This did not get the circulation it deserved. Firstly it was recorded in mono just as stereo was coming in. Then Krips' stereo Decca version with Siepi as the Don stole its thunder. In those days a set of LPs cost a lot of money so most folk had to settle for just one version. The women- Sena Jurinac as Elvira and Graziella Sciutti as Zerlina are predictably wonderful. Donna Anna is sung by Hilde Zadek who is less well known. She was born in Prussia during the time of Kaiser Wilhelm and is still with us. She had a very successful career from the end of WW2 to her retirement from the stage in 1971. She has been much decorated and honoured over the years. Reminds me very much of Elizabeth Grummer. Lovely performnce. The men- Leopold Simoneau was the best Ferrando and Don Ottavio of all time. His own favourite among his own Ottavios was the live version from Salzburg conducted by Mitropoulos and I am not going to disagree but the Moralt must be the best studio version. Ludwig Weber a suitably sonorous Commendatore and Eberhard Waechter probably better suited to Masetto here than to Don Giovanni. Walter Berry also sang Masetto but he is a wonderfully dry Leporello and his voice is well differentiated from Masetto and the Don. So far no black marks. With such a polyglot cast some of the Italian pronunciation is bound to be less than perfect especially from 1955. The final singer was another Canadian like Simoneau. It is not really an adverse criticism to say George London is not quite in the Siepi league. I always think Dons in their singing tend to reveal a lot of their own character. I think George London would have been a wonderful companion on a boozy night out. Highly convivial. Beautifully sung. The champagne aria usually falls flat. Not here. The pace is pretty extreme but Gearge both enunciates the words well and keeps just ahead of the beat. In the theatre it would have brought the house down. As it comes at the end of a CD side I always encore it. I should mention there is a 10 disc set of Simoneau recordings on Documents at very low cost including a whole CD of Don Ottavio excerpts from various recordings mainly the Mitropoulos live performance. Unmissable.
I love opera and “Don Giovanni” is one of my very favourites. I own quite a few versions of this work and thought that it might be of use to post reviews of them online. I have already posted a review of the Giulini recording and this remains my number one recommendation.
I also own a number of highlights compilations, including the Klemperer recording made in 1966. The selection includes neither the Overture, where I would have expected Klemperer to shine, nor anything from the Masetto of Paolo Montarsolo, a singer I really like. It does include the finale, where Franz Crass’s soft-grained bass fails to make the necessary impact.
Klemperer’s reading is a monumental one, with moments of undeniable force and his tempi are on the slow side. Although lacking a bit in wit and impetuosity, it is not devoid of humour and the first-class Leporello of Walter Berry points his words beautifully in the Catalogue aria. It is very much an all-star cast, with some heavyweight voices to match Klemperer’s weighty reading. The title role is sung by the bass Nicolai Ghiaurov; he is not especially mercurial, but sings with seductive velvety tone and offers a particularly beguiling Serenade. Claire Watson is a nicely sung Donna Anna, but she does not project much outrage or desperation. Christa Ludwig’s darkly creamy mezzo will not be to everyone’s taste in the soprano role of Donna Elvira, but it is a very striking performance and “Mi tradi” is a real highlight, the regrettable downward transposition notwithstanding. Mirella Freni sings ravishingly as Zerlina, while Nicolai Gedda is a stylish, manly, strongly sung Don Ottavio, despite some dodgy intonation in his first aria.
It would be interesting to hear the complete version, but I am very pleased to have a highlights package of such great voices.