Mozart Don Giovanni Wixell Ganzarolli Arroyo Te Kanawa Freni Burrows DavisWolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Don Giovanni

CAST: Don Giovanni: Ingvar Wixell, Donna Anna: Martina Arroyo, Don Ottavio: Stuart Burrows, Commendatore: Luigi Roni, Donna Elvira: Kiri Te Kanawa, Leporello: Wladimiro Ganzarolli, Masetto: Richard van Allan, Zerlina: Mirella Freni

Orchestra and Chorus of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden
Sir Colin Davis, conductor

Philips, 1991

This is not certainly the best Don Giovanni you can find on the market, but it has its merits, alongside with some less happy moments that I prefer to call weaknesses rather than defects.

First of all, Colin Davis’s direction, while not lacking a certain tension, never manages to be exciting. The conductor seems to be more worried about the musical flow, of which you can appreciate the clarity, rather than the intensity of the various scenes, creating a dispersive centrifugal force. This affects particularly the end of the first act, which is totally lacking in incisiveness and passes, if not unnoticed, almost without awareness from the listener’s part.

What I said about Davis may be applied to the protagonist too. Ingvar Wixell as Don Giovanni is not worthless: he phrases with taste, is precise and faces the short but (here) dizzy Finché han dal vino calda la testa without trouble, but overall he tackles the part without a distinctive brilliance. Wixell seems to be satisfied with a good singing and does not bother about anything more.

Wladimiro Ganzarolli sings Leporello with a rare but excessive histrionism and, while he is successfully mischievous and allusive, sometimes is clownish or whining, as in Notte e giorno faticar, in sharp contrast with the elegance of phrasing and of the sillabato, which elevates the singer above the character and that creates an inexplicable contrast with the lowering of the other moments. It almost seems that this Leporello has a split personality. In any case, the singer did not disappointed me at all.

Martina Arroyo is a Donna Anna in full possession of her vocal powers, which are best displayed in Or sai chi l’onore, but she remains quite detached and her arias, though impeccably sung, appear sung more for herself that for the listener. Overall, Arroyo does not fail to arouse approval, but not enthusiasm.

By contrast, Kiri Te Kanawa is an ideal Donna Elvira. Although she is not particularly passionate, the New Zealand soprano sings with elegance and without forgetting that Donna Elvira is a hurt woman and thus constellates recitatives and arias with outbursts of anger that immediately betrays her mental state. Te Kanawa’s interpretative magnitude stands out from the beginning of the first aria, Ah, chi mi dice mai, where she begins with disconsolateness, surprising the listener after half a sentence, with an angry «quel barbaro dov’è?», which sets the tone for the rest of the aria, sung with all the resentment of which is capable a wounded tiger. The second aria, Mi tradì quell’alma ingrata, is instead a precious miracle of virtuosity and feeling, which completes the portrait of Donna Elvira.

Stuart Burrows is an interesting Don Ottavio, but he does not completely satisfy me: he is awful in coloratura and, while not lacking a certain interpretative strength, sometimes exaggerates and becomes unpleasant.

Mirella Freni is a vocally fine Zerlina, who seeks originality in the interpretation, although not always her accents are appropriate. Her best piece is the second aria, Vedrai, carino, where interpretation and vocal elements are better mixed and are much less forced than in duet with Don Giovanni and in the first aria, where the accents gave the impression of being “thought”.

Masetto is a passable Richard van Allan of great personality, but with a voice not always clear.

As for the Commendatore, I would have preferred a voice a bit darker and gloomy and a singer who was solemn and therefore more threatening, but Luigi Roni is able to reveal the nobility of the character, making this, in the absence of other, his strong point.