I have multiple versions of the great operatic works and I thought that it might be helpful if I posted my thoughts on my favourite recordings.
There have been a number of good recordings of "Don Giovanni" since this classic version conducted by the great Carlo Maria Giulini came out over half a century ago in 1960, but this remains my favourite among the available recordings.
This has been reissued a number of times and in various formats and I am aware that others have written authoritatively and, indeed, critically about the quality of the transfer, but I have confined myself here largely to the merits of the performance.
The sound on my disc is excellent, considering the age of the recording, and Walter Legge's hand-picked Philharmonia Orchestra play magnificently for Giulini, whose tempi and dramatic pulse seem to me to be absolutely perfect.
The casting is somewhat exotic and might have benefited from the inclusion of a few more native Italian singers, but there are no weak links in the all-star cast. Eberhard Wächter is a volatile Don Giovanni and his incisive high baritone fits the part like a glove. He is partnered by the sardonic Leporello of the great Italian baritone Giuseppe Taddei; while I prefer a bass in the role (Taddei is sometimes stretched by the lower reaches of the part), he articulates his native language with matchless point and clarity. Another Italian, that elegant singer of Verdi, Piero Cappuccilli, is here caught early in his career and he makes much of the role of Masetto, partnered by his countrywoman, the charmingly small-voiced Graziella Sciutti. The Peruvian tenor Luigi Alva sings elegantly as Ottavio, even if I prefer a more conventional Mozart voice in the role, such as Stuart Burrows or Richard Lewis. In a rare excursion into the Italian language, the legendary German bass Gottlob Frick is an implacable, granite-voiced Commendatore.
The glory of the set for many people, however, will be the two prima donnas, Joan Sutherland and Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, in the roles of Donna Anna and Donna Elvira respectively. La Stupenda's oft-stated failings of cloudy diction and a sometimes "swoopy" tone are nowhere in evidence here and it is thrilling to hear such a big voice wielded with such elegance and agility. Schwarzkopf is, for me, the Mozart soprano par excellence and her Elvira has, in my opinion, rarely been matched and has never been bettered.
This is truly one of the great recordings of the century and if you don't already have it in your collection, then I believe that you should.
on 18 November 2009
Ugh... This appears to be a repackaging of the horribly remastered three-disc "Great Recordings of the Century" from 2002, with the addition of a so-called "bonus disc" containing a synopsis and libretto with translations. The re-use of the 2002 remastering is a shame, because it is, quite simply, horrible. It has no almost no high frequency response, sounds dull and muffled, more like a digitally synthesized message from your voicemail box than the sound of a splendid opera. It seems as though the only purpose of the 2002 remaster was to remove the tape hiss from the master tape, which was made in the golden era of stereo in the late 1950s, even though the hiss was hardly objectionable in the first instance, as evidenced by the excellent sound of the previous 1987 compact disc release. If you want to hear the difference, go to the MP3 download of the 1987 version, which still uses the 1987 mastering. You might also consider buying the highlights disc on CD, which still uses the 1987 mastering, and which, unlike the full opera, is still in print. As far as the "bonus disc", it's hardly any prize, since it simply replaces the printed libretto. I guess the "bonus" is that you get to print it out yourself on your home printer.
on 6 August 2011
It's not too bad to see a wonderful recording of the opera at a decent price on Amazon. I recommend for customers who want Mozart opera recordings to purchase Giulini's EMI 'Le Nozze di Figaro' recording, and this recording. Giulini has a very fine interpretation. Eberhard Wächter's voice sounds nasty and menacing to suit Don Giovanni's roles, but at the same time he conveys a charming character in his singing. Elisabeth Schwarzkopf has a fabulous way of conveying how Donna Elvira feels betrayed. Joan Sutherland and Luigi Alva are great singers for Donna Anna and Don Ottavio. Also I advise you to hear Giuseppe Taddei sing Leporello because he's a marvellous baritone singer. One other important thing is about the flowing and lyrical phrasing, which is suitable for Mozart.