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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART
Don Giovanni (highlights).
Cesare Siepi (bass) Don Giovanni; BIrgit Nilsson (soprano) Donna Anna; Leontyne Price (soprano) Donna Elvira; Fernando Corena (bass) Leporello; Cesare Valletti (tenor) Don Ottavio; Eugenia Ratti (soprano) Zerlina; Heinz Blankenburg (baritone) Masetto; Arnold van Mill (bass) Commendatore; Vienna State Opera Chorus; Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra/Erich Leinsdorf.
Decca Opera Gala 458 245-2 [ADD] [70'02]

Crotchet  midprice

Despite impressive contributions from several of the cast, Leinsdorf's studio-bound Don Giovanni fails to ignite. From this point of view, the Overture is unrepresentative: it receives an exciting performance that promises much. But the fight scene (the first vocal track) is limp, and Correna's Catalogue Aria is simply not suave enough.

Issued in 1961 (RCA SER4528-31), the musical concept shows its years. The overly slow tempo of Donna Anna's Or sai che l'onore is from another age. The star of this production is Leontyne Price's Donna Elvira. She is big-toned and forceful for Ah! Fuggi il traditor and shows off a lovely, musty lower register in Mi tradi. The latter is spoilt by a drop-out at 4'46.

Coming a close second to Price is Eugenia Ratti's Zerlina (not even listed on the slip-case!). She partners Siepi's Giovanni well in Là ci darem, but it is in her touching Batti batti o bel Masetto and in Vedrai, carino that she shines.

My advice would be to stop listening at the end of Mi tradi. The recording cannot sustain the opening chords of the Commendatore's entrance. Van Mill is less than commanding and the menace of this passage resides firmly in the orchestra. There is even a suggestion of rushing in the final ensemble Ah! dov'è il perfido?.

A very mixed disc. Buy it only, perhaps, for the highlights of the highlights: the solos of Leontyne Price and Eugenia Ratti.


Colin Clarke



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