The overwhelming success of the Prague performance of Le nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro) in December 1786, led to the commissioning of a new opera. Mozart and his librettist Lorenzo da Ponte turned to the Don Juan theme, making this promising material the basis for their new opera. In the spring of 1787 Mozart began to compose it in Vienna, and was able to complete it in Prague by the autumn of the same year. Don Giovanni received its first performance, under the composer’s personal direction, on 20 October 1787 at Prague’s Count Nostitz National Theatre. This production of Don Giovanni at the Zurich Opera House was staged by the highly creative team of conductor Nikolaus Harnoncourt, director Jürgen Flimm and set-designer Erich Wonder. Rodney Gilfry and Cecilia Bartoli lead a first-class group of singers.
This is the second fine Don Giovanni we have had within the past year. Like Gardiner (Archiv), Mackerras includes every note Mozart wrote for both the original Prague version and the Viennese revival. Moreover, it is easier than ever for listeners to ‘programme in’ their preferred version: all Prague die-hards have to do is to bypass Don Ottavio’s ‘Dalla sua pace’ in Act I – a beautiful aria, in all conscience, though it holds up the dramatic action at a crucial stage. By coaxing a modern orchestra into a real awareness of period style, Mackerras seems to have the best of both worlds: the playing has admirable liveliness and intensity, and there are none of the intonation problems that so often plague actual period instruments. Mackerras does use natural trumpets, and their rasping sound lends real bite, not least to the overture’s chilling opening chords. In his introductory essay Mackerras argues that Mozart’s Andantes in ‘cut-time’ (ie two beats to the bar) are often taken too slowly.
Sony’s Mozart cycle culminates with this tremendous production, one that witnesses Greek-Russian conductor Teodor Currentzis evoking fear, trembling, and desire from the great Don Giovanni. “Fin ch’han dal vino” is demonic, a fitting cherry on top of this controversial interpretation that forcefully demonstrates the extreme range of Mozart’s talent.
Solti conducted Don Giovanni in nine performances during the 1954 Glyndebourne season : on July 7, 9, 11, 14, 17, 21, 23, 25, 27. These performances of Don Giovanni were Georg Solti's only Glyndebourne appearances. This complete performance was broadcast live from the opera house on 17 July 1954. The source recording is part of the 'Itter Broadcast Collection' held by Lyrita Recorded Edition Trust.