Mozart: Don Giovanni (Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau/ Donald Grobe/ Elisabeth Grümmer/ Erika Köth/ Ferenc Fricsay/ Josef Greindl/ Pilar Lorengar/ Walter Berry) (Arthaus Dvd: 101574)
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The opening of the Deutsche Oper Berlin on 24 September 1961 is always seen in the context of partition of Germany, cemented six weeks earlier, and the construction of the Berlin Wall. The coincidence of the two events did not go unnoticed in the many press reports at the time, with most citing remarks about the city's circumstances by the then Governing Mayor of Berlin, Willy Brandt:"Having experienced more in the last few weeks than in an entire generation, a city divided by a wall of coercion and shame is once again making music, producing theatre, staging fine international exhibitions and can at last open the doors of its long-awaited new opera house." For almost twenty years - since the destruction of the former"Deutsches Opernhaus" in November 1943 - Berlin had had to make do with a makeshift stage. Although already in the early stages of a terminal illness, Ferenc Fricsay conducted the inaugural performance. Fricsay died in 1963. Staged by Carl Ebert, the performance featured a cast of singers unparalleled to this day, including Dietrich Fischer- Dieskau in the title role, Elisabeth Grummer and Pilar Lorengar as Donna Anna and Donna Elvira, Donald Grobe, who stepped in at short notice and built an international career on his performance, Walter Berry as Leporello and Erika Koth as Zerlina. The inaugural performance of Don Giovanni at the Deutsche Oper Berlin is available here for the first time on DVD. The recording of the dress rehearsal on 23 September 1961 was broadcast on German national television simultaneously with the premiere on 24 September.
"The performance was dominated by four exceptional male voices. Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau as Giovanni appears today as a figure of astonishing coherence and artistic power... Ferenc Fricsay sets the musical tone of the performance ... casting a spell over the orchestra with his expressive, batonless hands."Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 1961