Mozart: Don Giovanni

LABELS: Second Sight
WORKS: Don Giovanni
PERFORMER: Ruggero Raimondi, John Macurdy, Edda Moser, Kiri Te Kanawa, Kenneth Riegel, José Van Dam; Paris Opera/Lorin Maazel; dir. Joseph Losey (film, 1978)
CATALOGUE NO: Second Sight 2NDVD 3132 (PAL system; dts 5.1; 16:9 anamorphic)
This rather famous filmed version of Mozart’s opera first appeared in 1979, and one of the most evidently justified complaints about it was its sound – it was recorded in a very resonant church, for reasons never explained, so that the orchestral sound is mushy, the voices come and go disconcertingly, and balances are bewildering. A lot has been done to correct these faults with the latest techniques, but that only serves to expose the emptiness of Joseph Losey’s conception. A third DVD presents the making of the film at some length, then an ‘explanation’ of what Losey was supposedly up to, and finally a technical account of how the improvements were made. But 50 extra DVDs wouldn’t justify having the film shot on location in the Veneto, albeit with some very alluring sets. The restless camera, tracking Don Ottavio in his gondola as he sings ‘Il mio tesoro’, wandering into a glass factory, giving us a tour of the Villa Rotunda, merely distracts. The cast is a good one, though choosing a Don Giovanni whose voice is identical to the Leporello is confusing. Kiri Te Kanawa is a notably undistraught Elvira, though she sings beautifully.