After the success of Così fan tutte and The Marriage of Figaro, René Jacobs' CD recording of this centrepiece of the Mozart/Da Ponte trilogy offered us his reflections on Classical opera and garnered serious acclaim worldwide. Performed at the Innsbruck festival in August 2006 and filmed in Baden-Baden, this production is nourished by his thoughts on Don Giovanni as taboo-breaker but still respects Mozart's intentions as closely as possible.
In the documentary Looking for Don Giovanni, the director Nayo Titzin follows the creation of this production in the search for musical truth.
The booklet flags the “impressive similarity” between Giuseppe Gazzaniga’s Don Giovanni, premiered in February 1787, and Mozart’s masterpiece first heard in Prague later the same year. True, there are occasional superficial musical resemblances; and while Da Ponte despised the librettist Giovanni Bertati as a “dramatic cobbler”, he was happy to appropriate many of his ideas for his own Don Giovanni libretto. What strikes you time and again, though, is the fathomless gulf between Gazzaniga’s casually structured one-act romp, designed as a play-within-a-play for the Venice Carnival, and Mozart’s tragi-comic masterpiece.
As in the case of "Cosi", Solti recorded "Don Giovanni" twice, the first time in 1978. It was a work he had loved since he heard Bruno Walter conduct it in Salzburg in 1936, with Ezio Pinza in the title role. His 1978 performance is distinguished by the presence of some of the leading Mozartian singers of the day, notably Margaret Price's Donna Anna, Stuart Burrows's Don Ottavio and Lucia Popp's Zerlina. Appreciable quantities, too, are Bernd Weikl's potent Giovanni, Gabriel Bacquier' demotic Leporello and Sylvia Sass's flamboyant Donna Elvira.
Don Giovanni, a libertine, a rake with a devil-may-care attitude, is portrayed magnificently by Teddy Tahu Rhodes in this Opera Australia production, where he first appears on stage in a costume where less is definitely more! Charismatic and sexy, Rhodes acting and singing are magnificent. His misused servant, Leporello, is played by Conal Coad, who skilfully promotes the opera's comic elements whilst delivering a thumping bass full of drama.
The classic stage designs of Carl Friedrich Oberle form the backdrop to the drama of Don Giovanni's last day on earth, before he is hurled in to Hell's flames by the Commendatore, Daniel Sumegi, whose basso profundo is befittingly momentous.
Luis Pasqual's powerful production for the Spanish capital sets Da Ponte's timeless story of sleaze and seduction into the dark world of 1940s Spain. Carlos Álvarez, in the title role, toys with the affections of Donna Anna, Zerlina and the Spanish lady Donna Elvira, before his overpowering methods finally bring his own destruction. "José Bros is a luxurious Don Ottavio, with an excellent high register, perfect diction and an exquisite vocal elegance. Alvarez is the perfect Trickster of Seville. Victor Pablo Pérez, one of the most reputed conductors of the Spanish scene, manages a crystal clear work, very attentive to the beauty of Mozart's score." (La Razón, Madrid)
“Amazing production of Don Giovanni at Glyndebourne, a work of art in itself… Magnificent as the set is, this will also be a Don Giovanni to listen to for the orchestra. The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment are so good that they can generate almost demonic energy from the lighter timbres of period instruments. Vladimir Jurowski has rarely sounded more inspired”. Opera Today