Friday, 14 August 2009

Don Giovanni

1979 - Dir.: Joseph Losey
Shown at The FeckenOdeon on January 30th, 2005

Veteran director Joseph Losey realised a lifelong ambition with this project - he'd been dissatisfied with the Hollywood projects that came his way in the 70s so the chance to direct Mozart's greatest opera was grabbed with enormous enthusiasm. Losey's film is rightly regarded to be one of the finest opera films ever made. It's rarely shown - this screening is the only one planned in the UK during 2005.
CAST in order of singing
Jose Van Dam
Donna Anna Edda Moser
Don Giovanni Ruggero Raimondi
The Comendatore John Macurdy
Don Otavio Kenneth Riegel
Donna Elvira Kiri Te Kanawa
Zerlina Teresa Berganza
Masetto Malcolm King

The Orchestra and Chorus of The Paris Opera
Conducted by Lorin Maazel
Sung in Italian with English Subtitles
ACT 1: After one of Mozart's most powerful overtures, the action begins in a square outside the palace of the Commendatore, the aging local commander of forces. It is night, and Leporello is grumbling about his duties as servant to Don Giovanni, a dissolute nobleman. Soon the masked Don appears, pursued by Donna Anna, the Commendatore's daughter, whom he has tried to seduce. When the Commendatore himself answers Anna's cries, he is killed in a duel by Giovanni, who escapes. Anna now returns with her fiance, Don Ottavio. Finding her father dead, she makes Ottavio swear vengeance on the assassin.
At dawn, Giovanni unwittingly flirts with Donna Elvira, a woman he once raped. Realising his mistake he escapes while Leporello distracts Elvira by reciting his master's long catalog of conquests. Peasants arrive, celebrating the nuptials of their friends Zerlina and Masetto; when Giovanni joins in, he pursues the bride, angering the groom. Alone with Zerlina, the Don applies his charm, but Elvira interrupts and protectively whisks the girl away. Outside the palace, Zerlina begs Masetto to forgive her apparent infidelity, Masetto hides when the Don appears, emerging from the shadows as Giovanni comers Zerlina. Elvira, Anna and Ottavio arrive disguised in costume and masks and are invited to the feast by Leporello. During the festivities, Leporello entices Masetto into the dance as Giovanni draws Zerlina out of the room. When the girl's cries for help put him on the spot, Giovanni tries to blame Leporello. But no one is convinced; at the end of the Act Elvira, Anna and Ottavio unmask and confront Giovanni.
Act 2: Under Elvira's balcony, Leporello exchanges cloaks with Giovanni to woo the lady in his master's stead. Leporello leads Elvira off, leaving the Don free to serenade Elvira's maid. When Masetto passes with a band of armed peasants bent on punishing Giovanni, the disguised rake gives them false directions, then beats up Masetto. In a passageway, Elvira and Leporello are surprised by Anna, Ottavio, Zerlina and Masetto, who, mistaking s,trrvant for master, threaten Leporello. He reveals his identity and escapes. When Anna departs, Ottavio affirms his confidence in their love.
Leporello catches up with his master in a cemetery, where a voice warns Giovanni of his doom. This is the statue of the Commendatore, which the Don proposes Leporello invite to dinner. In her home, Anna, still in mourning puts off Ottavio's offer of marriage until her father is avenged. Leporello is serving Giovanni's dinner when Elvira rushes in, begging the Don, whom she still loves, to reform. But he waves her out contemptuously. At the door, her screams announce the arrival of the Gommendatore's statue. Giovanni boldly refuses warnings to repent, even in the face of death. Flames engulf his house, and the sinner is dragged to hell. The mood changes, and the survivors join in a sextet in which they plan their future and recite themoral: such is the fate of a wrongdoer.

AN APOLOGY: Mozart's genius has endured for hundreds of years. We only wish that film was as future proof! Unfortunately this, the only available print of "Don Giovanni", has not passed the test of time and has faded badly. The fires of Hell are not so much flaming red as flickering pink and everthing else is turning sepia. We do hope your enjoyment of the drama and, above all, the music is not completely spoiled by this sad deterioration.

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