[Met Performance] CID:236960
Don Giovanni {317} Metropolitan Opera House: 03/28/1974.


Metropolitan Opera House
March 28, 1974
Benefit sponsored by the Metropolitan Opera Guild
for the production funds

Mozart-Da Ponte

Don Giovanni............Sherrill Milnes
Donna Anna..............Leontyne Price
Don Ottavio.............Stuart Burrows
Donna Elvira............Teresa Zylis-Gara
Leporello...............Walter Berry
Zerlina.................Teresa Stratas
Masetto.................Raymond Michalski
Commendatore............James Morris

Conductor...............James Levine

Director................Herbert Graf
Stage Director..........Patrick Tavernia
Designer................Eugene Berman
Choreographer...........Zachary Solov

Don Giovanni received nineteen performances this season.

Review of Harriett Johnson in the Post

Levine Leads Milnes in 'Giovanni'

The "Don Giovanni," which the Metropolitan Opera presented last night for the first time this season, was originally announced as a new production, later postponed for financial reasons. But as the Eugene Berman sets, new in October 1957, and thus almost 17 years old, are among the best the Metropolitan offers, probably nobody at the performance, a Metropolitan Opera Guild benefit for the production funds, felt cheated. As a matter of fact, one connoisseur suggested that eventually they be given landmark status. They deserve it. The two gracious lanterns, held up high at each side of the stage by arms outstretched, are a talisman of the rest. The sets evoke the mood of an elegant 17th century Seville, possibly inspired by Velasquez.

With Sherrill Milnes doing the title role for the first time anywhere and with James Levine conducting Mozart for the first time at the Met, there was much to anticipate. Milnes, young, tall and handsome, has a perfect physique for the nobleman who in his dissolute, defiant way piles exploit on exploit searching for a satisfaction he never finds. He owns a full-throated, vibrant baritone that is ideal for the role and he put both to good use. For a first "Don" it was a remarkable achievement pointing to a long future in the part. He was inclined to be a little static and heavy, especially in the beginning. His movements were sometimes awkward and he didn't always succeed in projecting his ideas as dynamically as he most likely will in the future. When Donna Elvira was telling him to keep away from Zerlina and she has an aria in which to say so, Milnes just stood. We were not made aware enough of his reactions.

Levine Very Musical

Levine's concept of the music was not literal or strict, but very musically sensitive. He believed that it should be given time to breathe and that the singers should get tempos that allowed the words to be understood and their voices shown to best advantage. Walter Berry was singing his first Met Leporello and he gave the part a wide-eyed country vigor that made one understand that, while he must deal with his master, he aspired to be something better. He played the part with a rueful air and carried off the scene in which he was disguised as the Don with an effective pseudo-sophistication. He made the most of his plumed hat.

Deliberate Tempo

Levine took a deliberate tempo in the "Madamina" aria. The humor came across and Berry got a big hand but he was in bad taste when he returned for a solo bow, not allowed at the Met except between scenes. Nobody else took such advantage. Levine's feeling for rhythm is so strong and electric he demands a firm base no matter how elastic the phrase. He understands the necessity for give and take within the context of constant propulsion forward. The performance missed something orchestrally in sheer excitement, but this will almost certainly come with repetitions.

Leontyne Price, in her first Donna Anna since her debut in 1961, was musically authoritative throughout, and she is a great audience favorite. Until Act II she was inclined to give too much voice. Finally when she arrived at the "Non mi dir" she really sang lyrical Mozart. The coloratura portions are fiendish to do as Mozart wrote them for a Donna Anna voice, but Levine took a deliberate tempo which made them credible. One wag said at the conclusion "In that section I miss Joan Sutherland or Beverly Sills."

Teresa Zylis-Gara is outstanding as Donna Elvira. Her voice is beautifully capable of meeting all the challenges, including the "Mi tradi" aria. Yet she does give the fragile femininity which characterizes this silly lady who loved the Don no matter
what. Teresa Stratas was a charming Zerlina and Raymond Michalski in his first Met Masetto had the gauche, rustic quality necessary. James Morris sang with fine quality as the Commendatore.

Stuart Burrows a Star

I have left a star until the last, Stuart Burrows as Don Ottavio. He must be the best around. He is eminently aristocratic, tall for a tenor, elegantly handsome, and has a virile, easy voice which is under the best control. He took the seven-bar phrase in "Il mio tesoro" in one breath without a trace of difficulty. As a stylist he is superb.

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