WORKS: Don Giovanni
PERFORMER: Simon Keenlyside, Matti Salminen, Carmela Remigio, Uwe Heilmann, Soile Isokoski, Bryn Terfel; Coro di Ferrara Musica, CO of Europe/Claudio Abbado
CATALOGUE NO: 457 601-2
Having sung the title role in Solti’s Don Giovanni, Bryn Terfel steps down a rung or two on the social ladder and appears here as the Don’s manservant. It is a role Terfel has sung on stage, but his commanding presence makes it difficult for Simon Keenlyside’s Don Giovanni to stamp his authority on the scenes where he and Leporello appear together. Keenlyside is nevertheless a highly intelligent and accomplished Giovanni, if not quite as seductive as Bo Skovhus on Mackerras’s Telarc recording. He is in any case severely hampered in the famous duet ‘Là ci darem la mano’ by the pale, colourless Zerlina of Patrizia Pace – indeed, of the women in the cast, only Soile Isokoski’s affecting Elvira makes much of an impression.
While Mackerras includes every note Mozart wrote for both the original Prague production and the Viennese revival, Abbado opts for the traditional conflation of the two versions. No complaints there, though the performance as a whole rather lacks a sense of the theatre. For that, DG’s close, analytical recording is partly to blame; but Abbado’s conducting is also curiously lacking in sparkle at times. The festivities at the start of the Act I finale sound decidedly muted; and the moralising coda of Act II is too sedate to enable the wonderful closing bars to disappear in a puff of smoke, as they should. All in all, and despite some fine orchestral playing, something of a disappointment. Misha Donat