For some reason, Daniel Barenboim's recordings of the Mozart-Da Ponte masterpieces have been overlooked. All three have splendid casts - and among them, this may be the least spectacular, but it is nonetheless a wonderful performance.
Joan Rodgers has a gorgeous voice, and sings Zerlina with radiant and womanly warmth - no voce infantile here, thank the gods. It's a pity she hasn't recorded more. She is, fortunately, in Barenboim's two other Mozart-Da Ponte operas, singing her heart out as Susanna and Despina.
Furlanetto has an interesting take on the role of the Don. He usually sings Leprello, but here he sings the part of Don Giovanni with a rather unique interpretation. He plays the Don as somewhat of a fool, with more of a comic slant than I have ever heard. But humor was part of Mozart's original intention, and the Don does have his roots in street theater, so in this case a buffo Don works.
Tomlinson as Leporello is more of the Don's straight man, and there seems to be a bit of role reversal going on here between the clownish Don and his more dignified servant. Tomlinson's voice can be, I think, rather boring - a kind of voice-in-a-box, like Samuel Ramey. Good, strong, accurate, but not much drama or artfulness.
Ewe Heilmann's ravishingly beautiful Mozartian tenor voice adds a welcome dimension of eros to the role of the too-often bland and wimpy Don Ottavio. Waltraud Meier's Donna Elvira, though occassionally a bit on the shrill side, and Leila Cuberli's Donna Anna are both rich, full-bodied, exciting and very womanly. Barenboim seems to have a talent for drawing out highly passionate responses from women. It must be his Scorpio........
There are many great recordings of this magnificent opera. Especially if you go off the beaten path and get away from the Giulini crowd, you'll discover a large number of rare but excellent performances, many of them live. Among these musical feasts are the three Furtwanglers, Busch, Haitink on EMI, Bohm's phenomenal 1955 German-language version on RCA Red Seal (I usually avoid translated performances but this is such an exceptional performance the German can be overlooked), Guild's offering conducted by Breisach with Zinka Milanov's superlative Donna Anna (you won't believe that she can sing like this!), Szell's 1944 performance on Archipel, and on the Naxos Historical series, Bruno Walter with Alexander Kipnis' very Russian and very funny Leporello. The last three all feature Ezio Pinza as the Don.
Add Barenboim's performance to this more exotic list of Don Giovannis and you'll have quite a variety of interpretations from highly gifted artists. Some of Barenboim's opera recordings are outstanding for their dramatic content, the tightness of the performance, and his excellent taste in singers.