WORKS: Don Giovanni
PERFORMER: Peter Mattei, Gilles Cachemaille, Carmela Remigio, Véronique Gens, Mark Padmore; Mahler CO/Daniel Harding
CATALOGUE NO: VCD 5 45425 2
This live performance given during last year’s Aix-en-Provence Festival moves at tremendous speed, scarcely pausing to draw breath for an instant. Sensibly, no attempt has been made to eliminate stage noises or audience participation (though, curiously, every last vestige of applause has been removed), and at times the result has real theatrical excitement: Donna Anna’s anguished recitative following her realisation that Giovanni is her father’s murderer, for instance; or the terrifying moments preceding the entrance of the Stone Guest. All too often, however, Daniel Harding drives the music relentlessly fast, sacrificing line and clarity in the name of dramatic intensity. Take the sombre opening pages of the overture. True, Mozart indicates a pulse of two beats to the bar, rather than four, but the music still needs to convey an air of solemnity – the sense that we are about to witness awe-inspiring events. And why tamper with the fatalistic, deliberately ponderous rhythm accompanying the eerie scales associated with the appearance of the Commendatore’s statue? If Mozart had wanted the tightly sprung Handelian rhythm Harding prefers, he would surely have notated the passage that way himself.
Among the cast, Peter Mattei’s commanding and credibly seductive Don and Véronique Gens’s touching Elvira are outstanding. Mark Padmore’s sweet-toned Ottavio is an asset, too; but as Anna, Carmela Remigio has occasional intonation problems. Of rival versions, Charles Mackerras’s recording is more strongly cast and has superior orchestral playing, and like Gardiner’s fine account (Archiv) it includes both the original Prague version of the opera and Mozart’s revisions for the first Viennese production. Misha Donat