WORKS: Don Giovanni
PERFORMER: Cesare Siepi, Gottlob Frick, Elisabeth Grümmer, Léopold Simoneau, Lisa della Casa, Fernando Corena, Walter Berry, Rita StreichVienna State Opera Chorus, Vienna PO/Dimitri Mitropoulos
CATALOGUE NO: SM3K 64263 ADD mono
It seems an unlikely conjunction: Dimitri Mitropoulos, the Greek-born conductor who set US pulses racing with his fiery readings of late-Romantic repertoire in the Forties and Fifties, and the Salzburg Festival (from which this live recording was taken in 1956), renowned for its state-of-the-art if rather safe presentations of Mozart opera. Yet it works: Mitropoulos keeps the fury on a tight rein and proves an able Mozartian, admittedly more at home in the Sturm und Drang than the galant aspects of the score, but responsive to the needs of the drama and his more than adequate singers, as consummate a team of Mozartians as you might find anywhere at any period.
The women – Elisabeth Grümmer’s electrifying Donna Anna, Lisa della Casa’s vulnerable Donna Elvira and Rita Streich’s capricious Zerlina – are a strong, well-contrasted combination. Impressive, too, are Léopold Simoneau’s elegant, stylish Don Ottavio, Walter Berry’s fresh Masetto and Gottlob Frick’s imposing, authoritative Commendatore. But Cesare Siepi, the leading Don Giovanni of his day, and Fernando Corena’s Leporello have such similar voices – suave and sophisticated – that their contributions are often difficult to distinguish; no doubt they needed to be seen as well as heard.
All in all, then, no real complaints. The CD box promises a Festival Document, and that’s what you get: not the most exciting or searching Don Giovanni, but definitely worth a listen. Antony Bye