Don Giovanni

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Details At A Glance

Category Opera Booklet
Main Menu Animation
Rating ?
Year Released 1991
Running Time 173:05 minutes
RSDL/Flipper RSDL (88:52)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Selection, then Menu
Region 1,2,3,4,5,6 Director Jose Montes-Baquer
Arthaus Musik 
Starring Thomas Allen
Carolyn James
Carol Vaness
Kjell Magnus Sandve
Ferrucio Furlanetto
Andrea Rost
Reinhard Dorn
Matthias Holle
Choir of Cologne City Opera
Gurzenich Orchester Cologne
James Conlon
Case Super Jewel Case
RPI ?$79.95 Music Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame Audio (Linear PCM 48/16 2.0, 1536 Kb/s)
Audio (Dolby Digital 2.0, 192 Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio No
16x9 Enhancement No
Theatrical Aspect Ratio 1.33:1
Macrovision ? Smoking No
Subtitles English
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

Plot Synopsis

    Somewhat inevitably, when more than one distributor has opera DVDs on the market, there are going to be duplications in the available repertoire and so we get to our first such duplication. Of course, there are worse operas than Don Giovanni that could have been duplicated first-up, but it does mean that comparisons with the previous Warner Vision release Glyndebourne Festival Opera - Don Giovanni are going to be made. There is no great need to repeat the contents of that review here, and if you need further introduction to the opera, I suggest that you check that review out.

    Suffice it to say, the broad synopsis of this opera is centred around its titular character: Don Giovanni. Don Giovanni is a womanizer of the highest order who uses his power and standing to seduce women of all sorts. The opera starts with his seduction of Donna Anna, who mistakenly thinks he is her beloved in Don Ottavio. Realizing she has been tricked into forfeiting her virginity, she pursues the fleeing Don Giovanni whilst screaming for help. After struggling with the deceiver, her father the Commendatore emerges to render assistance, only to be murdered by Don Giovanni, who departs the scene with his ever-suffering servant Leporello. Donna Anna returns to the scene with her beloved Don Ottavio to find her dead father and is distraught, pleading with Don Ottavio to swear to avenge her father's murder. Arriving on the scene is Donna Elvira, hell bent on revenge against Don Giovanni after the wrongs he has done to her, and willing to spread the sordid details of the way he operates to all and sundry. The scene changes to a party near the house of Don Giovanni where the newly-weds Masetto and Zerlina are celebrating, at least until Don Giovanni turns up and seduces the beautiful Zerlina. Donna Elvira turns up too to denounce Don Giovanni and Donna Anna is there to realize that Don Giovanni is the one who violated her and murdered her father. Basically, the rest of the opera is all about the hunt for Don Giovanni and his eventual descent into hell for failing to repent.

    Moving right along with the comparisons to the earlier DVD, I have to say that I find the casting here of a much more consistent standard, such that no one role really stands out from the rest. It does have to be said, though, that Thomas Allen and Carol Vaness do star in one of the better recordings of Don Giovanni on compact disc and coincidentally that was recorded with the Glyndebourne forces! They are perhaps the best of the strongish cast here. But while the vocal cast might be stronger here, there is little doubt that the musical side of things is much better on the earlier DVD, and the Cologne forces simply cannot compare with The Orchestra Of The Age Of Enlightenment. There is also the distinctly different styles of the two productions to be considered: this is a slightly more traditional approach to the opera, with sets and period costumes, as opposed to the minimalist approach of the earlier DVD. Which is better? Actually, neither as both presentations have some deal of merit, and the choice is definitely one that only you can make.

   Whilst the overall presentation is a little better here than on the earlier Arthaus Musik DVDs reviewed, it has to be said that this is showing the nine years of the source material and the overall transfer is the worst of the three Arthaus DVDs through my player for review thus far. Whilst I find much to enjoy in the earlier Glyndebourne Festival Opera - Don Giovanni, from a purely operatic point of view I find this to be an overall stronger effort. Now if only the transfer could have been anywhere near as good!

Transfer Quality


    It is quite amazing how much difference a few years can make. They show themselves up pretty badly here, and this is definitely a transfer that is not going to win too many friends.

    The transfer is presented in a full frame format and is not 16x9 enhanced.

    The first problem with the transfer is the sheer inconsistency of it. Whilst at times this is a sharp and quite detailed transfer, the bulk of the transfer and especially Act 2 is plagued with a slightly diffuse image with detail varying from acceptable to poor. Compounding this is the odd lapse in focus, too. Shadow detail is also inconsistent, but the darker scenes of Act 2 are not good at all, and the result is a very dark look to the opera with little in the way of shadow detail. The age of the source material is well demonstrated by the fact that this is not an especially clear transfer either, which really does not help the detail at all, and grain does at times seem to be a mild issue. However, the really big problem for me is that the second half of the opera is plagued by some mild, but very noticeable, low level noise at times. The most prominent examples are at the 105:30 mark and at the 140:00 mark, but just about any scene showing the backdrop will demonstrate the problem. In general, the transfer before the layer change is much better than the transfer after the layer change.

    The overall colour palette is generally quite muted, and really this does do more than hint at undersaturation problems. On a few occasions, the transfer looked a little milky in its colours, and there was a general lack of depth to the blacks that did not aid the visual aspect of the opera. Certainly, the colours are hampered by the rather low level lighting used in the production, but I am guessing that the source material is not demonstrating the actual stage colours as well as perhaps they should be. This really does need to have a distinct boost in the black levels to produce a much more agreeable look to the transfer. As you can guess, this is not what you would call a vibrant transfer. There is certainly no problem with oversaturation here, nor any issue with colour bleed.

    There are no dire MPEG artefacts in the transfer, but some of the noise problem indicated may actually be attenuated by some slight pixelization. There is not much of an issue with film-to-video artefacts, and about the only time aliasing is an issue is in the prop sword blades on the odd occasion they come into play. There is a video glitch at 45:28, but I am suspecting that this is an inherent fault in the source material and not a mastering problem. There was no problem with film artefacts in the transfer, which was a little unexpected.

    This is an RSDL formatted disc with the layer change coming at 88:52, which is during the brief pause between Act 1 and Act 2. It is of course completely non-disruptive to the flow of the opera as a result.

    The subtitle options available on the DVD are the first I have seen on an Arthaus DVD. In the absence of a full libretto, I had the English subtitles on and was mildly disturbed by them. Firstly, they are not really that extensive and I would guess that only about 20% of the actual vocals are reduced to subtitles. However, the second issue is the more annoying one: when each new subtitle comes up on the screen, it is accompanied by a wispy whitish background that results in the lower portion of the picture having a slightly milky haze over it. It is no big thing but it just started to bug me a little by the middle of the opera. I have not seen this sort of problem before on a subtitle option, but then again it is only rarely that I use the subtitles.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-to-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    There are two audio tracks on the DVD, being a Linear PCM 48/16 2.0 soundtrack and a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack, naturally in Italian. I listened to the Dolby Digital soundtrack whilst briefly sampling the Linear PCM soundtrack.

    The vocals come up very well in the transfer, and are completely clear and easy to understand, apart from a brief section early in the opera where the main vocal action was directed to the rear of the stage and was not picked up especially well by the microphones. The music is suitably balanced with the vocals throughout the opera. There did not appear to be any problem with audio sync in the transfer.

    Sorry if this is getting boring, but there is once again nothing much to say about the audio side of things on this DVD. Obviously there is no use of the rear surround channels at all, nor any use of the bass channel. There does appear to some minor use of the front surround channels, but overall this sound really seems to be all located out of the centre channel for most of the opera. The soundtrack sounds good though, although the microphone placement could have been a little better methinks. There is no distortion or other inherent problems in the soundtrack. The brief sampling of the Linear PCM soundtrack indicates no great difference apart from the slightly more stridently central sound that is to be expected in this sort of compact disc quality soundtrack.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    The real disappointment, as we are not even blessed with a libretto to the opera.


    Again, quite stylishly done, nice and clean and looking quite good. There is some minor animation.


    Another decent, if not overly extensive effort, that does at least provide some base detail about the opera and the performers. However, it does not make up for the lack of a full libretto and quite why they mention Karita Mattila in the performers section, I have no idea, since she does not appear in the opera. Once again, we are provided with no details as to exactly when or where the performance was actually recorded, other than presumably sometime in 1991. This sort of detail really needs to be included here.

R4 vs R1

    This is identical to the Region 1 release other than presumably NTSC formatting, making the Region 4 PAL release a slightly better choice.


    Don Giovanni is a great opera, and this cast does provide an enjoyable rendition of it. However, their efforts are let down somewhat by a lacklustre video transfer, that does in no way aid the viewing of the opera. To be honest, if you have a need for a performance of the opera, you would be better advised to go with the earlier reviewed Glyndebourne Festival Opera - Don Giovanni which is blessed with a much better overall presentation. Overall, this is something of a disappointment after the generally favourable impressions created by the first two Arthaus Music DVDs through the player.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ian Morris (have a laugh, check out the bio)
22nd October 2000

Review Equipment
DVD Pioneer DV-515; S-video output
Display Sony Trinitron Wega 80cm. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Audio Decoder Built in
Amplification Yamaha RXV-795. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Speakers Energy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL