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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Don Giovanni, Dramma giocoso in two acts K. 527. Vienna version 1788
Don Giovanni, Simone Alberghini (baritone)
Leporello, Adrian Sampetrean (baritone)
Don Ottavio, Dmitry Korchak (tenor)
Masetto, Jiří Brückler (baritone)
Donna Anna, Irina Lungu, (soprano)
Donna Elvira, Katerina Knežíková (soprano)
Zerlina, Julia Novikova (soprano)
Commendatore Jan Štáva (bass)
Prague National Theatre Orchestra and Chorus/Plácido Domingo
Jiří Nekvasil (Stage Director)
Josef Svoboda (set designer)
Theodor Pištěk (costume designer)
Daniel Dvořák (lighting designer)
Brian Large (video director)
rec. live, The Estates Theatre, Prague, 27 and 29 October 2017
Filmed in HD 1080i, 16:9. Sound format: PCM Stereo, DTS-HD MA 5.0
Booklet notes in English, French and German.
Subtitles in Italian (sung language), English, French, German, Korean and Japanese
C MAJOR Blu-ray 745304 [182 mins]

In 1786, settled in Vienna, Mozart commenced his first collaboration with the poet Da Ponte. They realised the immensely popular Le Nozze de Figaro with its taut plot and integrated music. The work was immediately widely acclaimed, and was later produced in Prague with unprecedented success. Bondi, the manager of the Prague Opera, keen to capitalise on the composer’s popularity in the city, immediately commissioned a new opera for production the following autumn. Mozart returned to Vienna and sought the cooperation of Da Ponte for the provision of a suitable libretto. Although Da Ponte was working on librettos for two other composers, he agreed to set the verses of Don Giovanni for him, perhaps using some existing material.

Don Giovanni was well received at the Prague premiere in October 1787, but for a production in Vienna the following year there were problems. The tenor could not sing the Act 2 aria Il mio tesoro (Ch. 41). Mozart substituted the aria Dalla sua pace, better suited to his abilities, in Act 1 (Ch. 21). The role of Elvira was to be sung in Vienna by Salieri’s protégée who demanded a scena for herself. Mozart added the accompanied recitative In quail eccessi and aria Mi Tradi in act 2 (Ch. 42). Common performance and recorded custom is followed here: the performance includes the later Vienna additions.

This performance and recording originate from a visit to Prague by Domingo in 2012. He visited the theatre of the original production venue, called the Estates Theatre then and titled the Prague National Theatre now. He was so impressed that he wished to conduct Don Giovanni in the theatre where it was created. It was originally intended that the performance would be held at an appropriate 230-year anniversary, and involve singers from Domingo’s Operalia Singing Competition. Domingo wished to extend his involvement into artistic production. In the end, some original ideas and ideals slipped due to his personal polymath international musical involvements. To best simulate what was seen those years ago, but including the later Vienna musical additions, a 1969 production by the renowned Josef Svoboda was revived, with rather too ornate costumes by Theodor Pištěk, particularly in the finale of act one when the Masqueraders arrive for Don Giovanni’s party.

Domingo’s conducting has no particular virtue, but he at least does not pull the tempi about in any perverse manner, and keeps the story progressing. There are times when the stage seems rather small and certainly the unseen audience is never madly enthusiastic. Maybe familiarity breeds contempt, or the powers that be in Prague upped the price too much; conjecture on my part. The singing is never less than good but rarely outstanding in the international sense. Only four of the soloists were winners in the Operalia competition, conflict of long-dated commitments elsewhere, as is common in the opera scene, limiting their number.

Fortunately among the singers Simone Alberghini, in the eponymous role, shines both vocally and histrionically, as does Adrian Sampetrean, once into his stride in Leporello’s Catalogue Aria (Ch. 10). As the young lovers that the Don seeks to separate – and then seduce the woman Zerlina – Julia Novikova has pert vitality and appealing stage presence compared with the wooden acting of her supposed paramour. One would hardly be surprised at her preference at one stage of the story if she seemed to fall for the suave and sophisticated acting and singing of Simone Alberghini as Giovanni. Of the other lovers, Katerina Knežíková as Elvira, red hair blazing and elegantly costumed, pursues the Don with vibrant vocal and acted persistence; her performance of the Vienna addition (Ch. 42) is outstanding. Of the two other lovers, Irina Lungu as Donna Anna sings a carefully shaped Crudel (Ch. 46) but fails to move me in her acted interpretation either as a violated daughter or pursued bride. As her thwarted or sexually frustrated would-be suitor, Dmitry Korchak, an Operalia winner, sings with heady tenor tone in Dalla sua pace (Ch. 21), but brings too strong a tenor tone in Il mio tesoro intanto (Ch. 21). Jan Štáva is suitably sonorous as assassinated father but the final scene lacks impact for me.

Robert J. Farr

 

 




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