The most stylish, elegant Don Giovanni you will ever see... a filmed performance
It is many years since I first saw this as a film in a theatre and my memories of it were such that I was almost scared to play it again on DVD lest it not live up to the memory. I needn't have worried - the intervening years and seeing several wonderful live productions have taken none of the lustre off this very special offering.
Almost unashamedly filmed as a live performance on a set that allows the action to move easily through the many scene changes effectively, the camera moves from panoramic into close but never closeup. The result is totally satisfying and one can only wonder why other opera films since have not followed this principle because it delivers a perspective that entirely stands on its own (and minimises anomalies).
In the title role, Cesare Siepi is mesmerising. Recognised as one of the greatest Don's ever, one can easily see why. Vocally completely in charge of the role he moves with such incredible grace it is hard to take one's eyes off him. The gestures and facial expressions seem to capture every nuance, giving "the supreme cad" a certain "charm" one seldom sees in lesser performances.
Elisabeth Grummer as Donna Anna & Erna Berger as Zerlina are two ladies whose careers were regrettably, negatively impacted by WW2. Both were performers of great distinction and it is a joy to see how competent they really were. Ms Berger was over 50 at the time this was filmed but the sensible camera placing combined with her coquettish (not overdone) approach to the role overcomes the obvious and easily allows the suspension of belief so often necessary in opera.
Lisa Della Casa as Donna Elvira is another performer of yesteryear whose performances have become somewhat legend (and too few recordings). Known for her beauty as much as her voice- it is great to have her permanent record of a Donna Elvira that is more studied and less frantic than many. Walter Berry is a competent Masetto and Anton Dermota as Don Ottavio, delivers a darker richer toned sound that is always totally secure.
Otto Edelmann as Leporello is a delight bringing great character to the role despite some minor pitch problems during his opening aria, "Notte e Giorno faticar". Once past that, he doesn't put a foot wrong.
All in all, I believe that this is a production that has a magic all of its own and it deserves a place in any opera lover's collection. Many people say it is one of the top 5 opera DVD's of all time- I can't disagree.