MOZART: Don Giovanni (complete opera), Blu-ray (2008)
Simon Kennlyside/Kyle Ketelsen/Eric Halfvarson/Marina Poplavskaya/Joyce Didonato/Ramon Vargas/Miah Persson/Robert Gleadow/Royal Opera Chorus and Orchestra/Sir Charles Mackerras
Stage Director: Francesca Zambello
Studio: Royal Opera House/Opus Arte OA BD7028D (2 disc set) [Distr. by Naxos]
Video: 16:9 color 1080i HD
Audio: Sung in Italian, uncompressed PCM 5.1, PCM 2.0
Subtitles: English, French, German, Spanish, Italian
Extras: Illustrated synopsis, Cast gallery, Into the Royal Opera House, A Backstage tour, Antoni Pappano interviews Charles Mackerras, A.P. interviews Francesca Zambello
Length: 202 minutes
Mozart’s greatest opera and perhaps the greatest opera period has had many video versions but this one is exceptional both musically and visually. Recorded just last year at London’s Royal Opera House, it features a top flight cast of singers who look the parts they play and are good actors as well. Joyce DiDonato and Miah Persson are standouts as Donna Elvira and Zerlina. Persson is also cute as a button besides having wonderful acting and singing chops. Simon Keenlyside’s Don may seem a bit old, but he has that very lived-in appearance of older male stars such as Jeremy Irons and the late David Carradine, which is most appropriate to the role of the Don.
The synopsis illustrated with scenes from the opera – such as included with most operas and ballets now – is most helpful to the uninitiated. The essay in the printed booklet is also useful in laying out the literary predecessors to Mozart’s setting of Da Ponte’s words and how Mozart’s genius took the idea to a whole new level. The set is minimal, as seems to be the style so often lately, and the costumes neither detract nor attract unwarranted interest. It is an original and effective trick to have the Don shirtless for his final dinner-with-the-commandetore scene before he is dragged off the hell. However, I didn’t understand the very quick final image of the nude Don holding his nude last seductee as the concluding music ends.
The orchestra’s playing under Mackerras is memorable and the surround audio is rich and natural-sounding. The extras, including the two interviews, are well worth watching. The supertitles are easy to read and not distracting.
– John Sunier