Recordings > Opera and Oratorio

MOZART: Don Giovanni

CD Button Papatanasiu, Gauvin, Gansch; Taver, Tiliakos, Priante, Loconsolo, Kares; Musicaeterna, Currentzis. Sony Classical 889853160327 (3)

Recordings Don Giovanni Cover 417

PERFORMANCES OF Don Giovanni can be dull if a conductor has a default “Mozart style” that’s consistently applied with no allowance for Mozart’s variety of invention. It turns out that Don Giovanni can also be monotonous if a conductor micromanages every phrase for shock value. Just about any given five-minute segment of this version, conducted by Teodor Currentzis, would be provocative, even interesting. But taken as a whole, the real shock is the way our ears tune out the onslaught.

But if a conductor throws enough musical succotash at the wall, something will stick. The entrance of the three masked aristocrats into the ballroom at the end of Act I has unusual urgency, prompting thoughts about why Mozart suddenly returned to the key of D minor when it is otherwise reserved for the first and last scenes. There’s also a take-charge urgency to Giovanni’s “Metà di voi,” which gives the aria unique prominence, and a suitably strutting rendition of the enforced cries of “Viva la libertà!” in the ballroom. But the main problem is that just about everythingis unusually urgent, a musical demonstration of the boy who cried wolf. This is a punchy, buzzing, unyielding mugging of an experience, featuring just about all the music Mozart wrote for both the Prague and Vienna versions of the score.

There are a few moments of repose, such as the end of the first scene with the three basses and the end of the catalogue aria, but these are so soft and calm that they lose focus. More representative of the endeavor is the recitative leading into “Là ci darem la mano,” which is now a composed piece of chamber music, followed by a version of the duet that forms a complete fortepiano obbligato movement with recomposed flute and bassoon lines. The fortepiano tinkles away aimlessly through “Il mio tesoro.” (Both the silly keyboard playing and the excellent tempo are from Currentzis.) Other conductors have made a deep study of the tempo markings and tempo relationships in Mozart’s complete canon, but Currentzis just likes things fast. There’s nowhere to go for the presto of the champagne aria. 

The singers are closely miked, often performing in a way that in an opera house would be inaudible. Don Giovanni’s serenade, indeed, is addressed solely to the microphone. The most enjoyable performance is Karina Gauvin’s Elvira, who fully enjoys the text. This stands her in good stead for the most bizarre passage of all, a distended recitative before “Mi tradì.” As Giovanni, Dimitris Tiliakos has a wicked laugh and some fleet runs in the opening trio of Act II. Vito Priante is a youthful-sounding Leporello. (Alas, Currentzis fills in the expectant silences of his Act II aria.) The Anna (Myrtò Papatanasiu, buoyant) and the Zerlina (Christina Gansch) add unwritten high Cs and Ds to their parts. Mozart wrote those notes in his other operas but conspicuously didn’t write them in Don Giovanni, because they are not a part of this opera’s sound world. As a whole, this recording doesn’t meet many needs, but it would keep you up on an overnight car trip.  —William R. Braun 

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