“If you're tired of and/or irritated by modern, psychological stagings of Don Giovanni, this traditional yet highly intelligent Cologne production will come as a blessed relief. In Michael Hampe's own dark-hued, spare and consistent sets, the drama moves swiftly to its appointed end, and the only disappointment is his failure to make Giovanni's descent into Hell at all threatening. Hampe is adept at giving his characters just enough to do without taking them beyond the bounds of the feasible in terms of acting while singing. In the title-role Allen probably needed no coaching at all, as by 1991 he was acknowledged as the leading Giovanni of his day, perhaps any day. He confirms that reputation here in an interpretation that blends in about equal measures magnetism, singleminded seductive purpose and cruelty. His murderous intents towards the Commendatore and Masetto, and his beating and threatening of Leporello all exhibit the idea of the Don as near-psychopath. Allen sings the role with total command of every nuance in aria, ensemble and recitative. It's a riveting performance, finely seconded by Furlanetto's Leporello, also alive to every aspect of his part's text and movement. Nobody else in the cast achieves quite that level of distinction, although Carol Vaness, hitherto an Anna, sings Elvira with spirit and acts convincingly within a given convention. Her warm, firm soprano is equal to all the demands Mozart places on it. Carolyn James is a properly distraught Anna and sings with some flair, but her largish voice hardens uncomfortably under pressure. The Ottavio is adequate, no more, as is true of the Masetto and Commendatore, but Rost's youthful, appealing Zerlina is worth watching and hearing, especially in her encounter with Giovanni, where she exactly evinces the girl's uncertain, vulnerable reactions. Conlon conducts a direct, unfussy reading at sensible speeds, very much in agreement with the action taking place above him, and his orchestra plays with grace and drive as required. The picture and sound are exemplary.”
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