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ClassicsOnline Home » MOZART: Don Giovanni (Glyndebourne) (1936)
By Jim Svejda
The Record Shelf
"This famous recording enshrines one of the most vivid and life-like performances of Mozart's darkest and greatest opera. John Brownlee giving the performance of his life in the title role, the canny basso buffo Salvatore Baccaloni as that funniest of Leporellos, the fiery American Ina Souez as an unusually strong-willed Donna Anna and John Christie's wife, Audrey Mildmay, as a lovely (if slightly mature) Zerlina. Yet the real star of the show is Fritz Busch, a refugee from Hitler's Germany. There are many who consider him the finest Mozart conductor of the period, a man whose interpretations combined the wit and brilliance of Sir Thomas Beecham's with the warmth and humanity of Bruno Walter's...This is one of the greatest ensemble recordings. If even in the meticulous remastering by Ward Martson the record sound has long since been surpassed, the performance probably never will be. As a bonus, the third CD includes a series of Golden Age recordings of excerpts from the opera sung by such paragons as Feodor Chaliapin, Elisabeth Rethberg, Ezio Pinza and Elisabeth Schumann, making an already invaluable release absolutely irresistible.
Amadeus Mozart (1756 -1791): Don Giovanni
Christie had the opera-house built on his country estate a! Glyndebourne in
1934, he had intended to start the first of his summer two-week opera seasons
with Mozart's Don Giovanni or with an ambitious Wagner series, leading
to a full Ring cycle. His wife, the soprano Audrey Mildmay, persuaded
him, however, that other works might better suit the start of the venture in a
house of this size, with an auditorium that seated 331. In the event the first
Glyndebourne season, in 1934, offered two other Mozart operas, Le nozze di
Figaro and Cosi fan tutte. The timing of the whole scheme was
opportune. Events in Germany, with Hitler's accession to power in the
previous year, meant that a number of distinguished directors and musicians were
available. Carl Ebert, who had trained as an actor under Max Reinhardt and
turned to direction at the Landestheater in Darmstadt, before his appointment
to the Stadtische Oper in Berlin in 1931, had been compelled to move in 1933 to
direct the Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires and was available to take charge of the
Glyndebourne Mozart productions, for which the house became so well known. With
him came the conductor Fritz Busch, music director of the Dresden Staatsoper since
1922, a man who had enjoyed congenial collaboration with Ebert at Salzburg in
1932 with Mozart's Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail and at the Berlin Stadtische
Oper in Verdi. Dismissed for his overt opposition to the National Socialists,
he too had moved to Buenos
Aires and it was on his
insistence that he should bring Ebert with him that he accepted the responsibility
for music at Glyndebourne, continuing together with him for the seasons from
1934 unti11939. Rudolf Bing, who had served as assistant to Ebert in Darmstadt
and for three years as assistant to the Intendant of the Charlottenburg Opera
in Berlin, joined Ebert and Busch in 1936 as general manager at Glyndebourne.
in the whole enterprise was the soprano Audrey Mildmay. She had studied in
London and Vienna and after tours of Canada and the United States had returned
in 1928 to join the Carl Rosa Company, for which she sang the roles of Gretel, Micaela,
Olympia and Nedda, among others, as well as that of Zerlina, which she repeated
in the 1936 Glyndebourne production of Don Giovanni. Her Masetto was the
Scottish baritone Roy Henderson, who had taken the part of the Count in the
opening Glyndebourne production of 1934. 1936 brought the Glyndebourne debut of
the Hungarian tenor Koloman von Pataky, otherwise known as Kalman Pataky, who had
acquired his skill in Mozart interpretation during his years at the Vienna
Staatsoper, where he appeared until the Anschluss. He was distinguished, in
particular, for his Mozart roles, Tamino, Belmonte and, as in the 1936
Glyndebourne season, Don Ottavio. The American soprano Ina Souez, who had sung
Liu to Eva Turner's icy Turandot at Covent Garden in 1929 and appeared as
Fiordiligi in the first Glyndebourne season, returned in 1936 as a very successful
Donna Anna. Luise Helletsgruber, a stalwart of the Vienna Staatsoper since her
debut in 1922, had taken part in the first Glyndebourne season as Cherubino and
Dorabella, and now took the part of Donna Elvira. David Franklin made his
operatic debut as the Commendatore, the start of a notable career, and
Leporello brought to the house the comic dramatic talents and fine voice of the
Italian bass Salvatore Baccaloni, who, at La Scala, had followed Toscanini's
advice in specialising in buffo roles. The leading role of the Don
himself was sung by the Australian baritone John Brownlee, who had made his
first appearance in London in 1926 when he sang Marcello in the last two acts
of La Boheme in Melba's farewell concert, He had since then made a name
for himself in Paris and had returned to Covent Garden in 1930 as Golaud in
Debussy's Pelleas et Melisande and in a series of major Verdi roles. He
had taken part in the 1935 season at Glyndebourne as Don Alfonso but in 1937
began a long and fruitful association with the New York Metropolitan Opera,
which continued until 1958.
1934 was the start of a remarkable venture. Mercifully deflected from his
original Wagnerian intentions by the common sense and experience of his wife,
John Christie was willing to finance a most unusual enterprise, which allowed performers
full rehearsal time as guests at his house and resulted, under the guidance of
Fritz Busch, in setting a rare standard of Mozart performance. By 1939, when the
seasons were interrupted by the war, Busch had established a repertoire of
Mozart operas that, in eventual revival after the war, were to remain at the
core of Glyndebourne productions.
release includes a collection of arias from the opera by some of the greatest
singers of the century. The Russian bass Chaliapin is heard in Leporello's Catalogue
Aria, and Richard Tauber in the two arias for Don Ottavio. Other excerpts
from the opera are sung by Frida Leider, Ezio Pinza, Elisabeth Schumann,
Elisabeth Rethberg, Rosa Raisa and Giacomo Rimini in recordings made between
1928 and 1939.
punito ossia Don Giovanni
In Vienna during the last ten years of his life Mozart was at
last able to rum his fuller attention to the composition of opera, a form for
which his native Salzburg had offered less opportunity. In 1786 he
had won success with Le nozze di Figaro, a collaboration with the
Italian librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte. In Prague the acclaim for the opera had been even greater and Mozart and Da Ponte
had been commissioned to provide a new opera for the following winter season.
Da Ponte found himself busy with three libretti at the same time, working, as
he alleged, at night for Mozart, in the morning for Martini and in the
afternoon for the court composer Salieri. Whatever the truth of this, he had an
earlier model on which to base Don Giovanni, a recent treatment of the
subject that had been staged in Venice, and the
story of Don Giovanni and the Stone Guest was, in any case, well known, from
the play on the subject by Tirso de Molina in the early seventeenth century onwards.
In Prague in October Mozart had allowed ten days
for rehearsals of the opera. Not surprisingly this proved far too optimistic
and the work was finally staged in Prague two weeks
later, on 29th October 1787, too late for the celebration of the
marriage of Archduchess Maria Theresia and Prince Clemens of Saxony for which the commission had been intended. Don
Giovanni, however, won immediate success in Prague and a performance was commanded in Vienna for the following May. Here opinions were divided, with some, including
the Emperor in one recorded comment, judging the music unsuitable for the
voices or too difficult to sing. Da Ponte reported a more considered opinion.
The Emperor had told him that he had found the work particularly fine but not
perhaps to the taste of the Viennese, while Mozart himself had been content to
allow time to do its work and history to give the final verdict on a work of
the value of which he had no doubt.
 The Overture, in an ominous D minor,
suggests something of the ghostly conclusion of the opera in its introductory
bars, a mood soon dispelled with the start of the D major Allegro.
 It is night. In a garden in Seville Don
Giovanni's servant Leporello is walking up and down in front of the house of
Donna Anna He complains of his life, with too little food and sleep and too
much work, when he would like to be a gentleman, not keeping guard while his master
enjoys an assignation. Voices are heard and he hides
 Donna Anna comes out, holding Don
Giovanni by the arm, while he tries to hide himself. She will not release him,
while he refuses to let her see who he is and does his best to stop her cries,
as Leporello comments on the scene.
 As her father comes out, Donna Anna
releases Don Giovanni and runs into the house. The Commendatore challenges the
Don, who refuses at first to fight him, but gives way. They fight and the old
man falls, mortally wounded and calling for help.
 Don Giovanni calls for Leporello, who
asks him who is dead, Don Giovanni or the old man, and when he understands what
has happened congratulates his master on seducing the daughter and killing the
father. Don Giovanni threatens to beat him and Leporello is silent, as they go
 Lights in the house are lit and Donna
Anna, Don Ottavio and servants come out, ready to help the
Ottavio with sword drawn. Donna Anna sees her father's body and is horrified,
lamenting his death, while Don Ottavio tries to console her.
 Donna Anna expresses her despair, while
Don Ottavio, her lover, offers what comfort he can. They both swear revenge on
the unknown murderer.
 Don Giovanni and Leporello are in a nearby
street and the latter has something to say, if only Don Giovanni will not be
angry with him. Don Giovanni promises to keep his temper, but is furious when
in his ear that his master is leading the life of a rogue. Calming down again,
he tells his servant that he has another conquest to pursue, a woman he has
met, and now he senses the scent of a woman, and they withdraw a little.
 Donna Elvira, who has been jilted,
complains of her treatment, as she seeks her former lover. Don Giovanni comments,
aside, on her plight and suggests bringing her some consolation, a plan that
draws a cynical response from Leporello.
 Eventually Don Giovanni steps forward and
he and Donna Elvira recognise each other; he is the one who has deceived her,
and she upbraids him, while he seeks to calm her and leaves Leporello to
explain what has happened, as he makes his escape.
 Leporello, in his catalogue aria, lists
Don Giovanni's many conquests, 640 women in Italy, 231 in Germany, a hundred in France, 91 in Turkey and in Spain now 1003, women of all classes, ages and degrees of beauty. Donna
Elvira vows revenge, furious at this revelation of infidelity.
 In the country villagers have gathered to
celebrate the marriage of Zerlina and Masetto. Zerlina points out that youth is
the time for love and Masetto that marriage is the answer.
 They are joined by Don Giovanni and
Leporello. Don Giovanni offers Zerlina and Masetto his friendly protection and
invites the gathering to his castle, telling Leporello to keep Masetto
occupied, while he looks after Zerlina. He threatens Masetto, who has doubts about
 Masetto, in an aria, declares that he has
understood what is going on, thanking Don Giovanni and, in an aside, rebuking
Zerlina for her ready compliance with the latter's wishes Leporello, meanwhile,
tries to carry out his master's orders, eventually succeeding in leading
 Don Giovanni, alone with Zerlina, tells
her that she is wasted on Masetto and is made for something better he offers to
 Don Giovanni takes Zerlina's hand, to
lead her into the castle, but she suspects that he is not serious and, in any
case, is attached to Masetto. Eventually they make to go off together, arm in
 Don Giovanni's intended seduction of
Zerlina is interrupted by the angry appearance of Donna Elvira, full of
reproaches for her former lover and ready to rescue Zerlina. Don Giovanni
pretends that Donna Elvira is out of her wits, through love for him, and that he
must pretend to respond, in order to humour her.
 Donna Elvira urges Zerlina to learn from
her example and escape from Don Giovanni's deceits while she can, She leads
Zerlina off with her.
 Alone, Don Giovanni laments his bad luck,
He is joined by Don Ottavio and Donna Anna, still unaware of his part in her
seduction and the death of her father. They seek his help, which he promises,
but are interrupted by the return of Donna Elvira.
 Donna Elvira warns Don Ottavio and Donna
Anna against Don Giovanni. He explains to them that the woman is mad, after
disappointment in love. Donna Elvira continues to inveigh against Don Giovanni,
and he urges the other two to leave them alone, so that he can pacify her.
Donna Elvira, however, seems to be about to convince them of her sanity.
Finally he succeeds in persuading her to go.
 In pretended pity for the poor woman, he
leaves Don Ottavio and Donna Anna, and goes after her.
 Donna Anna at last realises that Don
Giovanni is the man who killed her father, recognising his final words. She
explains how she had mistaken the intruder into her room for Don Ottavio and
eventually called out for help, when she realised her mistake, repelling the
man. Her father had come to her help, but had been killed.
 Now Donna Anna has recognised his voice
and knows the identity of the man who made an attempt on her honour and killed
her father and begs Don Ottavio to seek revenge.
 Don Ottavio, alone, finds it difficult to
believe that any gentleman would have behaved in this way, but resolves to find
out the truth and avenge his mistress and her father.
 In a new aria, written for the Vienna performance, Don Ottavio sings of his love for Donna
Anna and how his peace of mind depends on hers.
 As he leaves, Leporello and Don Giovanni
return, the former explaining how he has provided entertainment for the
villagers and for Masetto in the castle, unfortunately to be interrupted by
Donna Elvira, whom he finally succeeded in shutting out of the castle.
 Don Giovanni plans a wild patty for all
the girls Leporello can find. With dancing and drinking he will add another ten
conquests to his list before morning.
 In the garden Zerlina tries to convince
Masetto that Don Giovanni has not touched even the tips of her fingers.
 He can beat her, if he must, she
suggests, and she will kiss his hands, as she urges a truce between them.
 Masetto admires Zerlina's witchcraft in
making peace with him. The voice of Don Giovanni is heard, giving orders for
the entertainment he has planned, and Zerlina urges Masetto away, arousing his
suspicions once again.
 Masetto must escape before Don Giovanni
finds him, urged on by Zerlina. He hides, planning to test her fidelity, as Don
Giovanni enters, accompanied by four liveried servants, to whom he gives orders
for the entertainment.
 Zerlina tries to hide, but is caught by
Don Giovanni, from whom she tries to break away. He discovers Masetto's
presence. At this moment the sound of dance music is heard, and all three leave
to join the party.
 Don Ottavio, Donna Anna and Donna Elvira
enter, masked, Donna Elvira urging courage, as they seek to uncover the
villain, echoed by Don Ottavio, while Donna Anna expresses her fears. Leporello
opens the window and draws Don Giovanni's attention to the approaching guests,
now invited to join the entertainment.
 The three masked guests express their
feelings, as they look for revenge, calling for the protection of heaven in
 In the splendid ballroom Don Giovanni and
Leporello offer the villagers entertainment, dancing and refreshments, coffee,
chocolate, sorbets and sweetmeats. Zerlina and Masetto foresee trouble, with justification,
as Don Giovanni approaches her.
 Don Ottavio and his two companions, still
masked, are ushered into the ballroom, offering polite greetings to Don
Giovanni, who proposes a toast to freedom. The dancing resumes, Don Ottavio in
a minuet with Donna Anna, Don Giovanni a contredanse with Zerlina and Masetto
forced into dancing by Leporello. Don Giovanni leads Zerlina away, followed by
Masetto, who breaks away from Leporello. The voice of Zerlina is heard, calling
for help, with the shouts of Masetto, while the three masked guests try to come
to her aid.
 Eventually Don Giovanni returns, sword in
hand, dragging in the alleged culprit Leporello, whom he pretends to strike.
Don Ottavio and his companions unmask, accusing Don Giovanni.
 Together with Masetto, they call on him
to tremble before their revelations of his cruelty and wickedness. At first at
a loss, Don Giovanni finally takes courage.
 In a street Don Giovanni and Leporello
are arguing, as the latter seeks to leave his master's service, but is told to
stop his nonsense.
 In the end Leporello's worries are put to
rest for the moment by money and he is ready to obey his master, if he will
leave off women, a commodity that Don Giovanni protests to be as necessary to
him as food or the air he breathes. He has a new plan, and changes clothes with
Leporello, in order to woo Donna Elvira's maid.
 Evening draws in as they approach the
house of Donna Elvira, who is seen at her window, trying to suppress her
feelings for Don Giovanni. He pushes Leporello forward and addresses her, while
Leporello makes suitable gestures. She is induced to come down to meet her
lover, to the amusement of Leporello.
 Don Giovanni tells Leporello to embrace
Donna Elvira, as soon as she comes, pretending to be him, ensuring obedience by
threatening him with a pistol. Donna Elvira is embraced by Leporello, who
carries on the pretence, until Don Giovanni leaps out on them, brandishing his
sword. At this Leporello and Donna Elvira take flight.
 Don Giovanni begins to serenade Donna
Elvira's maid, accompanying himself on the mandolin.
 He is interrupted by Masetto, armed with
an arquebus and a pistol and followed by fellow-villagers. Masetto challenges
the figure he makes out in the darkness and Don Giovanni answers in the voice
of Leporello. Masetto is looking for Don Giovanni, who, in his assumed role,
offers to help him.
 Don Giovanni sends one group off to the
right, the other to the left, telling them to strike out, if they see a man and
woman together, adding a description of the man, Leporello in the guise of Don
Giovanni himself, who cannot be far off. The other villagers go, followed finally
by Don Giovanni, together with Masetto.
 In a moment the two return, Don Giovanni
leading Masetto by the hand. Masetto hands his weapons over to Don Giovanni,
who seizes the moment and beats the man with the flat of his sword, the latter
crying out for help, as Don Giovanni runs off. Masetto is joined by Zerlina and
complains that he has been beaten by Leporello, as she tends his bruises.
 Zerlina tells Masetto that she has the
best cure for him, as she makes him feel her heart beating.
 Leporello has led Donna Elvira to a dark
courtyard, that of Donna Anna's house, being careful to stay in the shadows,
and wondering how he can rid himself of her.
 Donna Elvira is afraid to be left alone
by her supposed lover, who looks for a door through which to make his escape.
Don Ottavio and Donna Anna come out, he bidding her calm herself, for her
father's sake, while she sees her only remedy in death. Donna Elvira calls out
for her beloved and, seeing the door, is about to go out, when she is met by
Masetto and Zerlina. They see Leporello and Donna Elvira calls for mercy for
her betrothed, whom Don Ottavio is about to kill. Leporello kneels, asking for
pardon, and revealing himself, to general amazement.
 Don Giovanni's pursuers express their
wonder at these events, while Leporello seeks for a way out of his predicament.
 Zerlina accuses Leporello of having
assaulted Masetto. Donna Elvira accuses him of having deceived her and Don
Ottavio of trickery in his present disguise.
 Leporello is left begging for mercy, an
innocent corrupted by his master, turning to Donna Elvira, then to Zerlina,
about whose Masetto he knows nothing, and then to Don Ottavio, as he edges
towards the doorway, to make his escape.
 It is left to Don Ottavio to suggest
that, since Don Giovanni is clearly guilty of the murder of Donna Anna's
father, they go into the house for a while.
 He asks them to comfort Donna Anna, while
he lays a complaint against the murderer.
 In a recitative and aria from the Vienna version of the opera Donna Elvira foresees a fatal
outcome, whatever her feelings.
 Don Giovanni has betrayed her and left her
to her own unhappiness.
 In a graveyard, with equestrian and other
monuments all around, including the statue of the Commendatore, Don Giovanni
glories in the darkness, apt for his pursuit of girls. He sees that it is
barely two o'clock and wonders how Leporello has fared with
Donna Elvira. He hears him corning and calls out to him. Leporello explains the
events of the night and how he was beaten in his master's place. Don Giovanni
tells Leporello how, disguised as him, he had met a girl and profited from the
mistaken identity in his servant's place. They are interrupted by a solemn
voice, declaring that before dawn Don Giovanni will finish with laughter.
Leporello is terrified, fearing a voice from another world, while Don Giovanni
draws his sword, striking at the grave monuments and looking for the speaker.
The voice is heard again, bidding Don Giovanni leave the dead in peace. Don
Giovanni imagines a trick and, looking round, sees the statue of the Commendatore.
Leporello is forced to read the inscription on the tomb, threatening revenge on
the killer of the Commendatore, and Don Giovanni forces his servant to invite
the statue to dinner.
 Leporello's invitation is given in the
most courteous and fearful terms, urged on, the while, by Don Giovanni. To
Leporello's terror the statue nods his acceptance, and, pressed for an answer,
 In a gloomy room Don Ottavio tries to
console Donna Anna with the idea of approaching punishment for Don Giovanni,
hoping to persuade her to marry him without further delay,
She begs him not to think her cruel.
 How can she be cruel to him, when she
loves him so much? Perhaps one day heaven will have pity on her, and now Don
Ottavio shares her suffering.
 In Don Giovanni's castle a dinner has
been prepared and musicians employed. Don Giovanni orders the musicians to
play, ready to spend his money for his own enjoyment Leporello is in unwilling
attendance, as his master starts to eat, and the musicians play. He wonders at
Don Giovanni's appetite, as he serves the dishes and pours the wine and
surreptitiously takes what he can for himself. Don Giovanni sees what is
happening and makes fun of his servant, asking him to whistle, when his mouth
 Donna Elvira bursts in, to make final
proof of her love. Don Giovanni stands, she kneels and he kneels too, seeming
to mock her. She begs him to change his ways, as he sits down and starts eating
again He drinks to women and to good wine, and she gives up, leaving him to his
 She goes out, but then screams and rushes
back again, before making her escape from the other side of the room. Don
Giovanni tells Leporello to go and see what the matter is, and he too screams
in horror at what he sees, before running back in again. In fear and trembling
he tells Don Giovanni not to go out there, for outside is a man of stone, white
and terrible. There is a solemn knock at the door and Don Giovanni tells his servant
to open it, which he is too afraid to do. Don Giovanni stands up and takes a
light, going to open the door himself, while Leporello hides under the table.
 Standing at the door is the stone statue
of the Commendatore, come to dine with Don Giovanni, who orders Leporello to
set another place The reason for the presence of the stone guest, however, is
not to eat but to invite Don Giovanni in turn to dine with him The latter accepts
the invitation and the statue seizes and holds his hand, as he cries out and
tries to break away, refusing to repent of his sins, in spite of the urging of
the ghostly statue and of Leporello.
 The statue disappears and flames are
seen, as the earth shakes and voices from below threaten damnation. Don
Giovanni is already racked by the tortures of hell, as he is drawn into the
 When all is over, Donna Anna, Donna
Elvira, Don Ottavio, Zerlina and Masetto enter the room, seeking Don Giovanni.
Leporello emerges to tell them what has happened.
 Now that heaven has brought revenge, Don
Ottavio induces Donna Anna to promise marriage after a year. Donna Elvira will
withdraw from the world for the rest of her life, while Masetto and Zerlina
will go home and have their dinner together.
 Leporello resolves to find a better
master, with the others consigning Don Giovanni to the gods of the underworld.
 They all join in the final moral. This is
the end of the evil-doer; as a man lives, so shall he die.
Last Albums Viewed
MOZART: Don Giovanni (Glyndebourne) (1936)