Mozart: Don Giovanni

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Mozart
LABELS: Supraphon
ALBUM TITLE: Don Giovanni
WORKS: Don Giovanni
PERFORMER: Andrei Beschany, Dalibor Jedlicka, Nadezhda Petrenko, Vladimìr Dolezal, Jirina Marková, Ludek Vele, Zdenek Harvánek, Alice Randová; Prague National Theatre Chorus & Orchestra/Charles Mackerras; dir. David Radok (Prague, 1991)
CATALOGUE NO: SU 7012-9
PRESENTATION: ***

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At the end of 1991’s Mozart

anniversary year, Sir Charles

Mackerras conducted a Don

Giovanni in the very Prague theatre

– the Estates – in which the opera

had been premiered in 1787. The

film of the live performance begins

and ends with the Don in track-suit

and trainers, making his way into

and out of the theatre, and toying

with an apple. That is just about

the only concession to the 20th

century. Otherwise, what you watch

is a ‘period’ staging: 18th-century

recessed perspectives within the

proscenium; make-up and costume

which dictates only the most

decorous of stage movement; and

plenty of stand-and-deliver arias.

In this opera, of all Mozart’s,

it’s not exactly what we’ve become

used to. All the ‘attitude’, though,

is within the alchemising baton of

Mackerras and his players. It’s also

a totally unstarry cast: most parts

are sung adequately, with one or two

lurches between stage and pit. Only

Nadezhda Petrenko’s Donna Anna,

and Ludek Vele’s rough-and-tumble

Leporello really make their mark.

There are no track-listings and

no synopsis: you simply sit down and

watch from start to finish. But there

is a handsomely shot, pleasing and

perceptive 45-minute accompanying

documentary telling, through the

letters of Mozart’s singer-friend

Josepha Duschek, the story of his

relationship with Prague: the city

which taught him to follow ‘whatever

his heart dictated’, and where his

music was sung, played and whistled

not in palaces, but in the streets –

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just as it is today. Hilary Finch