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Mozart: Don Giovanni -- Zurich/Harnoncourt [DVD] [2002]

Rodney Gilfry , László Polgár    Exempt   DVD
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
Price: £7.99
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Product details

  • Actors: Rodney Gilfry, László Polgár, Isabelle Rey, Cecilia Bartoli, Roberto Saccà
  • Format: PAL
  • Language: Italian
  • Subtitles: Italian, English, German, French, Spanish
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 16:9 - 1.77:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Classification: Exempt
  • Studio: ARTHAUS
  • DVD Release Date: 12 Mar 2002
  • Run Time: 187 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000062Y6J
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 66,913 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)



In this Zurich Opera House staging of Mozart’s darkly comic cautionary fable Don Giovanni the lighting and stage design keep the characters shaded in half-shadow: even Zerlina’s wedding feels like a subdued affair here, and the Don’s banqueting room is a suitably gloomy venue for the Stone Guest’s climactic visit for a spot of dinner and damnation. Both this staging and video director Brian Large’s filming play no tricks with the audience’s expectations, opting for a largely traditional presentation of this tragedy of swaggering bravado, cuckolded lovers and revenge from beyond the grave.

Nikolaus Harnoncourt brings all the sensitivity of his historically informed approach to the orchestra pit. Heading a very strong cast are Rodney Gilfry, defiantly strong-voiced but also haughtily handsome as the seducing Don, and Cecilia Bartoli, a mercurial presence as Donna Elvira. Their scenes together crackle and fizz, even when Bartoli’s extremely ripe vibrato contrasts a little uncomfortably with Harnoncourt’s authenticity. Liliana Nikiteanu makes for a pretty, naïve Zerlina, convincingly torn between her Masetto (Oliver Widmer) and the animalistic attraction of the Don. Laszlo Polgar’s Leporello is wheedling and base, but still the inheritor of his master’s charisma; Isabel Rey and Roberto Sacca are solid as the colourless moralists Anna and Ottavio; while Matti Salminen’s powerful Commendatore isn’t expected to do anything more than stand still and declaim. Overall this is an excellent musical performance, unexceptionally staged.

On the DVD: Don Giovanni on disc has a good 24-minute "Behind the Scenes" feature, including interviews with Cecilia Bartoli, Harnoncourt, Gilfry and Isabel Rey. There’s also a trailer for other ArtHaus releases. The 16:9 picture sometimes struggles to bring definition to the dimly lit sets; sound though is crisp and clean PCM stereo or Dolby 5.1. There are subtitles in five languages. --Mark Walker

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Forget about the buffo part 4 Oct 2003
The Flimm production of 'Giovanni' from Zurich is no masterpiece, but it does have a lot going for it. Wonder's sets and the way they are lighted evoke the multi-textured realms of Caravaggio and Rembrandt, and Harnoncourt's musical realization of Mozart's score is idiomatic and quite a far cry from the way the Classicists are normally perceived. There is such drama, such heightened emotion at play here, and it is never any less than a matter of life and death, which is hardly what composer and librettist intended with their buffo-opera, but, but, but: it works. Flimm's ideas are few and far between, but he never intrudes. Three singers stand out with absolutely marvellous performances: Saccà is utter tenorial purity as Ottavio, Bartoli is a hissingly venomous but ultimately heartbreaking Elvira, but even more so Gilfry in the title role, his sexuality is hypnotic, his legato silken, his arrogance stupendous. His is almost an Oscar-worthy performance.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best opera DVDs available 15 Jan 2005
There is very little I would not call perfect in this opera. The staging is excellent - every pause, every bar of music seems motivated by what goes on on stage; and the slightly surreal backgrounds make the story timeless. The conductor and singers bring out what is most lovely and dramatic in Mozart; I have seldom heard anything like it (particularly the duetts and choruses are amazing). Gilfry has found his true metier in Don Giovanni - he is a scary, egoistic and sexy menace with a lovely voice. Polgar as Leporello has an inspiring comic ability paired to a voice like chocolate. The females are, as usual in Harnancourt operas, exceptional - Rey and Nikiteanu have not only lovely and sure voices, but are very good actors (especially Nikiteanu as Zerlina). Bartoli, of course, has a dramatic and interesting voice; her stage presence in all but one aria is, however, somewhat of a disaster (to hear her spoken of as "noble and tragic" by the other actors is involuntarily comic). She moves and acts like a rather dim and chubby little girl. But! her singing is faultless, full of passion and sweetness. Widmer as Masetto is a very fun casting, and Salminen's Commendatore something rather unusual. This is probably the opera that one can watch and re-watch most often. It is an epitome of Mozart.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not the best but Cecilia Bartoli is subvlime 22 Sep 2007
By David
I think this comment just about sums it up.

For me Cicilia Bartoli can do no wrong ... you must see her in La Chenorentola!!! But the rest of this production does leave a little to be desired.

In short it is not stimulating

See the film version or even the Peter Sellers version set in Harlem they are both awesome!!!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My favorite opera DVD 5 Aug 2005
By A Customer
I have seldom seen a Don Giovanni which is more convincing than this. The drama, sexuality, fear and anger work - without ever going outside the mannered context of a beautifully sung ensemble work of art. Harnoncourt does the most lovely Mozart to listen to, in my opinion, of any conductor. My favorites here - besides the compelling Gilfry as the Don - are Laszlo Polgar's Leporello (a voice of chocolate), Liliana Nikiteanu's Zerlina (wonderfully acted and sung), and Oliver Widmer's Masetto (you can understaned why Zerlina both loves, and disdains him: he is charmingly weak). I am probably alone in the world, and will keep my voice down, in very much disliking Bertoli in any role that requires any kind of acting or ensemble singing. She is (sinking my voice still further) one of the most wooden of modern opera singers. Lovely to listen to, though; one simply closes one's eyes when she embarks on any kind of duet. I also enjoyed the staging, which is weird, spooky and fun. A lovely piece altogether.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good Enough, but Falls Short of the Best. 10 Jan 2014
By H. A. Weedon VINE VOICE
Although this Operhaus Zurich production of Don Giovanni is well enough staged and performed it nevertheless has some serious flaws that come close to spoiling it altogether. One of the worst of these is the miscasting of Cecilia Bartoli in the role of Donna Elvira, which she performs as if it were a comedy character. From her first appearance on stage with a profusion of luggage she adopts a comic stance, which she never loses throughout the whole performance. I'm a great fan of hers and she's brilliant in comic roles and maybe Mozart's Don Giovanni is best appreciated as a dark comedy, but it doesn't need to include an hilarious Donna Elvira to achieve this.

Rodney Gilfry is an excellent Don Giovanni who doesn't always seem to receive the correct inter-action from the other performers that one would expect. The role of Mesetto is turned into such a soppy character that one wonders why his love interest, Zerlina, bothers with him. (Liliana Nikiteanu was good in this role.) In the several productions of this work it has been my privilege to enjoy I've never seen his role portrayed in such a silly fashion. This is just another example of the lack of cohesion that is prevalent in this production. It's like a farmyard hen who makes a brave effort at flying, but whose weight brings her down before she can get very far. Ah! Now it really will take off! But no, not quite, not yet.

I always think Mozart was good with female characters. I think he was quite good at understanding the female point of view. Sadly, the acting of the female characters in this production, with the exception of Zerlina,, verge towards the lacklustre or, in the case of Donna Elvira, the comic.
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