This famous Don Giovanni was first broadcast in September 1961 to mark the opening of the Deutsche Opera in west Berlin, though it was, in fact, recorded at an open dress rehearsal the day before its official first night. It's full of political resonances. The Berlin Wall had been constructed only weeks before, and you can sense a jitteriness in the air. The opera is directed by the veteran Carl Ebert, best known for his pioneering work at Glyndebourne during his years of exile from Nazi Germany. The great, Hungarian-born Ferenc Fricsay, a dominant figure in Berlin's musical renewal, is in the pit. He conducts an impressive cast, all of whom had made their reputations in postwar Germany. The production shows its age, owing in part to Georges Wakhévitch's frilly period designs, though Ebert's direction is wonderfully unfussy and psychologically astute. Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau is the charming Don who draws into his orbit Elisabeth Grümmer's unusually vulnerable Anna, Pilar Lorengar's obsessive Elvira and Erika Köth's manipulative Zerlina. The great performances, though, come from Donald Grobe's strikingly tough Ottavio and Walter Berry's bitterly funny Leporello.
Mozart: Don Giovanni – review
(Arthaus Musik, 2 DVDs)
Tim Ashley is a Guardian classical and opera critic, though he's also keen on literature and philosophy so you might sometimes find him cross-referencing all three. His work has also appeared in Literary Review and Opera magazine and he is author of a biography of Richard Strauss