Great moments in opera: Don Giovanni

October 26, 2010

It is time for Don Giovanni.  Let’s jump right to a couple of highlights.

Leporello tells us that the Don’s powers of seduction conquer all resistance, and the lovely duet La ci darem la mano confirms it.  This has got to be one of the downright prettiest things Mozart wrote.  Note how the Don introduces the main tune, which Zerlina (on whom his roving eye has lit for the time being) takes up in her turn, but hesitatingly (“Vorrei, e non vorrei”).  But just a few minutes later they are singing in unison, “making beautiful music together”, as the saying goes.  It’s a nice musical illustration of the dramatic development. Anyway, here is Samuel Ramey and Dawn Upshaw in a production from 1990, with English subtitles.  (The duet begins at 2:00.)

My other favourite moment in this opera is the finale of Act II, in which the statue of the Commendatore, whom Don Giovanni has slain in the opening scene of Act I, appears as a supernatural dinner guest at the Don’s party, ready to avenge his death.  The Commendatore’s part, though small, is simply magnificent when sung by a bass with sufficient power.  Here is a 2001 performance from Zurich, senza subtitles.  Don Giovanni is sung by Rodney Gilfry, Leporello by László Polgár, and the all-important Commendatore by the Wagnerian bass Matti Salminen.  This is just great:

Damn you, Don Giovanni!

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