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3.9 out of 5 stars11
3.9 out of 5 stars
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on 23 September 2005
While many productions have a superior ending to this - the statue is barely seen in the final moments - it is the astonishing vitality of the first 4/5ths that make this production such a revelation. Riccardo Muti conducts with breathtaking accuracy, allowing the music to breathe in the slower moments and hit you hard when it needs to. The finale of Act One works particularly well with the ethereal ghostly trio immediately followed by the huge party sequence, culminating in one of the snappiest renditions of "Tremble foul seducer" you will ever hear.
The singers are uniformly excellent... the Don is vicious in his opening murder, yet tender in his Act Two seduction, while Leporello's sense of comedy pervades - notably in the Catalogue aria. Donna Anna occasionally loses her way but in the final aria her soaring virtuosity must excuse all else. Donna Elvira veers between tragedy and hyperbole, and Don Ottavio has grown on me, delivering a superb "Il Mio Tessoro". The finale neglects the crowds of demons of certain versions, instead showing the Don fall into a smoke filled pit, and while he doesn't hit the correct note on his final deathly scream, the concluding chorus follows on too abruptly for us to notice much.
The lighting is remeniscent of The Godfather and the acoustics in La Scala are uniformly excellent. A superb production of the greatest opera of them all. Much recommended!
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This DVD of 'Don Giovanni' comes from 1987 at La Scala, in Giorgio Strehler's fairly mainstream production (and thank goodness for that!) with mostly top-notch singers. It has been available before on VHS and even on DVD (on a different label) but at a much higher price. And it may be my imagination - I don't have the earlier releases at hand - but it seems to me that this issue is in cleaner sound and with clearer visuals. Riccardo Muti conducts the Scala forces in an exciting but well-controlled performance. Thomas Allen is outstanding as Don Juan, oozing charm as he snakes his way into the lives of all the women within sight. Claudio Desderi makes a suitably ambivalent (and rich-voiced) Leporello, disdaining his master at the same time he hopes to join in the debauchery. Suzanne Mentzer, looking absolutely delicious, looks (and sings) a wonderfully lively but naïve Zerlina; hers is my favorite performance here. Ann Murray is a somewhat muted Donna Elvira, but that approach can work and she pulls it off. Her voice is lush and she never shrieks during the ferocious moments. Sergey Koptchak is splendid as the Commendatore, although I did wonder why at the end he was mostly heard and not seen. Francisco Araiza sings nicely but is a bit wooden as Don Ottavio. Natale de Carolis makes a handsome young Masetto, sings ardently and is possibly the most tellingly subtle actor on the stage; he and Mentzer make the most attractive Zerlina and Masetto I recall ever seeing. The only significant letdown, and one of the reasons I gave this production four stars instead of five, is the Donna Anna of Edita Gruberova. She has been noted for her silvery coloratura and her lovely tone (as in her recording of 'Rusalka,' since, of course, trumped by that of Renée Fleming) but here she sounds tired, particularly early in the opera. This improves slightly as we go along, but the voice still sounds a bit worn. Her acting, as well, is merely serviceable.
Sets, costumes, direction are all a credit to their creators: Enzo Frigerio, Franca Squarciapino, and Giorgio Strehler. Lighting by Vannio Vanni is just the tiniest bit muted in this production, but it is otherwise adequate.
The opera takes just one DVD. There are no extras, not surprising considering the opera itself is just shy of three hours. The only subtitles are in English; there are not even Italian subtitles, but the Italian libretto is printed in the enclosed booklet. This is a bit cumbersome if one is trying to follow the libretto closely. Further, the divisions and settings of the various scenes are not marked in the libretto - it's the sung text only. Fortunately, differing from some booklets I've seen lately, the text is printed in black against white; there seems to be a trend towards printing white text (or even gray text) again dark backgrounds, which makes reading the tiny print exceedingly difficult, at least for those of us of a certain age.
I do recommend this DVD, but with the minor provisos stated above.
Scott Morrison
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on 30 January 2005
This version of Don Giovanni is pleasing to the eye as well as to the ear, with spacious settings in muted colours and of a refined grandeur. The stage lighting is often subdued so that the performers appear almost as silhouettes; in the beginning it worried me a little, but I soon found it very suggestive of the stealthy atmosphere which pervades the opera. There is also a fine balance between the serious and the buffo aspects of the drama in this production. Don Giovanni is a funny piece in more than one sense. No doubt the protagonist is the villain of it, but isn't he some sort of hero also? I think that Leporello's attitude to his master is representative here, torn as he is between disgust and admiration. Here there is a particularly well-tuned interaction between Thomas Allen and Claudio Desderi as the Don and Leporello, and both sing wonderfully. Other highlights are the performances of Susanne Mentzer and Natale de Carolis as Zerlina and Masetto.
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on 18 December 2015
The sets are in general very good, it opens with an ivy clad house with balcony, it is a dark set, but it is of course at night. The second scene is in the street on the steps of Giovannis house, quite nice detail.
The subsequent scenes are pretty good except for two interior scenes which are done in front of curtain, and at times the conducting Muti is superimposed on the picture, I found this a bit annoying.
The staging of the last act starts well, and the commendatore appears as a statue with a disembodied voice, it goes downhill as Giovanni writhes in an invisible grip before going down to the nether regions. A dramatic opportunity sadly missed.
I do like the costumes, apt and quite credible, in period, and I do like Leporello being dressed more of a gentlemans gentleman than in most productions.
The cast are well chosen both for voices and characterisation.
Thomas Allen as Giovanni is right in the heart of the character and his voice speaks, or sings for itself.
Edita Gruberova, a firm favourite of mine is a very good Donna Anna, her voice is unquestionably good, and well into the part.
Donna Elvira is a powerful character, she has some great swings of mood, and Ann Murray does the role justice.
Francisco Araiza is a light tenor and well suited to the rather pleasant character of Don Ottavio.
Masetto is played by Natale De Carolis, a good looking young chap.
Zerlina a bright and perky Susanne Metzer plays this role and very attractive she is too.
Commendatore played by Segej Koptchak does quite well, but I have heard better, more sonorous invitations to Don Giovanni in the last act.
Sound quality is good, picture quality as good as the year it was recorded in.
The booklet is reasonably presented with cast list, arias numbered, and synopsis act by act and scene by scene.
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on 2 March 2012
Not my favourite Mozart opera, but the singers are very good and the acting so realistic that I forgot that Thomas Allen is really a decent bloke. I was glad when the Don met his deserved end, which I remember seeing Allen portray before and which actually made my hair stand on end.

Zerlina too, as well as being a delightful singer, brought much charm to the role, while Leporello (poor man) provided some comic relief and had my sympathy too. The stage production was rather dark, but then a lot of the action takes place at night, so no complaints.
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on 22 February 2007
The star of this production is, undoubtedly, Riccardo Muti. Tempi are well-judged and he conducts an alert and urgent performance. Natale De Carolis and Susanne Mentzer sing the same roles in his tremendously successful studio EMI recording.

The ambience/atmosphere here is more serious than comic (comic operas seem to lose much of their 'fun' in La Scala). Claudio Desderi is strangely muted here as the buffo Leoporello. Even Zerlina and Masetto can't provide much relief from the seriousness. That said, this is an enjoyable performance throughout. The Act 1 finale being particularly well-paced. Ann Murray is noted as a fine actor usually but here seem dwarfed by the La Scala audience and the stage. Her singing is adequate. The notes above the stave are already showing signs of the wobble when pressed. Susanne Mentzer and Natale de Carolis are very good indeed. Both singing and projecting well.

Edita Gruberova and Francisco Araiza are more problematic. Gruberova started weak in the opening seduction scene and the subsequent duet with Don Ottavio. She recovers quickly though. Both Or Sai and Non Mi Dir are finely sung. The coloratura at the end of the 2nd aria posing no difficulty for her. Francisco Araiza sings well too, in one of his signature roles. The problem comes in their acting. Gruberova is given an orange-ish/red furry wig which makes her look mature. Her acting is pretty monotonous. Araiza's acting is virtually non-existent. Too often, both simply 'stand and deliver'.

Thomas Allen is very commanding as the Rake. He doesn't sing all the notes that are written, and rather unfortunately he lost part of his voice by the time the Commendatore comes on, resorting to hectoring to run through the rest of the scene. Deh Vieni All Finestra is sung in very pleasing hushed voice.

Is this DVD recommended? The sums add up nicely even though there may be individual failings, so: Yes! For most of the singing, the sets, and a well-integrated performance as a whole.
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on 1 October 2007
With copious amounts of material swirling around in this over busy production, it is hard at times to concentrate on the performances. With cloaks flourished and hats put on and taken off ad-nauseum the two main performers Allen and Desdiri occasionally suffer from shortage of breath and at times you feel like screaming "please just stand still".

Thomas Allen is a singer I greatly admire - however on this night he just doesn't seem vocally up to the challenge, his aria `Fin ch'han dal vino' Is taken so fast by Muti that he is breathless and seems unable to cope, by the end of the opera he is evidently flagging. I don't want to be too unkind as all singers have off nights and the audience at La Scala obviously loved him and who am I to argue with them. A quick mention for Francisco Ariza - a wonderful singer whose voice here sounds tired but still melodious with hints of the beauty of his vocal youth.

Of the women Edita Gruberova, as you would expect, gives the overall polished performance, her pure voice ringing out like a bell with never a hint of a screech. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for Ann Murray whose top notes are squally and jarr the ear, however her lower register is still lovely and she is a very good actress, able to communicate her anguish, her aria `Mi tradi quell'alma ingrata `is very touching.

The set itself is of highly polished architectural splendour and so in keeping with the period of the opera as indeed are the costumes, not exaggerated or over sumptuous and all the better for that.

This is a fairly enjoyable evenings viewing but I was left feeling slightly cheated and wanting to strangle the stage director.
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on 27 March 2010
I am sorry to put such a low mark against what I regard as a wonderful production but -- and I recognise this may well be peculiar to me -- I simply could not tolerate the repeated cut-aways to Muti conducting. Indeed, I could not finish watching the DVD; whatever drama was happening on the stage was repeatedly ruined for me by the superimposition of Muti over the performance. It simply broke the magic of what was an enthralling production. I really am quite sad that I feel this way.
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on 17 November 2015
One of the best productions of Don Giovanni I have seen
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on 2 August 2014
not bad but expected better.Probably me?
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