COMPOSERS: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
LABELS: Axiom Films
ALBUM TITLE: Mozart Don Giovani
WORKS: Don Giovani
PERFORMER: Christopher Maltmann, Mikhail Petrenko, Maria Bengtsson, Elizabeth Futral, Katija Dragojevic, Peter Lodahl, Ludwig Bengston Lindström, Eric Halfvarson; Concerto Copenhagen; dir. Kasper Holten
CATALOGUE NO: AXM644
This is not a full version of Mozart’s opera that happens to have been filmed. Rather it is a film that draws upon sections of that work to create a seduction and murder story with psychological dimensions in a modern idiom and with a modern text. The instrumental accompaniments were recorded in Copenhagen, but the very accomplished singers sang live (there is no lip-synching) on location in Budapest. Quite a few of the arias are omitted, as are most of the ensembles. The result is a pacey (if slightly cheesy) drama complete with sexy escapades, a car chase, and hospital scenes – Elvira (Elizabeth Futral) drowns herself and the Don (Christopher Maltman) dies in a car crash.
Funnily enough it all sort of works. This is partly because the singers are not only musically good, they can also carry the close scrutiny of the camera lens. Baritone Christopher Maltman (who also wrote the English text) is powerful as the Don, bass Mikhail Petrenko is nicely sardonic as Leporello, and soprano Elizabeth Futral (Elvira), Maria Bengtsson (Donna Anna) and Katija Dragojevic (Zerlina) present a trio of extremely assured women, vocally and otherwise.
The stark manipulations of Donna Anna and Zerlina in this version do change the moral calculus of the original plot. Zerlina is not a victim, Don Giovanni actually weeps at the thought of Elvira, and the Commendatore who arrives to condemn the Don at the final banquet turns out to be Giovanni himself in disguise.
Director Kasper Holten gives a lucid account of his motivations for the film in the ‘Extras’ section.