MOZART: Don Giovanni
Carlos Álvarez (Don Giovanni); Franz-Josef Selig (Il Commendatore); Adrianne Pieczonka (Donna Anna); Michael Schade (Don Ottavio); Anna Caterina Antonacci (Donna Elvira); Ildebrando d'Arcangelo (Leporello); Angelika Kirchschager (Zerlina); Lorenzo Regazzo (Masetto); Vienna State Opera Chorus and Orch/Riccardo Muti, cond.
TDK DVD VIDEO DVW-OPDG TT: 173 min.
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MOZART: Le nozze di Figaro
Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (Conte di Almaviva); Kiri Te Kanawa (La Contessa); Mirella Freni (Susanna); Hermann Prey (Figaro); Maria Ewing (Cerubino); Heather Begg (Marcellina); Paolo Montarsolo (Bartolo); John Van Kesteren (Basilio); Vienna Philharmonic Orch/Karl Böhm, cond.
DEUTSCHE GRAMOPHON DVD VIDEO B0004354 (2 disks) TT: 181 min
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MOZART: Don Giovanni
Eugene Perry (Don Giovanni); Herbert Perry (Leporello); Dominique Labelle (Donna Anna); Lorraine Hunt (Donna Elvira); Carroll Freeman (Don Ottavio); Ai Lan Zhu (Zerlina);Elmore James (Masetto); James Patterson (Commendatore); Arnold-Schönberg-Chor; Vienna Symphony Orch/Craig Smith, cond.
DECCA DVD VIDEO B0004241 (2 disks) TT: 190 min.
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MOZART: Le nozze di Figaro
Sanford Sylvan (Figaro); Jeanne Ommerlé (Susanna); James Maddalena (Count Almaviva); Jayne West (Countess Almaviva); Susan Larson (Cherubino); Lynn Targove (Barbarina); Frank Kelley (Don Basilio); David Evitts (Don Bartolo); Sue Ellen Kuzma (Marcellina); Hermann Hildebrand (Antonio); William Cotton (Don Curzio); Arnold-Schönberg Chor; Vienna Symphony Orch/Craig Smith, cond.
DECCA DVD VIDEO B0004243 (2 disks) TT: 183 min.
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Two DVDs each of two of Mozart's masterpieces, all four beautifully filmed in color, but only two merit attention. The Karl Böhm Figaro is a film by Jean-Pierre Ponnelle, a performance recorded in Vienna's Sofiensal in December 1975, filmed in London's Shepperton Studios in June 1976. Ponelle did everything: staging, directing, sets and costume design, all effectively realistic and elaborate. The magnificent cast features some of the finest singers of the time and a master Mozart conductor in a work he recorded several times for disks. All of the singers are masters of lip-sync, and there's an intriguing effect during recitatives when one hears what is being said but performers obviously are thinking rather than speaking—this works well and is highly effective. I would have preferred fewer super-closeups of singers—does anyone really want to view that much detail? There are 67 cuing tracks withsubtitles in six languages. Sonically everything is in fine shape although the DTS 5.1surround sound admittedly was artifically produced.

Roberto de Simone staged Mozart's Da Ponte operas for the Vienna State Opera with Riccardo Muti conducting. This 1999 performance of Don Giovanni offers, in addition to direction by Simone, sets by Nicola Rubertelli, lighting by Kurt Schöny, costumes by Zaira de Vincentiis and choreography by Renato Zanella. This Don Giovanni travels through time beginning in the 16th century and continuing for two centuries. There are many costume changes (Giovanni has seven of them), and the cast, even though many of the names are relatively unfamiliar, is excellent. This performance was filmed in the more intimate Theatre an der Wien rather than the larger Vienna State Opera House. Brian Large directed the video production and does his usual fine job. There are 70 cuing tracks, subtitles in five languages, and the sound is well-balanced stereo, with no attempt at artificial 5.1 surround.

For the other DVDs we must endure Peter Sellars' direction and concept of Mozart's masterpieces. As stated in DVD notes, Don Giovanni "relocates Mozart's dramatic morality-tale to the dark streets of Harlem, deep with the turbulent world of late-twentieth-century America." Figaro "relocates Mozart's social comedy to the tinted-glass elegance of New York's Trump Tower, high above the turbulent world of late-twentieth-century America." Sets and costumes are appropriate for the director's concept, generally inappropriate. Perhaps it was difficult to find singers who would participate in productions like these, and quality of singing is variable. I will not view these again.

R.E.B. (August 2005)