Don Giovanni – Pinza, Rethberg

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Pinza, Rethberg, Borgioli, Helletsgruber, Lazzari, Bokor, Ettl, Alsen; Walter. 1937

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The performance was recorded on a Selenophone, which used 35mm film for sound, with no picture.

This may be the most satisfying Giovanni from the standpoint of drama in the orchestra. At its best, where called for, chords are crisp and punchy. Every chord is weighted just so from the standpoint of its place in the harmonic structure. The singers, however, sometimes lag behind in ensembles. They interpolate some descending appoggiaturas but not ascending ones.

Dino Borgioli, the Ottavio, is ineffably sensitive to drama and harmony, shading with compassion and tenderness. Bruno Walter and Borgioli perform “Il mio tesoro” with four beats to the measure rather than the two favored by some conductors today. Borgioli’s is a romantic interpretation with lovely rubato, even if he doesn’t have John McCormack’s breath span.

Luise Helletsgruber is too shrewish in “Ah, chi mi dice mai.” Elvira does say she wants to carve out Giovanni’s heart, but she doesn’t really mean it. But Helletsgruber’s personality elsewhere is warm, and her downbeats mirror the tension and relaxation in the harmonies; she accentuates dissonances and tapers their resolutions. She is caressing when she believes she has reconciled with Giovanni. Sometimes she loses the battle to avoid saying “qvesta.”

Pinza’s is a case of characterization versus musicianship. Musically, he tends to be choppy because he accentuates too many beats in a phrase. But his voice is rich in expressive colorations, for example, when he threatens Masetto. Pinza is at his best in the recitative and duet “Là ci darem la mano”–in real life, after all, he was a practiced seducer.

According to me, at the opera’s opening Giovanni did not succeed with Anna. Had he done so, given his character he still wouldn’t be interested in her, as he most definitely is when he says “bellissima Donn’Anna,” in the recitative after “Non ti fidar, o misera.”

Elisabeth Rethberg in “Or sai chi l’onore” has squillo (ring or ping), temperament and is intensely dramatic.

Stefan Zucker

Don Giovanni
Salzburger Festspiele
2 August 1937
Don Giovanni….Ezio Pinza
Donna Anna….Elisabeth Rethberg
Don Ottavio….Dino Borgioli
Donna Elvira….Luise Helletsgruber
Leporello….Virgilio Lazzari
Zerlina….Margit Bokor
Masetto….Karl Ettl
Il Commendatore….Herbert Alsen

Chor der Wiener Staatsoper
Wiener Philharmoniker
Bruno Walter, Dirigent

Track Listing:

Act I
1. Ouvertura
2. Notte e giorno faticar
3. Non sperar, se non m’uccidi
4. Leporello, ove sei?
5. Ah del padre in periglio
6. Fuggi, crudele, fuggi!
7. Orsù, spicciati presto
8. Ah, chi mi dice mai
9. Madamina, il catalogo è questo
10. Giovinette che fate all’amore
11. Ho capito, signor sì!
12. Là ci darem la mano
13. Ah! fuggi il traditor
14. Non ti fidar, o misera
15. Don Ottavio, son morta
16. Or sai che l’onore
17. Come mai creder deggio
18. Dalla sua pace
19. Io deggio ad ogni patto
20. Finc’han dal vino
21. Masetto, senti un po’
22. Batti, batti o bel Masetto
23. Presto, presto, pria ch’ei venga
24. Tra quest’arbori celata
25. Bisogna aver coraggio
26. Protegga il giusto cielo
27. Riposate vezzose ragazze
28. Ecco il birbo che t’ha offesa

Act II
29. Eh via, buffone, non mi seccar
30. Ah taci, ingiusto core!
31. Deh vieni alla finestra
32. Metà di voi qua vadano
33. Vedrai, carino
34. Di molte faci il lume
35. Il mio tesoro
36. In quali eccessi
37. Mi tradì
38. Ah, ah, ah, questa è buona
39. O statua gentilissima
40. Calmatevi, idol mio!
41. Troppo mi spiace allontanarmi
42. Già la mensa è preparata
43. L’ultima prova dell’amor mio
44. Don Giovanni, a cena teco
45. Ah, dov’è il perfido?
46. Or che tutti, o mio tesoro
47. Questo è il fin