MOZART: Don Giovanni

The setting for the opera is The Estates Theater in Prague. It existed in
Mozartís time where he conducted two world premieres — Don Giovanni
and Clemenza di Tito. Between 1983 and 1991, the theater was
reconstructed to look just as it did in Mozartís time.

The opera as we see it on the DVDís is a film of the first opera
performed in the reconstructed theater. There is an interesting aspect of the
film of the opera production that seeks to connect the present production to
the past and vice versa. In a day where we see opera houses and directors
looking to update and to be more innovative with traditional operas, there is
still another way of touching the audience with the historic and respected
works of this master composer.

The first scenes of the film are of Andrei Beschasny, who is our Don
Giovanni, walking to the opera house through the cobblestone streets of
Prague. He is wearing a navy blue jogging suit and white tennis shoes and has
an apple in his hand. The first scenes of the opera, following the overture,
show Beschasny in full makeup entering the stage from the rear and the action
then begins. We have made the transition from now to then.

For the next two and a half hours I was thoroughly entertained by a
well-done production of the opera with all the lush period costumes and sets
that might have been similar to what Mozart himself used. In the scene where
the Commendatore ( sung by Dalibor Jedlicka) interrupts the liaison between
the Don and Donna Anna we see a shirtless Don who is indignant at having his
pleasure cut short. The death scene continues as he struggles into his red
shirt and then kills the Commendatore.

Ludek Vele is an amazing Leporello. I hasten to mention here that I am not
familiar with any of the singers so this was an adventure in listening to
them and having no preconceived ideas of what they should sound like. But,
back to Vele. He has a nice baritone voice, a bit more rugged sounding than
that of Beschasny, which works well. He is a convincing actor who leaves no
doubt about his conflicted relationship with his master.

Nedezhda Petrenko is Donna Anna. This is a soprano with a voice that can
go shrill at times but is not unpleasant to listen to for the most part. She
had a good grasp of the role. Shock at first when her father is killed and
then determined to bring down the perpetrator. Ottavio and Elvira sung by
Vladimir Dolezal and Jirina Markova, respectively, made a good couple.
Markova is a passionate singer who I found engaging.

If there was, in my opinion, a weak link among the singers it was with
Zerlina and Masetto ( Zdenek Harvanek and Alice Randova). There did not seem
to be a good ìconnectionî between these two and until the very end I
thought they were singing ìatî one another rather than ìtoî one

The banquet scene, always a highlight for me in Don Giovanni, was
exquisitely done. The opulence of the Donís palace was all there and the
tables were laden with food. The production does a very good job of showing
how the mood of the people changes from the beginning of the scene when they
are all in ìbanquetî mood until the end when the Don has to escape.

But as we all know Don Giovanni is not to be deterred from his need to
conquer even more women and add to his ìcatalogueî. The opera proceeds
with great skill and lots of good emotional singing until its inevitable end.
Anyone watching this production cannot help be intrigued by the timeliness of
this old opera and its relevance to todayís audiences. Mozart was the
rarest of menÖone who gave us his very soul in his legacy of music.

Cheryl Dowden

image_description=W. A. Mozart: Don Giovanni
product_title=W. A. Mozart: Don Giovanni
product_by=Don Giovanni (Andrei Beschasny), Il Commendatore (Dalibor Jedlicka), Donna Anna (Nadezhda Petrenko), Don Ottavio (VladimÌr Dolezal), Donna Elvira (Jirina Markov·), Leporello (Ludek Vele), Masetto (Zdenek Harv·nek), Zerlina (Alice Randov·), Prague National Theatre Chorus and Orchestra, Sir Charles Mackerras (cond.)
Live on 1 December 1991 at the Estates Theatre, Prague
product_id=Supraphon SU 7012-9 [2DVDs]