Karl Böhm, Chor Der Wiener Staatsoper, Orchester Der Wiener Staatsoper, Mozart: Don Giovanni

Justin Davidson

By Justin Davidson

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

Mozart: Don Giovanni

Karl Böhm, Chor Der Wiener Staatsoper, Orchester Der Wiener Staatsoper
The best ghost story Mozart ever told.

Where would opera be without ghosts? The genre began with the story of Orpheus and the bride he must rescue from the dead, and Verdi's opera based on Macbeth gave the composer an opportunity to write his most morbid music. But no ghost plays such a central role as that of the Commendatore in Mozart's Don Giovanni. The soul in question belongs to the victim of Don Giovanni's sword — the father of a woman our louche hero has attempted to rape. The opera's veins of bleakness and comedy clash in the nocturnal cemetery scene when the philandering Don and his manservant Leporello come across a statue of the murdered man. Leporello quails, Don Giovanni scoffs and orders his long-suffering sidekick to invite the statue for dinner ("O statua gentilissma"). The thing nods, and arrives punctually for the finale ("Don Giovanni, a cenar teco"), a chilling episode of minor chords, implacable trombone and the stone avenger's brimstone basso.