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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Don Giovanni - Dramma giocoso in two acts, K527 (1787)
Don Giovanni - Ildebrando D'Arcangelo (bass-baritone); Leporello - Andrea Concetti (bass-baritone); Don Ottavio - Marlin Miller (tenor); Masetto - William Corro (baritone); Anna - Myrto Papatanasiu (soprano); Elvira - Carmela Remigio (soprano); Zerlina - Manuela Bisceglie (soprano); Commendatore - Enrico Iori (bass)
Fondazione Orchestra Regionale Delle Marche/Riccardo Frizza
rec. live, Teatro Lauro Rossi, Macerata, Italy, Sferisterio Festival, 2009
Stage Director, Sets and Costumes: Pier Luigi Pizzi
Video Director: Davide Mancini
Picture Format: 16:9, NTSC from an HD source
Sound formats: DTS-HD MA 5.0, PCM Stereo
Subtitles: Italian (original language), English, German, French, Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Japanese
Booklet notes: English, German, French
C MAJOR Blu-ray 717504 [174:00]

This is a very muddled Don Giovanni, both musically and visually, and I found it very unsatisfying.

With the possible exception of Anna and Ottavio, everyone in this Don Giovanni is sex-mad. If that sounds like a dull idea, that’s because it is, and it quickly outstays its welcome. It is time to shout “enough” when Leporello sings the Catalogue aria to Elvira while engaging in foreplay, with her, on an enormous bed which is the chief piece of staging. Needless to say, he strips off and feels her up while doing so. Zerlina and Masetto do the same thing later, suggesting that Pier Luigi Pizzi, who was rather thin on ideas anyway, ran out of them quicker than he expected. Other ideas are dabbled with then thrown away, such as the evident sexual attraction between the Don and Leporello, and the descent into hell looks pretty daft.

The staging itself is abstract, with nothing but blank sliding flats to suggest any setting. The few props include that bed, a settee and a dining table but they, together with the very beautifully designed costumes, put us in a kind of abstract Rococo setting. Fundamentally, however, this is a Don Giovanni with little to say. It doesn’t go for lush traditionalism, and it doesn’t have anything sufficiently interesting to say about the characters that would mark it out as revisionist or radical. In short, it’s pretty flat. The booklet essay takes the bizarre tack of not just defending the production (a little desperately) but pre-emptively telling us off for not getting it.

The musical side of things isn’t much better, I’m afraid. The chief offender is conductor Riccardo Frizza whose choices of tempi are very odd and never manages to get over a rather wiry sound from the provincial Italian Marche orchestra. Worst of all, he frequently increases tempo drastically part-way through an aria or ensemble, seemingly knowing better in this matter than Mozart himself, who wrote no such thing. It doesn’t help that the off-stage band is far too distant and is barely audible in the finales of both Act 1 and Act 2.

Leading the singers, Ildebrando D’Arcangelo is an unashamedly bass Don Giovanni, and he hurls himself into the part with admirable physicality. The darkness of his voice can turn to gruffness, though, and he sounds a lot better — more noble, more equivocal — on the Yannick Nézet-Séguin’s CD recording. Andrea Concetti’s Leporello is serviceable but lacks character. Carmela Remigio, with whom I had issues in Chung’s Otello is uncomfortably shrill and makes a meal of her big aria: I couldn’t understand why she was so loudly cheered at the end. Manuela Bisceglie is good fun, but William Corro is an immature Masetto who cannot find the low notes in his aria. Only Anna and Ottavio emerge with their reputations intact. Myrto Papatanasiu, who so impressed me in the Flemish Semiramide, sings Anna’s part with nobility and dignity, as well as great technical control; she is by far the most satisfying principal. Marlin Miller gives us a light but worthy tenor sound for Ottavio; he even manages to convince in his wounded dignity.

They’re not enough to save this mish-mash, though. All the best Don Giovannis are on CD, most notably Giulini’s, Krips’ and Haitink’s, but if you must have a DVD then go for Levine’s Met one: the staging is absurdly overblown, but at least it knows it.

Simon Thompson

Previous review (DVD): Robert Farr