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DON GIOVANNI (director/writer: Joseph Losey; screenwriters: Patricia Losey/Lorenzo da Ponte/Frantz Salieri/idea by Rolf Liebermann; cinematographer: Gerry Fisher; editors: Reginald Beck/Emma Menenti/Marie Castro Vasquez; music: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; cast: Ruggero Raimondi(Don Giovanni), John Macurdy (The Commander), Edda Moser (Donna Anna), Kiri Te Kanawa (Donna Elvira), Kenneth Riegel (Don Ottavio), Teresa Berganza(Zerlina), Jose Van Dam (Leporello), Malcolm King(Masetto); Runtime: 176; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Luciano De Feo/Robert Nador/Michel Seydoux; Columbia TriStar Home Video; 1979-Italy/France/West Germany-in Italian with English subtitles)

“A nearly great adaptation of Mozart’s greatest opera.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Director Joseph Losey (“Mr. Klein”/”The Sleeping Tiger”/”The Prowler”) filmsa nearly great adaptation of Mozart’s greatest opera, Don Giovanni, the infamous womanizer, whose story is based on the Don Juan legend. It was first performed in Italian by the Prague Italian opera at the Teatro di Praga on October 29, 1787.It’s faithful to the original Lorenzo Da Ponte libretto,but as written by Losey it sneaks in some Marxist polemics to the dismay of some opera purists. The idea for the screen version comes from Rolf Liebermann. Conductor Lorin Maazel handles the orchestra music; while the Paris Opera provides the voices, such as Ruggero Raimondi’s booming baritone voice to be the tragic-comical cad Don Giovanni. Other notable singers include the New Zealander Kiri Te Kanawa as Donna Elvira, the hysterical spurned woman who haunts Don Giovanni’s life; the soprano Edda Moser as Donna Anna, one of the rare women the Don can’t seduce; the tenor Kenneth Riegel as Donna Anna’s fiance Don Ottavio, who along with Anna vows revenge on the Don for slaying her father; and Jose Van Dam as the servant Leporello, the Don’s unfortunate paid accomplice.

Things become unsettling for Don Giovanni when the ghost of Donna Anna’s father, The Commander (John Macurdy), who was killed by the Don in a sword fight while protecting his daughter’s virtue during Act 1 starts appearing to him in visions as a statue. In Act 2, the Commander offers the rakish Don one last chance to repent for his improprieties and change his hedonist ways. When the Don refuses, The Commander’s spirits drag the Don down to hell and he pays dearly for his amorous adventures by finally being consumed by the furnace.

It was entertaining enough for this opera novice. The singers were all cast for their singing ability and not their acting ability, and all sounded great to someone like me who is not an authority on opera voices. The costumes, sets, stunning villas in Venice (changed location from the opera’s Spanish Seville) and Losey’s personal visions were welcome additions to the magnificent original music of the opera.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”