Could Have Been Greater..But It's So-So
(3 out of 5 stars)
"With all the Don Giovanni recordings out there, selecting one to own can be pretty daunting. However, opera fans are drawn not just to the music, but to the individual singers. If you are a visual kind of person, go for Don Giovanni on film and DVD. There is a great 1979 film by director Joseph Losey, starring Ruggero Raimondi as the Don, and also starring Jose Van Dam as Leporello and Kiri Te Kenawa as Dona Elvira. This movie is by far the best, truly capturing Mozart's original vision of the opera, and is filmed on location in Italy. Herbert Von Karajan conducting the Met in a performance with Samuel Ramey as the Don and Anna Tomowa Sintow as Dona Anna, with Kathleen Battle as Zerlina, is also one that stands out, especially because of Karajan's concept. But what of a recording ? What of this recording ?First of all, this is only so-so for me. Cesare Siepi as the Don is undoubtedly, a great performance. For many years, after World War II, namely in the 50's and early 60's, Cesare Siepi was the definative Don Giovanni of his age. He was sexy, and not overweight as some baritones had been before him, and he was devilish, subtle and callous. He was said he would throw a glass of champagne directly after his "Fin cha del vino" aria. He captured the spirit of the devilish Don and set the bar high for other Dons that would come- Norman Treigle, Samuel Ramey, Thomas Allen, Rodney Gilfry, and even Bryn Terfel. So yes, the lead singer is doing a heck of a performance. He has a melodic and sonorous bass voice and his acting is sensational. He is reckless, he is vulgar, he's the sexy jerk whose lifestyle sends him to Hell.
Leontyne Price: Her portrayal of Dona Elvira in this album is very good indeed. She is appropriately feisty and melodramatic. She rages at the Don for betraying her in her first confrontation with him, she is warning Zerlina against his evil ways in "Fuggi Il Traditor" in such a way that we forget that Price is singing beautifully. She's a great actress in the role. She has a fine Mozart voice. Many people overlook the fact she had a repertoire other than Verdi and Puccini. She was a gifted Mozartian soprano. In another recording, probably prior to this one, she sang Dona Ana next to Eberhard Wachter's Don Giovanni in a live recording with the Vienna Philharmonic under the baton of Herbert Von Karajan. Any soprano who can master both Dona Ana and Dona Elvira (Beverly Sills was another one) is a great singer of the highest calibre.
Fernando Corena as Leporello is quite good. He specialized in comic roles and was the reigning "basso buffo" of his day. He makes a lovable Leporello, grumbling on and on about his master, wishing he could be free and not do his dirty work. Corena is supremely good in this recording. Cesare Valleti as Don Ottavio is appropriately dull. Maybe he is singing in a dull manner but then again the role of Dona Ana's weak boyfriend calls for dull singing. He is supposed to appear lackluster next to the Don, though his tenor voice is a lot higher, more lyric and flexible than even the Don's earthy bass. Only a few tenors can master the role of Don Ottavio without making him appear foolish. Among these are Peter Schreier and Kenneth Reigle. Eugenia Ratti as Zerlina is sweet and seductive. No complaints there.
The biggest disappointment is Birgit Nilsson as Dona Ana. What was Erich Leinsdorf thinking when he cast her ? My guess is that Birgit Nilsson had studied the role, felt secure about herself and decided to land the role, without realizing that, and I'm sorry to the more hard-core Nilsson fans, she doesn't have a Mozart voice!! It's true that heavy, high and dramatic voices of tessitura have sung the role of Dona Ana with aplomb- among these are the forementioned Leontine Price, Maria Callas, Joan Sutherland, Edda Moser, Sena Jurinac and Anna Tomowa Sintow. Lighter voices like Beverly Sills and Renee Fleming have also sung the role. But make no mistake. Birgit Nilsson doesn't do justice to the role. She is singing in a bizarre, detached manner, without any dramatic commitment. True, her voice is powerful, high and heavy. True she could have possibly made a fine Dona Ana. But she doesn't. It's just not there. There's no passion or integrity. In the scene where she discovers that the Don has slain her father in a duel she lowers her voice to a whisper instead of crying out as she should in horror. She has no coloratura to dazzle us in "Non Mi Dir Bel Idol Mio..Forse Il Cielo". One reviewer said the role is "beneath her". It's not only beneath her, it's simpy out of her league. There are better Dona Ana's out there.
So finally go for these recordings: Herbert Van Karajan conducting the Vienna Philharmonic with Eberhard Wachter as the Don, Walter Berry as Leporello and Leontine Price as Dona Ana, Raimondi, Te Kenawa, Edda Moser and Jose Van Dam in the recording soundtrack to the 1979 film, and the recording with Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau as the Don, who is paired with Sena Jurinac as Dona Anna and Maria Stader as Elvira. Of course, that's just my personal preference. But this recording is not so bad, if only they had cast Leontine Price as Dona Ana and Elisabeth Schwartkopff as Elvira, then it would have been better."
A great highlights disc
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I own the Giulini set and would not trade it in for any other version. But this disc has voices you will not hear elsewhere: Siepi as the Don; Corena as Leporello; Leontine price and Birgit Nilsson as Elvira and Anna. Granted that as a conductor Leinsdorf is no Giulini but so what. I turn to this disc to hear some great singing in the familiar numbers. For anyone who owns a full text set this highlights disc is a perfect supplement. And the price is right."
Classic Don Giovanni Leontyne's first complete opera record
cruisewhiz | Hawaii | 03/26/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"To say that this is "the" recording of Don would not be fair as there are excellent recordings on all labels. This is the first complete opera recording Leontyne Price made and was originally released on RCA Red Seal. It has gone thru many reincarnations on RCA then as a complete opera release on London/Decca. This time a good highlights recording has been released with the addition of new technology. The transfers is great and if this recording is one of your old favorites, as it is mine, you will probably add it again to your collection. Keep listening."