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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-91)
Don Giovanni (1787)
Paolo Silveri (baritone) Don Giovanni; Salvatore Baccaloni (bass) Leporello; Regina Resnik (mezzo) Donna Elvira; Ljuba Welitsch (soprano) Donna Anna; Eugene Conley (tenor) Don Ottavio; Nadine Conner (soprano) Zerlina; Lorenzo Alvary (bass) Masetto; Nicola Moscona (bass) Commendatore
Chorus and Orchestra, Metropolitan Opera House, New York/Fritz Reiner
Rec. New York, 6 January 1951 mono ADD

As is usual with Walhall, there are no notes, no timings, no synopsis and precious little recording information. Perhaps less usual is a Giovanni shorn of Overture; a footnote - merely says it was missing in the original source. So we are plunged into Leporello’s ‘Notte e giorno faticar’. A somewhat leaden tempo sets the scene for what follows; modern conducting this ain’t. But Baccaloni is excellent, his big bass voice in total control; beware he fades away as he moves around the stage away from the microphones. A keen audience attempts to applaud him, despite the segue. His credentials are reinforced by his Catalogue Aria, sounding on the slow side but the spirit is all there. I wonder what’s going on, prop-wise? As he reads he seems to flick over something that gets a laugh from the audience …. If voice/orchestra co-ordination in the slower section is not all it could be, there is plenty of suavité ... and what a meal he makes of the end! This is not Baccaloni’s only Leporello, for he takes the role in Glyndebourne under Busch, presently available on Naxos Historical 8.1101357. Musically this set cannot compete, but collectors might want to make the comparison.

But of the Don himself? Paolo Silveri is a natural with recitatives, presenting them believably paced and with varied shadings. His ‘Là cì darem’ is full of confidence, not as legato as some, for sure, with more masculine edges. Nadine Conner’s Zerlina is excellent casting, innocent without being completely fresh-faced. But as the opera goes on it does rather appear she is content to sing prettily. Her ‘Batti, batti o bel Masetto’ is nice enough but it would be difficult to glean the dramatic, placatory, import of the words without recourse to plot/synopsis/libretto.

Possibly the most formidable, in a positive sense, cast-member is Regina Resnik as Donna Elvira. Right from the beginning of ‘Ah, chi mi dice mai’ one is aware of her vocal stature. Resnik is ever dramatically present, always dragging the listener in; she is feistiness personified also at ‘Ah, fuggi il traditor’. Donna Anna is Ljuba Welitsch, who sang the same role for Furtwängler in Salzburg, July 1950. She manages Reiner’s slow, nay comatose, speed for ‘Non mi dir’ well

Eugene Conley’s Ottavio seems to be promising, sweetly phrasing ‘Dalla sua pace’. Reiner’s tempo and some violin lines that seem to slither rather detract from the experience. Similarly, his Act 2 ‘Il mio tesoro’ is better than many.

Reiner has a dynamic, onward-moving sense of the drama right from the beginning. The opening fight, then, is set to succeed, and succeed it does; as does the sense of near-stasis Reiner sets up immediately after the mortal wound is inflicted. Off-beat accents at the beginning of Act 2 are similarly on-the-ball. The orchestra plays well throughout for him and is clearly well-schooled by Reiner.

Recitatives seem to be accompanied by fortepiano (or is it a tinnily-recorded piano?), which might take some adjustment. Stage effects include a whistling that accompanies the entrance of the Commendatore - a wind machine of some sort?

Definitely not a version with which to get acquainted with Mozart’s masterpiece. Interesting for a couple of the singers, though, in particular Regina Resnik.

Colin Clarke


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