Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Mozart - Don Giovanni / Luxon Dean Goeke Rawnsley Branisteanu Yakar Gale Haitink Glyndebourne Opera|
Actors: Benjamin Luxon, Horiana Branisteanu, Stafford Dean, Leo Goeke, Rachel Yakar
Director: Bernard Haitink
Genres: Indie & Art House, Music Video & Concerts, Musicals & Performing Arts
An Only Middling 'Don Giovanni' from Glyndebourne
J Scott Morrison | Middlebury VT, USA | 09/08/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This DVD of the 1977 production of 'Don Giovanni' done at Glyndebourne with musical direction by Bernard Haitink and stage direction by Peter Hall is a bit of a disappointment. Musically it is only mediocre, to be honest. The sound afforded the London Philharmonic is probably not even up to the standards of the late 1970s with strident strings and recessed winds. Haitink, of course, is a grand Mozartean and one can hear that the performance he got from his orchestra was a good one; it's just that we don't get to hear it in anything like modern sound. Add to that the less than wonderful casting and you get a so-so experience. Hall's direction is good and not tainted by attempts at too-clever direction, the stage and costume design by John Bury is also good -- the opera seems to have been updated a bit to the early 1800s, with the aristocrats in Beau Brummel-like costumes, the peasants in appropriate costumes of the period. The set is rustic, with buildings made from what look like weathered barn wood, and serviceable. Lighting is rather dark, which is OK considering how much of the action takes place at night; this does tend to emphasize the ugly underside of the drama, which is a valid conceit. By far the best singer/actors are Stafford Dean as Leporello and Elizabeth Gale as Zerlina. Each of them sings well and their acting has some life in it. John Rawnsley's Masetto is not far behind. Benjamin Luxon, while a fine singer, is miscast as the Don; he doesn't have the sex appeal or charm that one needs to make the Don a believable character. Further, his singing is uneven. His 'Deh, vieni alla finestra' (the serenade) is simply fabulous, but the Champagne Aria is pallid. (I wanted to say the Champagne Aria was flat, but my pun-o-meter wouldn't let me get away with that.) Pierre Thau as the Commendatore was commendable.
Rachel Yakar as Donna Elvira starts out well but becomes less so as the opera proceeds. The opposite occurs with the Donna Anna of Horiana Branisteanu, who begins the opera sounding tired and with poor breath support but she grows as the opera progresses; still, she is not an ideal Donna Anna even at her best. Her acting is generic, almost expressionless much of the time. Leo Goeke in the thankless role of Don Ottavio is mediocre. His voice has never struck me as anything but merely serviceable and at times is ugly. One cannot erase memories of Francisco Araiza in the Muti/La Scala DVD or particularly of Michael Schade in the 1999 Muti/Vienna DVD. Or, indeed, of Gösta Winbergh in the old Karajan video production.
The bottom line is that this is probably not the 'Don Giovanni' to get unless perhaps you saw the 1977 Glyndebourne production and want it to commemorate the experience.
This is a really good production of "Don Giovanni".
A reviewer | USA | 05/20/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This production of "Don Giovanni" is one that I saw on television several years ago on a local university-affiliated channel. It is really good.
Mozart's music is sublime, beautiful and well-crafted, and filled with melody practically from beginning to end. The production - the set design and the costumes - are traditional, elegant, and relatively appropriate for the period, as opposed to the slick and overly modernized productions that are conceived and displayed often in recent years in opera theatres. The cast and the stage director put the "giocosa" back in "dramma giocosa", while including just the right doses of "dramma" into this theatrical work. Well-done is the best word to sum up the acting of all the soloists, who succeed in their roles both dramatically and vocally. Rachel Yakar is a Donna Elvira who is angry, indignant, and most of all hurting. Benjamin Luxon's Don Giovanni is spiteful, temperamental, and proud: a selfish, bullying, and blustering fool whose pride goes before destruction and whose haughty spirit goes before the fall. Stafford Dean's Leporello is cheeky and brimming with humor, without overdoing anything. At the same time, Dean's performance nearly steals the show in several scenes, particularly in the second-to-last scene where Leporello and Giovanni prepare for the Commendatore's dinner visit when Leporello is eating a chicken leg. (You'll see it for yourself.) John Rawnsley's Masetto is a delight - ornery, rustic, and tender - his character is a diamond-in-the-rough with a good soul, almost reminiscent of Onslow in the British sitcom "Keeping Up Appearances". A really sympathetic portrayal. Elizabeth Gale conveys a Zerlina who is a flirtatious, mischievous, but faithful young country woman, who ultimately stands by her man when it really counts. Leo Goeke plays a Don Ottavio who shows that meekness is strength under control - a loyal, temperate, and upright gentleman who chooses right over wrong, and does not want to throw his weight around. Finally, Horiana Branisteanu is a gem in the role of Donna Anna. Her portrayal of Donna Anna - is probably the most decidedly UN-DIVA-ISH portrayal of the role that I have ever seen or heard. While Donna Anna is a noblewoman in a predicament, Branisteanu's Donna Anna is also humble and is a gentlewoman in every sense of the word. This Donna Anna is passionate, yet also modest and unassuming. Her portrayal of this role is very sympathetic. From watching Branisteanu and Goeke as Donna Anna and Don Ottavio, one can see that this Donna Anna truly loves Don Ottavio - there is no question about it. They are convincing both as an engaged couple and as a man and a woman who deeply love each other.
Additionally, Branisteanu's soprano voice is that of a lyric soprano (not a coloratura, or a spinto, or a dramatic) which helps make her portrayal of a young noblewoman (as opposed to an older noblewoman) even more believable. At the same time, her lyric soprano is agile enough to nail the fast runs in the rondo "Forse forse un giorno". It is one of the very best renditions of this rondo that I have ever heard. I am sorry that she did not record this role commercially, as far as I know.
Vocally, the entire cast does a fine job. With their strong lyric voices, they provide lovely singing that is pleasing to the ear, while getting into their roles and getting into the drama of the story all at the same time.
That is just about it. If you want to buy a DVD of Mozart's "Don Giovanni", then this will be a good pick."