Sunday, 22 December 2013

Fritz Busch and Don Giovanni

There is a band of Opera Lovers (OLs) who remain somewhat distinct from Music Lovers. OLs set great store by opera plots, even if before the 19th century, most opera plots were pretty formalised and often downright ridiculous. OLs are keen on staging, however absurd the staging may be, and the stage director gets their preference over the music conductor. OLs are positive groupies when it comes to voices and singing, but give little attention to the orchestral playing or the conducting.

I am definitely not an OL. For me, it is very much a case of prima la musica e poi le parole. My rare visits to opera houses have usually seen me with my eyes shut; if the score says “a rocky cliff in Brittany” I do not want to find that some trendy director with an ego problem has read this as “a cell in the concentration camp at Guantanamo Bay”. It is easy to see a rocky cliff in Brittany, or a room in a castle in Seville, or a harem in a Turkish fortress -- in one's mind's eye. I am not a purchaser of operas on DVD, but I do have a largish collection on CD. Yesterday I ventured into Mozart's Don Giovanni and revelled in ... la musica. La musica came from the famous 1936 recording by the then Glyndebourne forces conducted by Fritz Busch, with a good, solid, professional group of singers. The transfer (Ward Marston) is excellent though, inevitably, the orchestral detail is somewhat smudgy and remote. We hear a good, solid, well-rehearsed performance of a great opera and, my ears tell me, it really does take place in Seville many centuries ago; no one, striving for notoriety, has “updated” it.

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