MOZART Don Giovanni – Nézet-Séguin
This recording, taken from concert performances in Baden-Baden, is based on the scholarly New Mozart Edition. But it doesn’t follow that edition in consigning to an appendix the numbers that Mozart composed for Vienna. Nor does it follow the Gardiner and Jacobs recordings in adopting the Vienna version, with an appendix on the third disc containing the numbers dropped after the original production in Prague. What we have is the standard hybrid, the arias banked up in Act 2: they certainly hold up the drama, but if you don’t mind that I can confidently recommend this latest set.
Not an Urtext version, then, and the Mahler Chamber Orchestra isn’t a period band, but there is much evidence of a period approach. There are appogiaturas, there’s some decoration and the secco recitatives are accompanied by Benjamin Bayl on a gentle fortepiano. Yannick Nézet-Séguin proves himself to be a superb Mozartian. From the fierce opening chords of the Overture to the moralising final ensemble his pacing can’t be faulted. The Statue music, whether in the Overture or in the Act 2 Finale, flows without being rushed. And there are so many details that compel admiration: the diminuendo on the chord when the Commendatore is fatally wounded, the attention to the syncopations in the duet for Donna Anna and Don Ottavio, a little crescendo in the orchestra between Don Giovanni’s twofold ‘Elvira, idolo mio’ in the Act 2 Trio.
In his book Mozart’s Operas, Edward J Dent wittily suggested that Donna Anna would end up as the First Lady to the Queen of the Night in Die Zauberflöte. Diana Damrau aims higher but in reverse, so to speak: having sung the part of the Queen, she now brings her formidably accurate coloratura to Donna Anna. Having sounded convincingly deranged in her vengeance aria, she floats ‘Non mi dir’ very nicely. Mojca Erdmann confirms the promise of her recital disc (DG, 7/11) with a clear, bell-like Zerlina, both arias sung with idiomatic embellishments. As for Joyce DiDonato, you would have to go a long way to hear such superb breath control in ‘Mi tradì’. As on the Covent Garden DVD (Opus Arte, 7/09), she takes the Mozart-sanctioned downward transposition; the harmonic shift in the recitative is always a jolt.
Now for the men. A sturdy Masetto, and a rock-steady Commendatore who departs with an impressive, uncanonical bottom D. Rolando Villazón is not an obvious choice for Don Ottavio: full-on Latin passion rather than sculptured, north European elegance. As Leporello, Luca Pisaroni really acts with his voice without sacrificing beauty of tone. Ildebrando d’Arcangelo, moving over from Leporello on the Gardiner set, is better as a man of action than as a lover: menacing to Masetto, rather lumpy in the Serenade. There is some audience laughter but no applause.