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Mozart Don Giovanni & Die Schuldigkeit des ersten Gebots

Don Giovanni
Thomas Hampson (Don Giovanni)
Ildebrando D‘Arcangelo (Leporello)
Christine Schäfer (Donna Anna)
Melanie Diener (Donna Elvira)
Isabel Bayrakdarian (Zerlina)
Robert Lloyd (Il Commendatore)
Piotr Beczala (Don Ottavio)
Luca Pisaroni (Masetto)

Wiener Philharmoniker
Wiener Staatsopernchor
Daniel Harding Conductor
Martin Kusej Director

Die Schuldigkeit des ersten Gebots
Michiko Watanabe, Cordula Schuster, Christiane Karg, Bernhard Berchtold, Peter Sonn
Apollo et Hyacinthu
Maximilian Kiener,, Jekaterina Tretjakova, Anja Schlosser, Astrid Monika Hofer, Norbert Steidl
Orchestra of Universität Mozarteum/ Josef Wallnig

No question but that Salzburg's M 22 mounting of all Mozart's operas in 2006, and filming them all for DVD, was a collosal undertaking, now completed and available in a boxed set. Mostly they seem to have been entrusted to radical directors, and traditionalists should be warned. First impressions are that you may do better with those operas you don't know.

Something must be not quite right to find the ten year old composer exploring hell and damnation and becoming a clear winner over his older self in the major masterpiece dealing with sin and retribution. The settings for Don Giovanni are so anaemic that they overwhelm a decent cast which looks uncomfortable and unconvinced, with a lot of gratuitous and unerotic sexuality.

It is quite hard to listen whilst being confronted with visual pictures which undermine the drama and are often embarrassing as well as seeming inept. This version won't displace your favourites...

But The Obligation of the First Commandment is a joyous sermon, however much might be owed to Leopold? The double bill is given in a small University theatre, the sort of production we enjoy in London music colleges. Die Schuldigkeit is presented with captivating good humour and splendid working up of medieval iconography.

And here there is no invidious comparison to be made, and nothing to distract from the excellent all-round singing by a cast of names new to me, supported by a sympathetic team of designers (Heinz Balthes (staging) and Jose-Manuel Vazquez (costumes) directed with flair by John Dew.

It is coupled with the youngster's Apollo et Hyacinthu played in "virtually the original venue of Apollo et Hyacinthu" with a youthful and equally gifted cast Maximilian Kiener, Christiane Karg, Jekaterina Tretjakova, Anja Schlosser, Astrid Monika Hofer, Norbert Steidl (only Christiane Karg taking part in both).

See Karg as Worldliness in a video clip on Deutsche Grammophon/Decca's impressive and easy-to-navigate website (http://www.mozart22.com/), from which you can get real help in choosing which Salzburg 2006 DVDs to buy; e.g. we found the Cosi clip off-putting...

Peter Grahame Woolf

[Barbara Aumüller photos]