• CD Review: Don Giovanni (1988, Harnoncourt)

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    Don Giovanni

    1988, Teldec

    (Thomas Hampson, László Polgár, Edita Gruberova, Hans Peter Blochwitz, Roberta Alexander, Barbara Bonney, Anton Scharinger, Robert Holl; The Netherlands Opera Chorus; Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra Amsterdam, cond. Nikolaus Harnoncourt)


    This starry yet somewhat under-the-radar Giovanni hasn’t appealed to all critics, but I like it. While he doesn’t offer a radical reinterpretation of Mozart’s music, Nikolaus Harnoncourt still makes the score very much his own, with controversial yet, in my opinion, effective results. Some of his tempos are speedy and urgent, others surprisingly slow and deliberate, yet all are clearly chosen for storytelling-enhancement. The orchestra surges with dramatic tension, yet never robs the score of its elegance. Aided by a cast of strong singing actors, Harnoncourt makes his Giovanni as theatrical an experience as a studio recording can be.


    Thomas Hampson was born to sing Don Giovanni. While his voice here is lighter and less rich than it would become later, it has the ideal blend of lushness and agility for a Mozart baritone, and he conveys suave elegance and fearsome hedonistic drive with equal ease. His Leporello, László Polgár, is more laid-back and less acerbic than most, but still effective, with a dark, resonant bass that contrasts nicely with Hampson’s lighter sound. (I only wish they made more effort to imitate each other in their Act II disguises!) Edita Gruberova is a lovely Donna Anna, vulnerable, impassioned, and blessed with a voice of ideal agility and sweetness, while the Ottavio of Hans Peter Blochwitz offers warmth and manly tenderness both in tone and in delivery. Roberta Alexander, meanwhile, is an appropriately angry, anguished Elvira, her darkly shaded timbre contrasting well with the lighter tones of Anna and Zerlina. Said lighter-toned Zerlina, Barbara Bonney, gives a beautifully feisty, crystalline performance, just as she does in Arnold Östman’s 1991 period-instrument Giovanni, and is well matched by Anton Scharinger’s fiery Masetto. Robert Holl’s Commendatore is less thunderous than others, but his lush, dark sound makes him an imposing vocal presence even in his understatement.


    While Harnoncourt’s slightly erratic reading of the score will probably always be controversial, I still recommend this Giovanni wholeheartedly, both to seasoned Mozart lovers and to newcomers. It won’t suit all tastes, but its array of talent and its theatrical verve are undeniable.


    Music Clip: La ci darem la mano

    • this don Giovanni, its a good one, today it still hve brightness things to show, certainly hampson its great, bravo for this one

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