmgard Seefried (Soprano)
Conductor:  Karl Böhm
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna State Opera Chorus,  Vienna State Opera Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1787; Prague 

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