Simon Keenlyside / Franz Welser-Möst

Mozart: Don Giovanni [DVD Video]

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This stylish and beautifully sung and acted 2006 performance of Don Giovanni from the Zurich Opera House should be of strong interest to anyone who loves the opera. The production, directed by Sven-Eric Bechtolf with costumes by Marianne Glittenberg and particularly striking sets by Rolf Glittenberg, is visually and dramatically dazzling. The timeframe is contemporary, but the clever trompe l'oeil set suggests the infinitely receding stage depth that flourished in 18th century scenic design. Don Giovanni's palace is a cosmopolitan playboy's penthouse, and the costumes clearly define the social standing of the characters in modern terms. It would be hard to imagine a Don Giovanni more suave, seductive, and confident than Simon Keenlyside; he's a terrific actor and he perfectly conveys the casual arrogance and entitlement that can attend someone well aware of his own attractiveness. His singing is every bit as fine as his acting; his tone is large and warm, his lines soar lyrically, and he has the effortless-sounding agility necessary for the rapid-fire recitative and arias like "Fin ch'han dal vino." The entire cast is vocally superb, if not consistently as dramatically assured as Keenlyside. The other singers whose acting is on a par with his are Martina Jankovà as Zerlina and Malin Hartelius as Donna Elvira, who are riveting whenever they are on-stage, and whose singing is gorgeous. Eva Mei as Donna Anna and Piotr Beczala as Don Ottavio are vocal standouts and their lack of keener dramatic engagement may be partly the fault of the director, who seems at a loss to give them anything interesting to do. Anton Scharinger as Leporello and Reinhard Mayr as Masetto are very fine, but they don't convey the dramatic weight or presence to make the necessary impact. Franz Welser-Möst leads Orchester der Oper Zürich and Chor des Opernhauses Zürich in a thoroughly polished and lively account of the score, and his pacing is fully effective. The sound of the DVD is full, detailed, and natural. Highly recommended.