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MOZART: Don Giovanni

DVD Button Ruiten, Fritsch, Naforniţa; D’Arcangelo, Pisaroni, Staples, Arduini, Konieczny; Philharmonia Chor Wien, Vienna Philharmonic, Eschenbach. Production: Bechtolf. EuroArts 2072738 (2 DVDs) or 2072734 (Blu-ray), 184 mins. (opera), 184 mins. (bonus), subtitled

Recordings Don Giovanni Cover 216

A HOTEL LOBBY IS DON GIOVANNI'S playground and the single set for Sven-Eric Bechtolf’s staging at the 2014 Salzburg Festival. Upstairs rooms overlook the lobby; Giovanni seems to have a woman in each. While his words woo one, his eyes pursue another. He relishes the chase and has the run of the place despite a police-state climate in which the Commendatore’s henchmen crack down not by confronting Giovanni but by storming the women’s rooms and throwing mattresses down to the lobby. They aren’t picked up, and Bechtolf’s ideas aren’t followed up. Spinning Donna Anna into place and guiding her arm, Giovanni makes her stab her father, but her grief and guilt are standard. Zerlina, a maid on staff who curtseyed to the living Commendatore, spits on his corpse—the sole act of protest in three hours.

She mops up after the murder and leaves a bucket behind; Donna Elvira, sickened by Leporello’s photo albums of Giovanni’s 2,065 conquests, barfs into the bucket. That’s coherence of a sort, but real sense is mostly missing. The Commendatore is back haunting the hotel even before his bust is erected. A dozen devils consign Giovanni to hell, but late in the epilogue he leaps to his feet, greets Don Ottavio, Leporello and Masetto, caresses Anna, kisses Elvira and Zerlina, and chases a girl down a hall, as alive and unfazed as ever. The considerable action titillates and often rivets, but does it mean anything except that Giovanni is having a good time?

Yet it goes onto my shelf, because the cast is wonderful. Ildebrando D’Arcangelo is a completely credible, happy-hedonist Giovanni, more powerful if less silken than his 2006 Salzburg Figaro and Leporello, the serenade a bit bumpy. The Giovanni-Leporello recitative exchanges flow like oil. Luca Pisaroni’s singing is immaculate and strong; his gangling Leporello can’t conceal that he looks and sounds like a Giovanni, as does Alessio Arduini, the visually and vocally handsome Masetto. Andrew Staples offers beautiful, heady, grown-up-choirboy timbre as Ottavio. Tomasz Konieczny is a formidable Commendatore.

Lenneke Ruiten (Anna) and Anett Fritsch (Elvira) are lean-toned (befitting the 1,495-seat Haus für Mozart), technically accomplished singers, attractive women and compelling actresses. When Anna, pinned to the floor by Giovanni in the first scene, mirrors that image with Ottavio, Ruiten’s near-orgasmic narrative reveals Anna’s lust. Fritsch’s profoundly moving, loving, lovable Elvira banishes any thought of butt-of-joke laughs. Supermodel-beautiful Valentina Naforniţa sings gorgeously and with such nuance that she can’t help but make Zerlina sophisticated.

Christoph Eschenbach conducts solidly in the Central European tradition. The texture seems weighty and some tempos slow in the light of period-instrument performances, but the Vienna Philharmonic is superb. An opera-length behind-the-scenes bonus, accessible at any time, shows backstage action and superimposes interviews over the music. —Mark Mandel 

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