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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Don Giovanni. Dramma giocoso in two acts. K. 527. Vienna version 1788
Don Giovanni, Ildebrando D'Arcangelo (bass); Leporello, Andrea Concetti (baritone); Don Ottavio, Marlin Miller (tenor); Masetto, William Corrò (baritone); Donna Anna, Myrto Papatanasiu (soprano); Donna Elvira, Carmela Remigio (soprano); Zerlina, Manuela Bisceglie (soprano); Commendatore, Giuseppe Iori (bass)
Chorus Lirico Marchigiano Vincenzo Bellini
Orchestra Fondazione Regionale delle Marche/Riccardo Frizza
Stage Director, Sets and Costumes, Pier Luigi Pizzi.
rec. Teatro Lauro Rossi. Sferistereo Opera Festival 30. July 2007.
Picture format, Filmed in HD 16;9. Colour. Sound format, PCM Stereo. DTS 5.0
Video Director, Davide Mancini
Booklet notes in English, French and German.
Subtitles in Italian (sung language), English, French, German, Spanish, Korean, Chinese and Japanese
C MAJOR DVD 749308 [2 discs: 174 mins]

By 1785, Mozart had moved from Saltsburg to Vienna via Munich. He did this to improve his opportunities, as by then his strengths as an opera composer were widely recognised and the genre was to remain central to his ambitions. In 1786, he commenced collaboration with court poet Lorenzo Da Ponte to realise the immensely popular Le Nozze de Figaro with its taut plot and well-integrated music. The work was immediately widely acclaimed and produced in Prague with unprecedented success. Bondi, the manager of the Prague Opera, keen to capitalise on Mozart’s popularity in the city, commissioned a new opera from him 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 Mozart.

Don Giovanni was well received on its Prague premiere in October 1787. However, for a production in Vienna the following year there were problems. The tenor couldn’t sing the Act 2 aria Il mio tesoro (Ch.41) and 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 a protégée of Salieri who demanded a scena for herself. Mozart added the accompanied recitative In quail eccessi and aria Mi tradi in Act 2. Common practice is not followed here in that respect, and it is not included.

The costumes in this production set the work in the period of its composition. The sets comprise a white bed and later a table. Space is created by the use of mirrors and vertical flats, which move and rotate swiftly and easily. The major prop is the bed, scene of seductions and other sexual activity. Veteran Director, Pier Luigi Pizzi sees sex as the focus of the opera, not unreasonably if Don Giovanni had achieved one thousand and three seductions in Spain alone, as Leporello claims in his serenade to Elvira, whilst taking advantage of the bed and her as he does so (DVD 1. Ch.12). The bed is also handy for man to man frolics between master and servant, certainly something Da Ponte may not have imagined (DVD 1. Ch.28./DVD 2. Chs.1-2). Later, Elvira, in low cut nightdress, just, writhes during Mi tradi (DVD 2. Ch.18) with her vital statistics all but making an unscheduled appearance; cheap titillation - double entendre intended - in the small Macerata Teatro Louro Rossi? As to Zerlina’s balm treatment for Masetto’s bruises, sustained by being dusted up by Giovanni, well, I need not amplify further than to note she strips off his shirt, and then his outside trousers, before utilising the voluminous skirt of her opulent - for a supposed peasant girl - dress, to implied good effect. In general, the extravert sexualisation involves such circumstances, together with highly uplifted capacious female bosoms and resultant cleavages often being well nuzzled and mauled. In summary, I have never seen a production of the work so overtly sexualised rather than implied. If it is not quite adults-only viewing, it goes further than most productions I have seen live or on film in that respect.

The singing and acting is good throughout, the former aided by the cast not having to strain in a theatre of a thousand or more. Marlin Miller as Ottavio is less of a wimp than usual, but has to reach somewhat for his high notes. Myrtò Papatanasiu’s Anna is good with Carmela Remigio’s Elvira not always quite as reliable vocally.  As Zerlina, Manuela Bisceglie has an appealing stage presence and a well-supported lyric voice. Masetto, her intended sung by William Corrò, has vocal appeal, his baritone contrasting with the deeper tones of the eponymous role and that of his servant. Andrea Concetti as Leporello and Ildebrando D'Arcangelo as the Don are very similar in vocal tone - useful when they exchange clothes each taking the role of the other. But it is the suave-toned and brilliant all-round characterisation of Ildebrando D'Arcangelo which dominates his rather plainer partner. Lithe of figure, and moving like a born stage animal, he dominates the stage when present. His singing is, on occasion, not as mellifluous as some famous predecessors, but pretty good all the same. How far any limitation is caused by Riccardo Frizza’s sometimes-rushed tempi is debateable. Certainly his conducting does not erase memories of one or two more natural Mozartians of yesteryear in this work.

Whilst Pier Luigi Pizzi’s staging brings clarity to the score, it fails badly in the penultimate scene where Don Giovanni goes down to hell (DVD 2. Chs.28-29). In this performance, he rolls down the raked stage onto the lower level where naked members of the underworld, of both sexes, greet him. It lacks some atmosphere, which might have been helped by red lighting. As it is, this version of hell, with naked ladies, might seem the wrong place for Don Giovanni and his predilections!

Robert J Farr



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