Mozart: Don Giovanni

LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: Don Giovanni
PERFORMER: Johannes Weisser, Marcos Fink, Alexandrina Pendatchanska, Werner Güra, Malin Byström, Sunhae Im, Nikolay Borchev, Alessandro Guerzoni; Innsbruck Festival Chorus; Freiburger Baroque Orchestra/René Jacobs; dir. Vincent Boussard (Baden-Baden, 2006)
CATALOGUE NO: HMD 9909013-14 (NTSC system; 5.1 PCM 2.0; 16:9 picture format)
René Jacobs explains, in the lengthy documentary which accompanies this performance, that the idea was to do Don Giovanni ‘as if the 19th century had never existed’: that is to say, without any Romantic elements, such as the Don as a semi-tragic, Faustian figure, or in fact any attempt to ‘go behind’ the characters. They were mostly sung by very young performers under Mozart, and this production goes back to that, even for the Commendatore. Don Giovanni is, according to the director Vincent Roussard, ‘still having problems with puberty,’ and though he looks a bit past them, he is so young that one finds Leporello’s list of his conquests harder than usual to credit. His potential victims are younger than usual too, even Elvira, who one thinks of as having been around a bit. But it’s refreshing to see a really youthful Ottavio, trying to come to terms with what he has on his hands in Anna. The sets are extremely simple, the voices not powerful but fresh, and there’s a spontaneity about most of the show. I find myself, as before with Jacobs’s Mozart operas, getting annoyed with the fussiness of the piano improvisations during the recitatives. I could do with more convincingly erotic acting and some more richly beautiful voices. It’s not a version I’d want to see much, but it is consistently interesting and sometimes a good deal more than that. Michael Tanner