MOZART Don Giovanni (Domingo)
The USP of this enjoyable production is that it comes from the Estates Theatre in Prague, the very building in which it was first performed. You might therefore expect it to consist of the version that was seen there on October 29, 1787, especially as the article in the accompanying booklet is headed ‘As Mozart Premiered Don Giovanni Himself’; but what we have is the usual composite including the two arias that Mozart added when the opera was staged in Vienna. (For a summary of the difference between the Prague and Vienna versions, readers might care to glance at my ‘Collection’ article – 3/18.)
The conductor is Plácido Domingo and the cast includes four winners of his vocal competition, Operalia. One of the four is Simone Alberghini, who plays Don Giovanni; he will be surprised to find himself described in the booklet as ‘the Italian star tenor’. The production by Jiří Nekvasil is a traditional one, played – to judge from the applause in the middle of the ‘Catalogue’ aria – before an audience of non-opera-goers. The set by Josef Svoboda (d2002) is a recreation of a Prague National Theatre production of 1969 and features theatre boxes on each side of the stage. The costumes by Theodor Pištěk are sumptuous (Donna Elvira’s cerise dress matched by her hat, hair, whisk and indeed luggage) bordering on OTT (the masked trio in the Act 1 finale). The filming is in the experienced hands of Brian Large, whose fondness for shots of the conductor rather detracts from the drama.
Alberghini makes an elegant Giovanni, romantic with a touch of irony. He is well served by Adrian Sâmpetrean as Leporello: bearded, thinning on top and slightly seedy. Dmitry Korchak is a credibly vigorous Don Ottavio; it’s a pity that he takes a breath in the wrong place in the run up to the reprise in ‘Il mio tesoro’. The women are excellent. Irina Lungu is a powerful Donna Anna, dismissing Ottavio at the end of ‘Or sai chi l’onore’ with a gesture that irresistibly calls to mind Alan Sugar’s ‘You’re fired’ in The Apprentice. Katerina KneŽíková is touching as Elvira, her ‘Mi tradì’ speedy, fluent, beautifully sung.
The appearance of the Commendatore in the Act 2 finale is disappointing, neither the singing nor the playing weighty enough. In general, though, there is much to admire in the conducting. Domingo, having not accelerated at the entrance of Anna and Giovanni, equally commendably keeps the orchestra moving when Anna is moping over her father’s body. Elsewhere he sometimes pulls the tempo about, but in compensation there’s some nice orchestral detail: the bassoons and oboe in Giovanni’s ‘Metà di voi’ are particularly charming. Beta plus-query-plus, I’d say, and a pleasant contrast to some horrors I could mention.