Best contender on DVD so far...
jgarcia112 | NJ United States | 08/18/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Now that I have seen all of the Don Giovannis currently available on DVD in North America (Conlon, Karajan, Losey, Harnoncourt, and Muti) in my opinion this is easily the best of the lot. Its one major flaw is the lame treatment of Don Giovanni's final scene w/ the Commendatore, more of which later. Of the other productions on DVD, principal competition comes from the Karajan version on Sony, which uses the exact same production and staging (by Michael Hampe). I must admit that I was rather disappointed when I realized that this was the case, as I found that staging to be rather cold, dark and uninvolving in the Karajan version. However, this version manages to inject much more life and warmth into the production, and while Hampe's staging will never be my favorite, this production manages to make the best of it. The principal reason for the extra warmth of this version is the cast, which I find preferable to Karajan's in every instance, especially in acting and stage manner. Thomas Allen's Don Giovanni is superior in every way to Samuel Ramey's w/ Karajan - he is simply much more convincing in the role. Ferruccio Furlanetto plays Leporello quite nicely in both versions, but seems to be having more fun here. Even though Karajan had very strong Donnas in his version, Carolyn James and Carol Vanness are superb in the present version, and offer more sympathic portrayals overall (esp. James' Donna Anna). And Conlon's Zerlina (forget her name) is light years better than Kathleen Battle's undistinguished performance for Karajan. The rest of the case is equally fine - there is no real weak link anywhere.Conlon's conducting is truly first-rate - everything is well-judged, lively and totally natural, without ever sounding dull or routine. In fact, based on this and on some recent live performances I've heard him conduct with the Boston Symphony, I'd say that among conductors Conlon is one of the best current Mozarteans, and is quite underrated in this regard. I hope he records more Mozart in the future...As other reviewers have pointed out, this set's achilles heel is the extremely lame Commendatore scene. I don't know whether this is after peformance patch-up job as some seem to think (it seems like part of the original performance to me...) or if it is simply a completely unimaginative directoral concept, but whatever the case, it is a disappointment, especially since the rest of the opera is so solid. And the post-production special effects (worthy of a 1960's B-level sci-fi movie) are supremely cheesy, and totally unneccesary...Technically, the DVD is pretty good. Picture is clearer and sharper than in the Karajan version, although there seems to have been a problem with one of the cameras, resulting in certain long-distance shots having some major distortion in the top left-hand corner of the screen. I did not find this to be a big deal, however, as it is confined to only a few shots. Sound quality is also pretty good. The orchestra is a little soft sounding at first, but the voices are very clearly recorded. Volume needs to be turned up a little more than normal for best results. The subtitles are absolutely maddening, however. Apart from offering only a "bare bones" translation (just enough info to give you a general idea) their placement is rather erratic - sometimes they appear before a character sings their line, sometimes during, and sometimes they simply drop out all together (for example Zerlina's aria Batti, battti is completely absent of subtitles, as is the final chorus...). Really poorly done... But aside from that and the Commendatore scene, I'd say this is the one to get if you want a Don Giovanni on DVD. There is another production of Don Giovanni on Arthaus - w/ Harnoncourt conducting. That version offers perhaps the best singer currently doing the role of Don Giovanni (Rodney Gilfry - absolutely riveting) but the Eurotrash staging and Harnoncourt's unbearably ugly and eccentric conducting completely take it out of the running for me. I give Conlon's 5 stars only because it is the best currently available - on an absoute scale it probably is closer to a 4, or 4.5. But I'm still waiting for a true 5 star Don Giovanni to come out on DVD..."
Great Ensemble Cast!
operamaryc | DIAMOND BAR, CA United States | 04/24/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I didn't find the sound bad on my DVD at all, in fact it was extremely good. Thomas Allen is my Don of choice and I have always loved his voice which was just fine, if not as youthful as the La Scala version which I also have on VHS and Laser Disc. The La Scala version is a must in a collection along with the film with Raimondi, however, this camera work was far superior to the La Scala version and the cast every bit as good, if not better. All the cast members were wonderful. Thomas Allen has the best movement on stage of any opera singer - he moves like a dancer. Vaness, Rost and James are superb as the rest of the cast! I must have 10 different versions of this opera and this is in the top 4 - 5. Highly recommend this version. The death scene was a bit disappointing but there is another 165 minutes of opera (total running time 173 min.) that are moving. The palette of color bothered me to begin with - costumes and sets drab - but by the end, I enjoyed the production because it brought focus to the excellent singers! I originally saw James do this at the Met as cover for Sharon Sweet and was I glad James had to sing! She is superior to Sweet in acting and voice. Buy this, curl up and enjoy one of the best casts of Don Giovanni ever! (Karita Mattila was listed in the booklet as a cast member; James must have been covering for her and the producers neglected to correct the cast notes.) James Conlon was a wonderful conductor and should do more opera. Highly recommend as the singing, acting and pace will propel you through this Mozart masterpiece. I loved it!"
Karajon version still the best!
Jerry W. Edinger | Wisconsin | 12/04/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This production of Don Giovanni is recommended, but I still prefer the Karajon version as a whole. Everyone has their favorite singers and that will always enter into one's opinion. But the Final Scene in Conlon's version simply does not hold up to my expectations. This is the climax of the whole opera and this production leaves a bitter taste after viewing it. And that is regrettable."