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Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Don Giovanni, K. 527
Simone Alberghini (Don Giovanni), Adrian Sampetrean (Leporello), Irina Lungu (Donna Anna), Katerina Kneziková (Donna Elvira), Julia Novikova (Zerlina), Dmitry Korchak (Don Ottavio), Jirí Bruckler (Masetto), Jan Stáva (Il Commendatore), Choir of National Theatre, Pavel Vanek (chorus master), National Theatre Orchestra, Plácido Domingo (conductor and artistic director), Jirí Nekvasil (stage director), Josef Svoboda (set designer), Theodor Pistek (costume designer), Daniel Dvorák (lighting designer), Brian Large (video director), Bernhard Fleischer (producer)
Live recording: The Estates Theatre, Prague, Czech Republic (October 27 and 29, 2017) – 182'
C Major 745208 (or Blu-ray 745304) – DTS 5.0 – Picture format 16:9 – Region 0 – Booklet in English, German and French – Subtitles in Italian, English, German, French, Korean and Japanese (Distributed by Naxos of America)

Prague’s Estates Theatre, built in 1784, is one of Europe’s finest old treasure house venues. It is where Mozart conducted the premiere of Don Giovanni in 1787 and the opera is frequently staged there, as are other works of the era (it is one of several venues operated by the Czech National Theatre.) This DVD features Plácido Domingo as conductor and a cast that ranges from competent to distinguished, including four singers who have won prizes at Domingo’s Operalia competition.

The stage design dates from 1969 and is credited to Josef Svoboda (1920-2002), a designer renowned for his pioneering “hi tech” approach to design - he was one of the founders of Laterna Magika. The narrow stage doesn’t allow much room for major scenery and the overall look is rather plain; a grill sometimes appears creating a useful division. The all-important statue looms impressively; the Commendatore’s ghost, very effectively lit, emerges from its plinth. A modernist touch is a red neon slash when the statue appears at Don Giovanni’s home.

Everyone keeps their clothes on and nobody snorts cocaine or brandishes a Glock. Four footmen act as “invisible” stage hands; this can be intrusive especially on such a small stage.

Costume designer Theodor Pistek won an Oscar © for the 1984 film Amadeus. His costumes are mostly period, with welcome flights of fantasy in the two party scenes. The disguises for Donna Anna, Donna Elvira and Don Ottavio at the end of Act I are a sight to behold.

Simone Alberghini (mistakenly described as a tenor in the booklet) has a fine bass-baritone voice and looks remarkably like Ezio Pinza, another way of saying he has the ideal physique du rôle. In fact everyone has the right look for their roles. Alberghini won at Operalia in 1994; tenor Dmitry Korchak (Don Ottavio) and soprano Irina Lungu (Donna Anna) in 2004, and soprano Julia Novikova (Zerlina) in 2009. All four are terrific, as is Katerina Kneziková (Donna Elvira), and Adrian Sampetrean (Leporello.) Donna Elvira and Don Ottavio get to sing the arias added to the score after its Prague premiere. These arias are arguably redundant, given that they don’t tell us anything we don’t already know, but it’s nice when good singers like these get to show their stuff.

All in all, an enjoyable, straightforward performance expertly captured by veteran video director Brian Large.

Michael Johnson




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