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Mozart: Don Giovanni / Jurowski, Royal, Samuil, Finley, Pisaroni, Miles

Release Date: 05/03/2011 
Label:  Emi Classics   Catalog #: 72017  
Composer:  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  William BurdenLuca PisaroniAnna SamuilAlastair Miles,   ... 
Conductor:  Vladimir Jurowski
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orchestra of the Age of EnlightenmentGlyndebourne Festival Chorus
Number of Discs: 2 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

MOZART Don Giovanni Vladimir Jurowski, cond; Gerald Finley ( Don Giovanni ); Luca Pisaroni ( Leporello ); Anna Samuil ( Anna ); Kate Royal ( Elvira ); Anna Virovlansky ( Zerlina ); William Burden ( Ottavio ); O of the Age of Enlightenment Read more EMI 0 72017 9 (2 DVDs: 192: 00)

Unlike the 2008 Salzburg Don Giovanni that I reviewed in Fanfare 34:3, this 2010 Glyndebourne production, directed by Jonathan Kent, is an updating that works, at least for the most part. There are some details that will disturb literalists (and at times, I can be one). The statue is not a statue, but rather the corpse itself, which rather makes the line about his “marble head” seem silly. The Commendatore is not killed in a duel, but rather hit on the head, repeatedly, with a stone—and his death here is clearly the result of a cold-blooded murder rather than of a duel. I am not sure that makes sense, either in the context of the scene itself or the character of Giovanni. And the modern setting, which is the late 1950s or early 1960s in a production that is clearly inspired by Fellini’s La dolce vita , diminishes the class difference between nobility and peasants that is an important element in Don Giovanni . Nonetheless, the production overall is all of a piece, and is convincing in both its broad concept and its details. I find myself fully engaged with the opera in a way that was utterly impossible in the silliness of the Salzburg production.

The set is rather unspecific as to time, though some of it seems to be old-fashioned classical architecture. The set is a large unit that keeps opening, rotating, and changing, sometimes realistic and sometimes rather abstract or surreal. But it does allow the music and action to continue without any interruption for scene changes, and that is extremely compelling. The costumes are clearly mid 20th century, and are appropriate and consistent once you accept that setting. The final scene of the first act climaxes with a lighting strike from the heavens, setting Don Giovanni’s castle on fire, as if it were the end of the Ring Cycle! Then all of the second act is clearly cold—falling snow and gray skies. Even the Don’s death lacks fire or heat. Kent explains this concept in one of the two excellent bonus tracks at the end of the first disc: a discussion about the sets and costumes, along with a discussion among the singers and Jurowski about the relationship of Don Giovanni to the other characters.

The cast is, in a word, stupendous from top to bottom. Gerald Finley is a great Don Giovanni vocally, and if not quite as suave as Siepi he is still a strong presence on stage and convincing in the range of emotions that the character displays, whether sincerely or not. His singing of “Deh, vieni alla finestra” is as beautiful as just about any I’ve heard, and he masters the full range of the character musically. Luca Pisaroni’s Leporello starts with the advantage of looking similar to Finley, so the costume-switching scene is believable instead of laughable. He is a bass-baritone, and isn’t the first Leporello who could also sing the Don—and he has a great comedic sense. A few low notes sound thin and quavery, and I’m not convinced by Kent’s staging of the Catalog Aria, where Leporello takes on a nasty, sneering quality toward Elvira that doesn’t relate to what I believe is his character. But overall, Pisaroni is a persuasive and musical satisfying contributor to this performance. Interestingly, William Burden is given (or naturally has) gray hair as Ottavio, and thus seems older than Anna—but it works dramatically, particularly given Ottavio’s line immediately after her father’s slaying: “In me you have both husband and father.” He sings “Dalla sua pace” beautifully. Since this is the Vienna 1788 version as published by Bärenreiter, “Il mio tesoro” is cut, replaced by the somewhat silly buffo duet for Zerlina and Leporello. Rounding out the male part of the cast, Guido Loconsolo and Brindley Sherratt are excellent as Masetto and the Commendatore.

The women are, if anything, even better. When you think about the fact that during a three-decade period of Soviet rule we did not get to hear Russian singers in the West, it is remarkable now how much they now dominate the international scene—and in all musical styles, not just Tchaikovsky or big-boned music. Anna Samuil and Anna Virovlansky, Donna Anna and Zerlina, are both Russians, and are both super Mozartians. Samuil’s “Non mi dir” is as beautiful a performance as I can remember, with a supple legato and all the required agility, and beautiful tone throughout. Both ladies are dramatically effective. As for Kate Royal, she stands with the finest Elvira in my memory, and one is grateful that her “Mi tradi” is included.

Peter Maniura’s direction for the camera is excellent; he doesn’t jump around too much, and seems alert to musical and dramatic context. So many film or TV directors for opera seem insensitive to the flow of the music; not so here.

As if the singing and mostly persuasive staging weren’t enough, we have in Vladimir Jurowski a conductor who turns out to be a superb Mozartean. I had not seen (or heard) him in this light before, though a recent LPO Live CD of Haydn’s Seven Last Words of Christ on the Cross , in its choral/orchestral version, is further confirmation of his strength in this corner of the repertoire. He gets out of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment playing that never loses intensity or commitment, that combines the best elements of the HIP movement and later performance traditions. The balance between contrasting musical and dramatic elements, so hard to achieve in Don Giovanni , seems just about perfect. There is drive, fire, tension, lyricism, humor, clarity of texture, and rich sonority, all in the right proportion. The recorded sound, heard in LPCM stereo, is natural and ideally balanced between voice and orchestra.

There are too many Don Giovanni DVDs for me to say that any one is the best. So much depends on your own taste in staging, your tolerance for the experimental or your desire for the absolutely traditional. All I can say, with confidence, is that it will be very difficult to find one on a higher level musically, and that while the production is an updating, it is for the most part not dissonant with tradition. I recommend it with enthusiasm.

FANFARE: Henry Fogel
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Works on This Recording

Don Giovanni, K 527 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  William Burden (Tenor), Luca Pisaroni (Bass Baritone), Anna Samuil (Soprano),
Alastair Miles (Bass), Kate Royal (Soprano), Anna Virovlansky (Soprano),
Gerald Finley (Baritone)
Conductor:  Vladimir Jurowski
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment,  Glyndebourne Festival Chorus
Period: Classical 
Written: 1787; Prague 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 a good modern Don Giovanni May 22, 2012 By Renato L Baserga (Ardmore, PA) See All My Reviews "first class presentation by a company that often presents the best. Jurowski is a superb conductor that runs the opera with propulsion and style. Among the interpreters, Pisaroni is probably the best, but excellent presentations are also given by Finley and Samuil (a very, very good Donna Anna). Take away 25% of the fifth star for Kate Royal, who does not look interested in the opera she is singing. I enjoyed listening to it and I have been listening to Don Govanni for 60 years. It may not match the very best, like von Karajan's, Giulini's or Mitropoulos, but it is up there." Report Abuse
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