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Mozart, Don Giovanni, Freiburger Barockorchester, R. Jacobs (released on October 9, 2007)
Mozart, Don Giovanni, S. Ramey, A. Tomowa-Sintow, Berlin Philharmonic, H. von Karajan (1990)
Tim Page, This 'Don Giovanni' Is More Parry Than Thrust (Washington Post, October 27)
T. L. Ponick, A dark 'Giovanni' of depth, beauty (Washington Times, October 27)
Sometimes the unconventional tempo choices work, but the Stone Guest scene just comes off as too fast, with the singers almost stumbling over the words. (Jacobs does marshal some convincing evidence in his booklet essay for his rapid tempo.) The recitatives, brilliantly accompanied by Giorgio Paronuzzi at a pianoforte, have frankly never sounded better. In general with such a strong and exciting instrumental component to this recording, one cannot help but think that Jacobs has miscalculated by not using more recognized singers than this cast list. In his essay, Jacobs makes a point of noting that the singer who premiered the title role in Prague, Luigi Bassi, was only 21 years old, and Johannes Weisser is about the same age. Da Ponte identified the Don as a libertine youth (Un giovane estremamente licenzioso), or "a sort of Cherubino five years older" as Jacobs puts it. Adding to the case that this recording is a must-hear, however, is its completeness. Jacobs has opted for the Vienna revision, so that all of the favorites added there are included, with an appendix of four tracks containing everything performed only in the Prague premiere.
Mozart, Don Giovanni, directed by Joseph Losey
Mozart, Don Giovanni, R. Raimondi, K. Te Kanawa, Opéra National de Paris, L. Maazel (released on August 29, 2006)
Last year, Sony released a remastered version of the soundtrack used in that film, with Lorin Maazel conducting the Orchestra of the Paris Opéra. The sound is indeed improved, and this is an astounding cast, with Ruggiero Raimondi in the title role, the thundering John Macurday as Il Commendatore, and Teresa Berganza (!) as Zerlina joining Van Dam and Te Kanawa. However, one of the risks of listening to the Jacobs version of the opera is that your ears will become sensitized to the shellac built up on a version like this. Where is the crisp sense of ensemble among the instruments and with the singers? Why are some of the numbers so slow, in contrast with the tempo markings? Still, that Stone Guest scene makes my skin crawl every time.
Harmonia Mundi HMC 901964-66 / Sony Classical 82876-87758-2
Catalogue Aria ("Madamina, il catalogo è questo"),
José Van Dam, film directed by Joseph Losey