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on 4 October 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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on 15 January 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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VINE VOICEon 10 January 2014
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. Then their's the case of Don Giovanni's servant, Leporello, played by Laszlo Polgar, who is good but not outstanding. Again, it's hard to shake off this lack lustre feel and Isabel Rey isn't all that convincing as Donna Anna.

Mozart is special. He's the Great Master. When it comes to staging his works, getting them right is a must. Glitches that are easily passed over in the great works of others cannot be risked with him. Along with Beethoven, he is the greatest and this production is not worthy of him. Good and worth watching, but no more.
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on 5 August 2005
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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This Zurich production under Harnoncourt, filmed in 200i by the experienced Brian Large team, also features lively orchestral contributions and a good forward pace. The setting is traditional and does not contain any obviously worrisome inconsistencies. As such it can be described as a recognisably 'traditional' production.

Don Giovanni as portrayed by Gilfry has the necessary charm as well as enough youthful vigour. (He portrays the part of Danilo in the Merry Widow, also at Zurich, with much charm too). He is thus very believable as a seducer of women. This portrayal therefore adds credence to the roles of both Anna and Zerlina. Sacca as Don Ottavio is a convincing physical characterisation and is well sung but it still remains rather a weak role - however this is mostly to do with the character as written.

Both Zerlina and Masetto are well performed and convincingly portrayed. Leporello acts and sings well throughout and is a good and strong foil for Giovanni. The concluding scene with a strongly portrayed Commendatore and a markedly more dissolute, long and greasy-haired Giovanni builds well to its fiery end with a clear sense of final terror, but not remorse, clearly communicated by Gilfry. Donna Elvira, as portrayed by Bartoli, is more a matter of personal taste. There are some who find her `over the top' in her acted and sung levels of outrage and stridency. However, taken on its own terms, this is still acceptable and is certainly musically spot-on as one would expect from Bartoli.

The recording is good visually and sonically with clear surround sound (Dolby 5.1) while not quite being up with the latest in high definition technology.

As an alternative option for this opera I would suggest considering the production at Aix-en Provence conducted by Harding. This is staged in the most minimalist terms - wooden poles and benches which are moved around to take on different meanings and totally devoid of time or place - intentionally universal therefore but with the message of the essential character types being applied to modern times by means of current clothing. The crucial destruction of Giovanni at the end with such limited means is extraordinarily effective.

The performance is clearly on an outdoor stage at night with dark backgrounds. The stormy weather adds to the drama with hair and clothing blowing in the wind and including real thunder!
The singing and acting throughout is simply superlative by a young and highly skilled team. Peter Mattei as Giovanni exudes charm in abundance coupled with extraordinary physical vigour. Delunsch as Elvira manages to chase hard but avoids stridency - in fact the whole cast is inspired resulting in a truly memorable experience.

The director defends his minimal staging on the grounds that it focusses everything on the drama of the interaction between the characters. It does - and it works. Harding, conducting the fine Mahler Chamber orchestra, keeps a cracking pace and sense of building electricity. The whole thing is well recorded both visually and sonically (Dolby 5.1). This is a terrific performance of considerable musical and dramatic electricity.

I would suggest that the Aix-en-Provence production has the dramatic edge, but Harnoncourt has the edge as a more traditional production. Both offer excellent singing so final choice will be a matter taste. My suggestion, given such a disparate pair of performances, both very convincing in their differing ways, would be to purchase both. Mozart's inspiration certainly justifies such a consideration.
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on 22 September 2007
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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on 15 February 2008
This is a very good Don Giovanni with darkness interwoven with light humour. Bartoli sometimes is a little over the top in her role as Donna Elvira. The Zerlina/Masetto coupling works very well as do the scenes between the Don and Zerlina. Mozart's da Ponte operas represent the absolute best in the West's contribution to music theatre.
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on 18 April 2005
This production is not too successful. It surprised me, because I thought Rodney Gilfry would be such an obvious Don Giovanni. To be sure he's not bad, but neither is he as good as I expected after having seen his brilliant performances as Count Almaviva in Figaro and Guglielmo in Così fan tutte. On the whole, though, I think that if anybody saves this production it is him; but he has quite a lot of saving to do. Cecilia Bartoli overacts as Donna Elvira; her fury becomes comical after a while. László Polgár has a good stage presence as Leporello, but his singing is rather tame. Masetto is portrayed as a drunken clown and, although this character certainly is supposed to be a bit foolish, what we see here is far over the top. Isabel Rey and Roberto Saccà are both fine, especially Saccà. The general atmosphere is heavy and oppressed; for much of the second act the stage looks like a building site, with the performers walking around on scaffolds. The ending is quite funny, though; I like that, but even so I wouldn't recommend this DVD. There are better versions of Don Giovanni to be had.
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on 16 November 2013
Wonderful music, great conductor, great orchestra, great voices and great performance! Did meet every expectation, my recomendation for newbies and connaisseurs.
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on 19 September 2016
Bought this cheaply to compare with recordings I have already. This really is quite brilliant, but then, it is Mozart, and you have to a long way and work to mess his work up. Get this version if you can, it is very good . .
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