WORKS: Don Giovanni
PERFORMER: Bo Skovhus, Alessandro Corbelli, Christine Brewer, Jerry Hadley, Felicity Lott, Nuccia Focile; Scottish CO & Chorus/Charles Mackerras
CATALOGUE NO: CD-80420
This is the second fine Don Giovanni we have had within the past year. Like Gardiner (Archiv), Mackerras includes every note Mozart wrote for both the original Prague version and the Viennese revival. Moreover, it is easier than ever for listeners to ‘programme in’ their preferred version: all Prague die-hards have to do is to bypass Don Ottavio’s ‘Dalla sua pace’ in Act I – a beautiful aria, in all conscience, though it holds up the dramatic action at a crucial stage.
By coaxing a modern orchestra into a real awareness of period style, Mackerras seems to have the best of both worlds: the playing has admirable liveliness and intensity, and there are none of the intonation problems that so often plague actual period instruments. Mackerras does use natural trumpets, and their rasping sound lends real bite, not least to the overture’s chilling opening chords.
In his introductory essay Mackerras argues that Mozart’s Andantes in ‘cut-time’ (ie two beats to the bar) are often taken too slowly. Maybe so, but the death of the Commendatore – that moment of sudden stasis following the hectic activity of the opera’s beginning – is a passage that fails to make its full effect of horrified wonder here because the tempo is surely too quick. Mozart was not always consistent about these things: we need look no further than Leporello’s opening ‘Notte e giorno faticar’, which would sound impossibly laboured at its indicated four-to-the-bar.
This is, however, a deeply rewarding performance, and one that conveys a real sense of the theatre. The cast is a strong one, with Bo Skovhus a fine Giovanni, Christine Brewer a commanding Donna Anna, and Nuccia Focile a delightful Zerlina. Misha Donat