Mozart Don Giovanni (DVD)
Simone Alberghini, Adrian Sâmpetrean, Irina Lungu, Kateřina Kněžíková, Julia Novikova, Dmitry Korchak, Jiří Brückler, Jan Štáva; National Theatre Orchestra/Plácido Domingo; dir. Plácido Domingo (Prague, 2017)
C Major DVD: 745208; Blu-ray: 745208 182 mins
Plácido Domingo tells us that he wanted to conduct this opera in Prague where Mozart gave the first performance and produce a version ‘as faithful as possible to the premiere.’ This sounds promising but the reality is a little different. For example, Mozart probably conducted from the keyboard and Domingo does not, the original’s varied scenery (by all accounts lavishly arranged by the impresario Guardasoni) is mostly replaced here by a dark brown box-spaced courtyard (only slightly enlivened in the blu-ray version), and some other details are missing – such as a brief recitative for Donna Anna (‘In questa forma’) just before the wedding chorus in Act I.
Domingo is rightly admired as a consummate musician, but he has almost never performed a Mozart opera, and the subtle contrasts of the buffa and seria elements, and their required fluid pacing, are sometimes missed. For example, Adrian Sâmpetrean (Leporello) and Simone Alberghini (the Don) are excellent singers but they project a similar kind of authority here (both vocally and dramatically) rather than that of master and servant. Again, Julia Novikova (Zerlina) has a strong voice and is best known for singing the Queen of the Night: her interaction with poor Masetto (Jiří Brückler) is stiff rather than coquettish, even in the duet ‘Batti, batti’. Kateřina Kněžíková (Donna Elvira) is a Prague favourite and despite some vocal brittleness is animated and communicative, especially in her Act II aria ‘Mi tradi’. Irina Lungu (Donna Anna) is technically impressive, and her aria ‘Non mi dir’ is supported by some pleasingly delicate orchestral playing. However, her persona on the stage is somewhat enclosed, though it was dramatically complemented by that of her fiancé Don Ottavio – a role sung by the supremely secure and lyrical Dmitry Korchak. The skilled and responsive continuo playing also deserves special mention.