Don Giovanni (1979 film)
|Directed by||Joseph Losey|
|Produced by||Robert Nador
|Screenplay by||Lorenzo Da Ponte (libretto)
|Based on||Don Giovanni
by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Kiri Te Kanawa
José van Dam
|Music by||Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart|
|Edited by||Reginald Beck
|Distributed by||Artificial Eye (United Kingdom)
New Yorker Films (United States)
|185 min. (France)|
|Budget||$7,000,000 US dollars (estimated)|
Don Giovanni is a 1979 French-Italian film directed by Joseph Losey. It is an adaptation of Mozart's classic opera Don Giovanni, based on the Don Juan legend of a seducer, destroyed by his excesses. The film stars Ruggero Raimondi in the title role, and the conductor is Lorin Maazel. The film has generally been praised as one of the finer adaptations of opera to the big screen. It was re-released on DVD in 2008.
The following plot summary can equally be applied to the original opera:
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 Elvira's maid. As part of his plans, he switches clothes with his servant Leporello (bass-baritone José 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.
In the opera, the action supposedly takes place in Spain, but Mozart's librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte wrote in Italian, and this film uses locations in Venice and the Veneto. In particular, the film features buildings by Palladio in and around the city of Vicenza (Basilica Palladiana, Villa Rotonda and Teatro Olimpico).
The total budget for the film was about $7,000,000.
Criticism and evaluation
The production design by Alexandre Trauner won a César Award in 1980. 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.
The film casts some of the best opera singers of its day. Notable set-pieces of the opera, including the catalogue aria and the duet of Giovanni and Zerlina (Là ci darem la mano), are handled well. However, the sound has been criticised for being recorded in an over-reverberant acoustic. There has also been criticism of the operatic scale of acting by some of the performers, which does not always translate convincingly to the movie screen.