Mozart: Don Giovanni

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Mozart
LABELS: Archiv
WORKS: Don Giovanni
PERFORMER: Rodney Gilfry, Andrea Silvestrelli, Luba Orgonasova, Christoph Prégardien, Charlotte Margiono, Ildebrando D’Arcangelo; Monteverdi Choir, English Baroque Soloists/John Eliot Gardiner
CATALOGUE NO: 445 870-2 DDD

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When Don Giovanni was presented in Vienna, less than six months after its triumphant Prague premiere, Mozart revised the score, adding a number for Ottavio in Act I (‘Dalla sua pace’) and making substantial changes to Act II. What we normally hear in the opera house today is a conflation, with ‘Dalla sua pace’ as well as Elvira’s Act II aria ‘Mi tradì’ grafted onto the Prague version. Previous period-instrument recordings, by Roger Norrington (EMI) and Arnold Östman (L’Oiseau-Lyre), have strictly followed the Prague score, with the Vienna alterations relegated to an appendix; but John Eliot Gardiner bravely opts for the much maligned mixed version. The seldom heard buffo duet for Zerlina and Leporello in Act II is, perhaps, no great gain; but it is fascinating to hear the two new arias in the right context. As a performance, this one seems to me in a class of its own. Gardiner’s is a stylish and imaginative account that yields nothing in dramatic power to its rivals, while always allowing the music ample space to breathe. The cast is a strong one, with Ildebrando D’Arcangelo a first-rate Leporello and Rodney Gilfry a commanding Giovanni and a credible seducer. Gardiner’s treatment of the repeated string chords accompanying the appearance of the Stone Guest, though, is curiously idiosyncratic. The music here has been anticipated in the overture, but Gardiner now alters the chords’ rhythm – intensifying it, but undermining its implacable character. Misha Donat