Don Giovanni is one of my favourite operas especially for its title character and the Commendatore scene. The story is episodic in a sense but it is very dramatic, fun and complex as well. My favourite Don Giovannis are the 1979 Joseph Losey film and the 1987 production with Von Karajan conducting and Samuel Ramey in the title role.
This 2001 production is just superb. Handsome costumes and sets are definite things to like even if some scenes are a little too darkly lit, as are the magnificent music, the interesting staging particularly Giovanni's mocking of the Commendatore and the idea for Leporello to lighten his voice and Giovanni to darken his and the colourful characters right from the charming but devilish Giovanni, bumbling Leporello, spiteful Elvira, adorable Zerlina to the imposing Commendatore.
The orchestra are mostly brilliant, particularly in the Overture, Champagne Aria and Commendatore scene. The strings though are not quite always spot on, in the graveyard scene for instance they could have done with more urgency. Nicholas Harncourt's musical direction is excellent, all the pivotal scenes are done exceptionally well, the Champagne aria especially was electrifying!
The performances are excellent across the board. Starting with the women, I was really impressed with Cecilia Bartoli's Elvira. To start with, she is very spiteful and over-the-top, but I just loved it when she softens in the second act. Bartoli sings beautifully and her acting positively crackles. Isabel Rey is a lightweight yet memorable Donna Anna, and Liliana Nikiteanu manages to have a resonant voice as well being a fine actress. I have to say, although I am a big fan of the opera, that was one unforgettable Batti, Batti, one of the memorable renditions of that aria I've heard or seen recently.
As for the men, Roberto Sacco's interpretation of Don Ottavio is one I do appreciate. It is an interesting interpretation in that Don Ottavio struggles with his non-violent nature to satisfy his lover rather than the somewhat ineffectual sidekick I can find. Massetto is good, the great Finnish basso profundo Matti Salminen is terrifying as the Commendatore and Laszlo Polgar's Leporello especially in the facial expressions is a joy. Best of all is Rodney Gilfry's Don Giovanni. Although my favourites in the role are Ruggero Raimondi, Cesare Siepi, Ezio Pinza and Samuel Ramey, Gilfry really excels as this complex character. Not only is he very handsome and charismatic, but he has a voice that is rich and flexible, which I think is just the right voice needed for the Champagne aria.
All in all, a superb Don Giovanni. 10/10 Bethany Cox
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