Unnecessary Don Giovanni From Paris

Review by: Robert Levine

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Artistic Quality: 6

Sound Quality: 8

I can’t imagine anyone racing out to hear this performance, particularly not with at least a dozen better ones already available. It was recorded live in December, 2016 at the Théatre des Champs Elysées and it is note-complete, including the Zerlina/Leporello duet. Its attitude is decidedly more “dramma” than “giocoso”, and one might even accuse it of being somewhat dour; the fact that Le Cercle de L’Harmonie plays on period instruments helps the performance from being too weighed down. Tempos lean toward slow, but conductor Jérémie Rhorer, aiming for the slow dramatic build, does create tension in the ensembles and finales. We are left with an elegant reading, delightfully free of, say, Teodor Currentzis’ berserk-if-entertaining flights of scholarship/whimsy, but it’s also not really memorable.

And aside from the two central male roles, there is little singing here that you will want to return to. Jean-Sébastien Bou is a fine Don Giovanni–energetic, practically dripping nervous energy, with a good way of insinuating himself into other characters’ parts in ensembles, often with a wise and drastic change in dynamics. And his voice is a handsome instrument. Robert Gleadow’s Leporello is rough around the edges and his pitch slips occasionally, but he also is full of life and inhabits the role. Steven Humes’ Commendatore is dynamic but not quite loud enough–I’m always in favor of some sort of megaphone effect; imagine what the Supper Scene might have been!

With a listen to the leading women, we zoom downhill: Myrto Papatanasiu has severe pitch issues and sounds clumsy in Anna’s music. She drags out the recit before “Or sai chi l’onore” until you lose your train of thought, but the aria itself has enough fire. Elsewhere she’s four-square and she sounds relieved to get to the end of “Non mi dir”. Julie Boulianne is a mezzo Donna Elvira, and that invariably leads to a bit of strain above the staff, as it does here. But it is her lack of characterization of Elvira that surprises–all a fine singer has to do is interrupt often enough and bite through the text, and Boulianne draws a blank. “Mi tradi” is amazingly dull. Julien Behr is a faceless Ottavio who sings really well, long breaths and all. The peasant couple is excellent: Marc Scoffen’s Masetto is painted in bright colors–he seethes; and Anne Grevilius’ Zerlina is terrific.

The sound is excellent. Stick to the old Giulini (Angel), the Jacobs (Harmonia Mundi), or the newish and quite wonderful Nézet-Séguin (DG).



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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Giulini (Angel); Jacobs (Harmonia Mundi); Nezet-Seguin (DG)

  • Jean-Sébastien Bou, Robert Gleadow, Marc Scoffen, Steven Humes (bass-baritone); Myrto Papatanasiu, Julie Boulianne, Anna Grevelius (soprano); Julien Behr (tenor)
  • Le Cercle de L'Harmonie, Jérémie Rhorer


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