LABELS: Opus Arte
WORKS: Don Giovanni
PERFORMER: Simon Keenlyside, Kyle Ketelsen, Eric Halfvarson, Marina Poplavskaya, Joyce DiDonato, Ramón Vargas, Miah Persson, Robert Gleadow; Royal Opera House Orchestra/Charles Mackerras; dir. Francesca Zambello (London, 2008)
CATALOGUE NO: Opus Arte OA 1009 D (NTSC system; dts 5.1; 16:9 anamorphic) 202 mins (2 discs)
We see and hear Don Giovanni’s end in his beginning here: as flames rage over the opening cast credits, Sir Charles Mackerras conducts an incandescent Overture which kindles the brilliance, clarity and indefatigable energy of his musical direction throughout.
This film powerfully captures the fiery essence of Francesco Zambello’s production for the Royal Opera. Striking lighting and fearless camera angles highlight the best elements of Maria Björnson’s design, with its revolving arc of a double-sided wall, and its costumes of flame red and midnight blue.
And, consistently strongly cast, it’s as good for the ear as for the eye. Zambello makes Simon Keenlyside’s harsh and diabolical Don Giovanni and Kyle Ketelsen’s embittered Leporello a double-act of deadly dependency.
This contrasts tellingly with the mutual support and solidarity of three feisty and independent women: Marina Poplavskaya’s noble, almost other-worldly Donna Anna, Joyce DiDonato’s thrillingly anguished, gleamingly voiced Donna Elvira, and Miah Persson’s sturdy but sensuous country lass of a Zerlina.
When symbols of unliberated womanhood – spinning wheels, cradles, laundry tubs – are raised high as the peasants enter, the point is made somewhat didactically. But the dramatic momentum of Zambello’s production carries all before it, with Keenlyside’s ravaged, cynically exploitative Don, Ketelsen’s dark-etched Leporello, Ramón Vargas’s refreshingly robust Don Ottavio, and Robert Gleadow’s personable Masetto all worked to their considerable limits.
Excellent liner notes by David Nice, clear track navigation, and generous if unremarkable and over-promotional extras, complete this irresistible package. Hilary Finch