The booklet flags the “impressive similarity” between Giuseppe Gazzaniga’s Don Giovanni, premiered in February 1787, and Mozart’s masterpiece first heard in Prague later the same year. True, there are occasional superficial musical resemblances; and while Da Ponte despised the librettist Giovanni Bertati as a “dramatic cobbler”, he was happy to appropriate many of his ideas for his own Don Giovanni libretto. What strikes you time and again, though, is the fathomless gulf between Gazzaniga’s casually structured one-act romp, designed as a play-within-a-play for the Venice Carnival, and Mozart’s tragi-comic masterpiece.
As in the case of "Cosi", Solti recorded "Don Giovanni" twice, the first time in 1978. It was a work he had loved since he heard Bruno Walter conduct it in Salzburg in 1936, with Ezio Pinza in the title role. His 1978 performance is distinguished by the presence of some of the leading Mozartian singers of the day, notably Margaret Price's Donna Anna, Stuart Burrows's Don Ottavio and Lucia Popp's Zerlina. Appreciable quantities, too, are Bernd Weikl's potent Giovanni, Gabriel Bacquier' demotic Leporello and Sylvia Sass's flamboyant Donna Elvira.
More than two centuries after its creation, the emotional pull of this supreme opera remains absolutely intact. Dmitri Tcherniakov duly revisits the myth and makes the seducer of Seville a ‘man without qualities’, a cipher whose words have a hypnotic power over women. His words will disrupt the proprieties ruling the Commandatore’s family. His words are also what makes Don Juan such a subversive figure and the embodiment of one of the most powerful modern European myths. Leading the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra is one of the best Mozart conductors, Louis Langrée. Bo Skovhus portrays a dispirited Don Giovanni, old playboy and anti-hero. Kyle Ketelsen is his servant Leporello, currently a shoe-in for this rôle. The superb female trio is composed of Marlis Petersen (Donna Anna), Kristine Opolais (Elvira) and Kerstin Avemo (Zerlina).
Nikolaus Harnoncourt is one of the few true stars among conductors worldwide. Performances like the New Year’s Concert of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra enable him to reach an audience of millions, displaying the characteristic passion and fiery intensity that identify him, first and foremost, as a true servant of his art. His first opera production dates from 1971, when he conducted Monteverdi‘s “Il ritorno d‘Ulisse in patria” at the Theater an der Wien, and soon after this he embarked on a fruitful cooperation with Jean-Pierre Ponnelle at the Zurich Opera. Harnoncourt has maintained his close connection with the Zurich Opera to this day. Arthaus Musik presents two of his legendary Zurich productions in this unique Opera Collection. Staged by the famous director Jürgen Flimm, with renowned stars of the opera scene as Cecilia Bartoli, Rodney Gilfry, Liliana Nikiteanu and Roberto Saccà, this recordings are true highlights of Maestro Harnoncourt‘s work.