ⓘ Don Giovanni (1979 film)


ⓘ Don Giovanni (1979 film)

Don Giovanni is a 1979 French-Italian film directed by Joseph Losey. It is an adaptation of Mozarts classic opera Don Giovanni, based on the Don Juan legend of a seducer, destroyed by his excesses. The opera itself has been called one of Mozarts "trio of masterpieces". The film stars Ruggero Raimondi in the title role, and the conductor is Lorin Maazel.


1. Plot

After an unsuccessful attempt to seduce Donna Anna soprano Edda Moser, Don Giovanni baritone Ruggero Raimondi kills her father Il Commendatore bass John Macurdy. The next morning, Giovanni meets Donna Elvira soprano Kiri Te Kanawa, a woman he previously seduced and abandoned. Later, Giovanni happens upon the preparations for a peasant wedding and tries to seduce the bride-to-be Zerlina mezzo-soprano Teresa Berganza, but his ambition is frustrated by Donna Elvira.

Donna Anna soon realizes that Giovanni killed her father, and she pursues the seducer along with her fiance Don Ottavio tenor Kenneth Riegel. Ever ready to attempt a seduction, Giovanni woos Elviras maid. As part of his plans, he switches clothes with his servant Leporello bass-baritone Jose van Dam, who rapidly finds himself in trouble with people who mistake him for his master. Leporello flees and eventually meets Giovanni at the cemetery where Il Commendatore is buried. They jokingly invite the statue at his grave to dinner. While they are dining, the supernaturally animated statue arrives, and the horrified Giovanni is drawn into an open-pit fire.


2. Production

In the opera, the action supposedly takes place in Spain, but Mozarts librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte wrote in Italian, and this film uses locations in Venice and Murano. In particular, the film features buildings by Palladio in and around the city of Vicenza Basilica Palladiana, Villa Rotonda and Teatro Olimpico. The singers recorded their performances separately, and lip-synched in their film performances. As Noel Megahey notes, "dragging the orchestra of the Opera de Paris around the locations for the length of the production for a live recording is completely unfeasible".

The total budget for the film was about $7.000.000.


3. Reception

The film is not a recording of a stage performance but "an original interpretation of the opera on film". Using the original libretto and music, it was directed as a musical film with a series of scenes, each using multiple cameras and takes. Four years earlier, Losey had directed a film version of Bertolt Brechts play Galileo using a similar approach; Reginald Beck had also edited the earlier film, along with many others directed by Losey. The cinematography is lush with many scenes set in visually appealing locations, such as the Villa Rotonda or gondolas gliding through the canals of Venice.

On its release, Vincent Canby complimented the singing but concluded that the filming "didnt work". He found the filmed closeups of the singers to be mostly jarring and ineffective. On the other hand, Judith Martin considered it successful. Much later, Nicholas Wapshott wrote that "One near perfect amalgamation of opera and the screen is Joseph Loseys Don Giovanni ".

Reginald Beck won the 1980 Cesar Award for Best Editing, and Alexandre Trauner won for Production Design.