Never a dull moment
Ed Beveridge | London, England | 09/01/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This recording of the Prague version of Don Giovanni is a welcome addition to Chandos' Opera in English series. Also, surprisingly, the first Mozart in the series - surprising as he is perhaps the ideal composer to have his work sung in English, owing to the structure of the pieces and the presence of recitatives. It's a slightly tauter version of the opera than we are used to - no Dalla sua Pace or Mi tradi - and the casting reflects these differences, making Elvira a dramatic, not a lyric soprano. All of which, I suppose, is a way of justifying yet another Giovanni when there are plenty of other recordings to choose from (though none in English to my knowledge). David Parry gives a forwardly mobile, almost aggressive, account of the score, always dramatically appropriate, never rushed. The orchestra sounds grand when it needs to and there is plenty of ear-catching detail. He has a fine cast of singers, some of whom are left over from Operan North's production 2 years ago, notably Garry Magee in the title role. He sounds young - he looks it as well - and uses the bloom on his voice to suave effect without ever quite being authoritative as he somehow should - this man can stop a wedding with a very few words. His Leporello, Andrew Shore, sounds older and wiser but somehow muted, unusual for this singer.
From the sinners to the sinned - against - Majella Cullagh's focused, bright instrument copes well with the tribulations of Anna, the odd tight high A aside, and is agile. Vivian Tierney is a less familiar Mozartian but gives an emotionally charged performance, verbally poignant. The odd squawk in alt is forgivable. Barry Banks sings with exemplary style as Ottavio, Mary Plazas and Dean Robinson are charming as the young lovers, and Clive Bayley is a suitably scary commendatore.
Recommendable as much for its strong sense of ensemble as for star performances, this is a recommendable recording - there's never a dull moment."
gellio | San Francisco, CA | 09/27/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Prior to purchasing this set, it had two major strikes against it that long deterred me from making the purchase:1) The incomparable Giulini reading. Along with The Marriage of Figaro and The Magic Flute, Don Giovanni is my favorite opera. I like to have several recordings of many of my favorites. However, I have not found a 2nd recording of this opera that isn't garbage in comparision to the Giulini set.2) It's in English. I've never been a fan of hearing things in any language but that intended by the creator.Well, I finally broke down and purchased this set. I wanted something that would enhance the experience of this opera - being I do not have knowledge of Italian and reading a libretto is more difficult than understanding it while it is being performed.First off, I have to say that the 'Commendatore Scene' is simply FANTASTIC! From the moment Elvira screams in terror until Don Giovanni is dragged into hell screaming is marvelously thrilling. Very haunting scene that is wonderfully performed in such an intense and haunting manner. I dare say the scene rivals that of the Giulini set.The orchestral performance is great. Tempos are kept at a nice, fast, light paced speed. The performers are certainly not on par with the Giulini equivalents (Sutherland, Schwartzkopf, Wachter, Taddei, etc) but they are more than adequate. I found Andrew Shore's reading of Leporello particularily excellent.The translation is quite good as well. I really have a new found sense of the completeness of Don Giovanni and the nuances that I was not able to pick up before. For my enjoyment of Mozart, so much more depends on the conducting as opposed to the technicality of the singing (Giulini is the only set I've heard that has both, in spades). I have purchased several other sets of this opera (Karajan, Solti, etc) and they are all collecting dust. The problem I have with a lot of Mozart performances (particularily many of the Don Giovanni recordings) is the conductors apart desire to transform Mozart into Puccini. At least it seems that way. Pieces that should be light and clear (the Classical form) are slow and bogged down. This set, is how it should be.It is nice to finally have another recording of this truly magnificant opera to listen to, and one in English to boot.It's definitely worth it. Where the singers lack in technicality they more than compensate for with their acting abilities. Very emotional readings here.Excellent all around, a great buy!"
Opera For The English Speaking Novice
Rudy Avila | Lennox, Ca United States | 10/14/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Once again, Chandos Opera series have outdone themselves with this studio recording of Don Giovanni sung dramatically and beautifully in English. The beginner will benefit from listening to operas in English first and then moving on to the original language of the opera- in the case of Don Giovanni, Italian. Opera is sung in mainly European languages- German, French, Italian and even Russian. A gifted composer can write librettos and set it to music in any language.
Don Giovanni in English is very amusing, brilliant and dramatic. This recording is like watching a play, especially in the abundant recitatives. The cast is singing with passion and lyric power- Garry Magee fits the Don perfectly. He is scheming, charming, full of lust, bawdy, devilish and hiding beneath the mantle of a gentleman. All this is powerfully expressed in recitative and in song. Majella Cullagh as Donna Anna sings with lyric beauty, especially in times when she reveals her anger and her grief. She never gets over the death of her father. She feels fury against the Don but some will have it that she is vigorously trying to kill her own desire for him so that she can be free to marry Don Ottavio. Barry Banks is Don Ottavio, a romantic who is frustrated that he must wait for so long until he is free to consummate his marriage with Dona Anna, which is why he is determined to have revenge on Don Giovanni. Vivien Tierny as Dona Elvira is the most colorful of all, her bright soprano voice full of beauty and dignity. Jealous, enraged, the epitome of the betrayed woman, she stalks Don Giovanni and thwarts his attempts of seducing other women. In the end, even after all his crimes, she still loves that bad boy Don Giovanni, even after his sent to Hell. She claims she will spend the rest of her life in a quiet retreat or convent. Mary Plazas is a bubbly, charming and seductive Zerlina, while Dean Robinson is a jealous, feisty Masetto. Andrew Shore as Leporello is a riot, comic and clever. Because it is sung in English, the dramatic points and even the funny lines are stronger. However, the cast is weak when compared to the cast in Lorin Maazel's recording starring Ruggero Raimondi, Jose Van Dam, Kiri Te Kenawa, Edda Moser, Kenneth Reigel, Teresa Berganza and Malcolm King. The Annas and Elviras of greater fame include Birgit Nilsson, Leontine Price, Joan Sutherland, Elizabeth Schwartzkopff and lighter voices like Beverly Sills and Renee Fleming. Don Giovannis of great fame include Ruggero Raimondi, Samuel Ramey, Bryn Terfel, Ferrucio Furlanetto. This is a great version if you want to get into your fist Don Giovanni."