"I had never before seen the Furtwängler Don Giovanni, but I knew that it was considered by many to be one of the greatest productions of this much loved opera. This production was filmed shortly after its wildly successful run in Salzburg, Austria in 1953. It has lost none of its appeal nearly a half century later. This is the most rivetting account I have ever seen, live or on video, of Mozart's "dramma giocoso", which in this production definitely tilts towards the "dramma" aspect. The singing is fabulous from all members of this stellar cast assembled in the early 1950s. The Wiener Philharmoniker plays with a real feeling for this opera under Furtwängler. Indeed, this is a highly atmospheric production on all levels. Cesare Siepe is regarded as one of the all-time great Giovannis, and you will see and most importantly hear why in his highly dramatic portrayal of the lascivious don. Siepe not only sings the part flawlessly, but he can truly act, too. The final act will have you on the edge of your seat, to be sure. After brazenly lunging at the statue of the Commendatore with a knife, he recoils in terror when his action has no effect. After a brief moment of fear, he regains his composure and defiance. The emotions of Giovanni are conveyed by Sierpe in the most subtle of ways, a gesture here, a facial expression there, and of course via his singing. I'm sure everyone reading this knows the rest of the story, but you may be surprised at how brilliantly Siepe brings it all about, with his actions as much as his singing. I found myself feeling much more sympathetic towards the doomed Giovanni in this production than I have in most others, and that is entirely due to Siepe's brilliant portrayal. The rest of the cast is equally or very nearly as strong as its lead character. I watched this performance in utter amazement from start to finish, and cannot recommend it highly enough. It is in color, although the colors are on the pale side (not a problem!) and the sound format is in a high-quality mono (please don't let that steer you away from this masterpiece!). The sets are very realistic, and unlike many other operas on DVD, the picture is clear and the color excellent even in the night scenes (of which there are many in this opera). Included is a very informative booklet that gives background of this production as well as a summary of the opera. The picture format is 4:3, so it will fill your entire screen, and the playing time is 177 minutes. Subtitles are in English, Italian, Spanish, French German and Chinese. This is an opera DVD not to be missed, as it captures a historic performance that is nothing short of stunning. I would definitely rank this Don Giovanni in the top 5 best operas on DVD that I have seen."
The way to go with the Don on Disk
Ted Zoldan | Los Angeles, CA, USA | 08/29/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Every DVD on DON GIOVANNI I have seen has it's problems. The Film with Ramondi is a snore with a director who didn't know what the hell he was doing. The Karajan legacy Video is ruined by a uninspiring final scene. The La Scala production suffers likewise. This version is the only one I have seen that is compleatly enjoyable.
Furtwangler and the Weiner Phil. are really just astounding here. From the opening bars of the overture to the final bars of the Banquet scene, they take Mozart's masterpiece and take it to a new level. The production by Paul Czinner is great, especally in the final scene, where Clemens Holzmeister's rather piquese set walls are suddenly transformed into the very gates off hell, with red flames and devilish shadows playing off the walls.
The cast is uniformaly excellent. it is Ceasere Siepi was THE don of his day. Here you can see why. His Don is astounding, an demon in a nobleman's clothing. So seductive with Zerlina, so violent and cruel with his manservent, and in the final moment of retrobution, his acting is excellent, the best I've seen yet, and his scream of terror as he is dragged off to hell by shrouded demons, is not one to be forgotten. Plus he sings like a dream, his bass voice outdoing any Competertors.
His supporting cast is uniformaly excellent, Otto Edelmann is an excellent foil to Siepi, with a strong voice and impecable comic timing. Elisabeth Grummer's Anna is simply awe-inspiring, tossing off her arias with not only vocal perfectgion but excellent acting. Lisa Della Casa is perhaps not the best Donna Elvira of the era (That would be Schwarzkopf, who she was a last minute replacement for) but her acting is superb, and she stands out amoung a great cast as truely excellent. Anton Dermota's sweet Ottovio loses his act one aria (a comon stage cut of the day) but makes up for the missed opertunity elsewhere, showing Ottovio's great noblilty, rather than just a henpecked, rather stupid wimp, as some portray him. Erna Berger is a little thin-voiced for Zerlina, but she is capable enough to pull off a good coquettish portral. Denzo Ernster's Commendatore is rather stiff in the confrontation at the end (but then again, he IS a statue) but he cuts an impressive figure, both vocaly and physiclly. We even have a Young Walter Berry, some years away from perfecting Papagano and Don Alfonso for Kempler and Bohm respectivly as a really great masetto.
DON GIOVANNI is a hard opera to perform, and likewise to make a DVD of, and I have yet to see a production I felt was "Right" in every way. but this one comes close. Really, really close. Infact, it's at an almost minescule distance away from profection, prohibated only by the cuts to the score. But still, what a performance!
An Excellent Don Giovanni
A student | 03/14/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This DVD of Don Giovanni is one of the best available today. Cesare Siepe is one of the greatest Don Giovanni's ever. His acting and singing are both excellent.He richly portrays the two sides of Don Giovanni: His flirtious side as in Finch'han del vino, and his loving side as in Deh, vieni alla finestra. Deszo Ernster is great as Il Commendatore, espically when he portrays the statue of himself. His deep, powerful bass voice can send chills down your spine. Donna Anna is richly portrayed by Elisabeth Grummer. Her "Mi tradi quell'alma ingrata" is beautiful. Anton Dermota has the lyric tenor voice required for the role of Don Ottavio. Listen to his breathtaking "Il mio tesoro" and you will hear it. Lisa della Casa, who substituted Elisabeth Schwarzkoph as Donna Elvira, is excellent in each scene. One of the best was Otto Edelmann, who portrayed Leporello. He is an excellent comic singer and actor, espically in "Madamina, il catalogo a questo". Zerlina is portrayed by Erna Berger, a small women with the voice to match. She is beautiful in her duet with Don Giovanni, "La ci darem la mano". Masetto, her lover, is played by a young Walter Berry, who sings beautifully. Wilhelm Furtwangler conducts the Wiener Philharmoniker beautifully. It is great that this DVD exists because it is one of the last remains of Furtwangler's career (since he died just after he made the DVD)."
I wish I could give this 6 stars
Alan Majeska | Bad Axe, MI, USA | 08/15/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I wish I could give Furtwangler's DON GIOVANNI 6 stars, as it is a great performance. If you buy this, you are in for a real treat. The sound is 1954 mono, and the picture quality is very good for it's age. If the color looks a little washed out, one can always adjust the color and/or tint on their TV set. There is an audience present,applause when Furtwangler enters to conduct the overture, but they are very quiet through the opera, if they are present at all. There is no applause or curtain calls at the end.
The singers are terrific, especially Siepi, Edelmann, Della Casa, Grummer, and Berger. They work wonderfully as an ensemble and as soloists. Sound balances between singers and orchestra are also excellent. There are audio recordings of these same soloists working with Furtwangler in this and other operas during the early 1950s, so they were obviously quite used to working together. Della Casa, Grummer, and Berger are the best in the females roles that I have heard, and I have seven recordings of this work, between CD and DVD releases.
DG is to be commended for keeping this before the public, as are the video director of this production, and those who worked 51 years ago to preserve it for the ages. Highly recommended!
BEST OPERA DVD EVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
David | Reykjavik, Iceland | 07/02/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Siepi is widely recarded as the Best Don Giovanni ever. And with good reason. His performance here is perfect in every way. His singing is beutiful, elegant, masculine and defiant. His voice has exactly the right timbre and every phrase draws a picture of a very well defined and thought out character. His acting is the very definition of taste, chraftsmanship and artistry.
All other singers in this cast are perfectly cast in their roles.The beuty of the singers voices comes very well across due to the fact that all the singers here have excellent vocal technique. Something that is very often missing in more recent productions.The orchestra is beatiful. And furtwangler's tempi are always right on the money.
So if you want to see a modern production with Don Giovanni happening on the moon then this is not for you. If you like singers that sound bad due to lack of vocal technique then this is not for you. If you like your acting over the top and vulgar than this is not for you.
However if you like excellent singing and tasteful artistry than this is not only the best Don Giovanni you will ever see. It is the best production of any opera ever."