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John Terauds
Toronto Star, November 2006

Mozart's Don Giovanni, the rake who leaves a trail of broken-hearted mistresses, cuckolded husbands (and the occasional dead body), gets his just desserts when he is dragged to Hell by the Commendatore.

The character and his music break the rules so enchantingly that it has been one of the Top 5 most-performed operas for much of the last century.

Such popularity tempts directors to try something fresh. Here, in a 2005 production from Madrid's Teatro Real, director Lluis Pasqual transposes the story into the early years of Francisco Franco's brutal dictatorship in Spain. It's remarkably effective, building to a black-and-white newsreel finale with a neat twist as the curtain descends.

The cast is nicely balanced — ideal for Mozart's ensemble approach to the singing. The star is Spanish baritone Carlos Álvarez, whose smooth voice and aging-Lothario looks and swagger are utterly convincing. Lorenzo Ragazzo's Leporello (turned into the Don's ever-ready chauffeur) is also a treat.

This production won't rock your world, but it's a fine choice for a non-traditional approach.

In an interview featurette, Pascal describes the director's job as being "about seven centimetres." By this he means that he must avoid creating any discrepancies between what the eyes see and the ears hear. Mission accomplished.

There are short interview featurettes with Álvarez and conductor Victor Pablo Pérez on this two-DVD set. The audio quality is excellent.

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