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Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus: Don Giovanni CD DG 1998

Mozart: Don Giovanni (CD)


Composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Conductor Claudio Abbado
Don Giovanni: Simon Keenlyside
Donna Anna: Carmela Remigio
Donna Elvira: Soile Isokoski
Zerlina: Patrizia Pace
Don Ottavio: Uwe Heilmann
Leporello: Bryn Terfel
Masetto: Ildebrando d’Arcangelo
Commendatore: Matti Salminen
Ferrara Musica Chorus
Chamber Orchestra of Europe
Label Deutsche Grammophon
Code CD 4576012; SACD 4749962
Released CD May 1998; SACD September 13, 2004
Number of discs 3

For more details of this production click here: Don Giovanni: Ferrara 1997

Photo Gallery

What the critics say

Claudio Abbado conducts Mozart’s Don Giovanni with Bryn Terfel and Simon Keenlyside. A short interview from Deutsche Grammophon (Product News for Don Giovanni – DGG CD News 4576012)

Simon Keenlyside and Bryn Terfel were singing together for the first time in Ferrara. The result was an exciting dramatic and vocal dynamic which was the result of an arduous rehearsal period. Says Keenlyside, “The recording was very hard work but enjoyable. We had fun making it, so I think the chances are that people listening to it will also get something out of it. It was interesting to work with Claudio Abbado, because he gives a singer a lot of freedom and the confidence to experiment. If you don’t have the right to experiment as a singer, then you just play safe, which can lead to clichés. But it requires trust both ways.”

Asked what it was like performing and recording with Terfel, Keenlyside says: “Personally Bryn Terfel is delightful. We are both country boys, and I like that. Vocally Bryn is a force of nature, as everyone knows, and it is a joy to sing with him. We had a lot of fun during the recording. We both had separate roles to inhabit and I think that a very interesting dynamic developed in this production, because the relationship between Don Giovanni and Leporello is based on power, and it was quite obvious to anyone watching the production that Leporello could at any time, should he so wish, turn on Don Giovanni and totally overwhelm him. Don Giovanni could dominate Leporello only through his intelligence and through exploiting class differences. But one always had the feeling that Don Giovanni might just go too far, and that Leporello could turn on him. Of course in the opera it never gets that far.”

Stephen Francis Vasta for Opera News, December 1998

A New Day’s Don

“In the title role, Simon Keenlyside makes a strong impression with his firm, compact baritone and alert, responsive inflections. His youthfully vigorous Giovanni conveys the character’s sheer hedonistic relish: his “Viva la libertà!” in the first finale is not just proclamatory but proudly narcissistic. His ebullience recalls Eberhard Wächter’s for Giulini (EMI); if Wächter brought a firmer, more honeyed mezza-voce to the seductive, insinuating moments, Keenlyside conversely avoids his predecessor’s occasional lapses into loutishness. Among recent Dons, Keenlyside’s is more strongly profiled than Hampson’s strangely neutral one (Harnoncourt/Teldec) and offers a more fully detailed portrayal than does Bryn Terfel (Solti/London). Terfel’s move here into the servant’s quarters is a marked success. His patter lacks the naturally Italianate inflection of Taddei’s (Giulini/EMI), but his Leporello is spirited and flavorful, marred only by a handful of overdone snarls and a stagy yell of “Dite di no!” in the second finale. Terfel’s voice is sufficiently rounder and darker than Keenlyside’s to make them readily distinguishable in their scenes together; their bantering recitatives, the best on record, are lively and amusing, with quick, mercurial shifts of tone conveying the vividness of a stage performance.”

The Telegraph “year in music” 30 December 1998 by Michael Kennedy

Our critics’ guide to the indispensable discs of the past 12 months

Two of the world’s finest operatic baritones make this a particularly distinguished recording. Simon Keenlyside’s Giovanni is a Spanish aristocrat with a streak of cold savagery and mitigating charm. He is ideally complemented by Bryn Terfel’s lusty and mockingly servile Leporello. They strike sparks off each other, especially in the supper scene with Marti Salminen’s powerful Commendatore. The Finnish mezzo-soprano Soile Isokoski, one of the year’s rapidly rising stars, is a fiery Elvira and Carmela Remigio’s Anna is a striking interpretation. Uwe Heilmann’s Ottavio is a let-down, but Ildebrando d’Arcangelo and Patrizia Pace are well cast as Masetto and Zerlina. The orchestra responds to Abbado’s lively interpretation with stylish playing and the recording, based on a 1997 production in Ferrara, is first-class.

Daniele Navacchia for Associazione culturale Orfeo nella rete [Extracts]

Translated by Annie Shone

Five stars *****

“Once the general lines of interpretation are decided upon, the Milanese conductor, Abbado, seems to give maximum freedom to the leading characters to develop their roles in their own way. Something which above all allowed Simon Keenlyside and Bryn Terfel to give to the recording one of the best “Don Giovanni/Leporello” couples of recent years. The English baritone who is imposing not solely by the strength of his voice but as the character himself, seems versatile to every situation, in such a way as being always able to adopt the right tone and balance and the most expressive qualities. ‘Fin ch’han dal vino’ is performed with lots of confidence, thanks also to Abbado’s accompaniment; he is measured in his timing and yet still capable of conveying a sense of extreme agitation. Whilst in the ballad ‘Deh, vieni alla finestra’ Keenlyside by his phrasing and expressive qualities clearly shows himself to be an authentic ‘Liederist’. Yet it is in the crowd scenes that his Don Giovanni acquires fascination and authority, thanks to the distinctive quality of the timbre of his voice (albeit a little too clear), which places him in a position of natural superiority compared to the other performers. Examples being in the quartet of Act I, ‘Non ti fidar o misera’ and the terzetto ‘Ah! taci ingiusto core’ where the English baritone displays mimic and seductive qualities which are very convincing. If one were looking to split hairs, one could say that maybe there’s a lack of arrogance, and in the final scene, of a necessary dramatic weight, but his is a Don Giovanni whose interpretation is in line with that of Abbado’s and it has in its intellectual and erotic seduction  his best weapons, and that is why it is even more authentic.”

Misha Donat, BBC Music Magazine

Performance: ***
Sound: ****

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.

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