WolfgangAmadeus Mozart (1756 -1791): Don Giovanni
When JohnChristie had the opera-house built on his country estate a! Glyndebourne in1934, he had intended to start the first of his summer two-week opera seasonswith Mozart's Don Giovanni or with an ambitious Wagner series, leadingto a full Ring cycle. His wife, the soprano Audrey Mildmay, persuadedhim, however, that other works might better suit the start of the venture in ahouse of this size, with an auditorium that seated 331. In the event the firstGlyndebourne season, in 1934, offered two other Mozart operas, Le nozze diFigaro and Cosi fan tutte. The timing of the whole scheme wasopportune. Events in Germany, with Hitler's accession to power in theprevious year, meant that a number of distinguished directors and musicians wereavailable. Carl Ebert, who had trained as an actor under Max Reinhardt andturned to direction at the Landestheater in Darmstadt, before his appointmentto the Stadtische Oper in Berlin in 1931, had been compelled to move in 1933 todirect the Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires and was available to take charge of theGlyndebourne Mozart productions, for which the house became so well known. Withhim came the conductor Fritz Busch, music director of the Dresden Staatsoper since1922, a man who had enjoyed congenial collaboration with Ebert at Salzburg in1932 with Mozart's Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail and at the Berlin StadtischeOper in Verdi. Dismissed for his overt opposition to the National Socialists,he too had moved to Buenos Aires and it was on hisinsistence that he should bring Ebert with him that he accepted the responsibilityfor music at Glyndebourne, continuing together with him for the seasons from1934 unti11939. Rudolf Bing, who had served as assistant to Ebert in Darmstadtand for three years as assistant to the Intendant of the Charlottenburg Operain Berlin, joined Ebert and Busch in 1936 as general manager at Glyndebourne.
Closely involvedin the whole enterprise was the soprano Audrey Mildmay. She had studied inLondon and Vienna and after tours of Canada and the United States had returnedin 1928 to join the Carl Rosa Company, for which she sang the roles of Gretel, Micaela,Olympia and Nedda, among others, as well as that of Zerlina, which she repeatedin the 1936 Glyndebourne production of Don Giovanni. Her Masetto was theScottish baritone Roy Henderson, who had taken the part of the Count in theopening Glyndebourne production of 1934. 1936 brought the Glyndebourne debut ofthe Hungarian tenor Koloman von Pataky, otherwise known as Kalman Pataky, who hadacquired his skill in Mozart interpretation during his years at the ViennaStaatsoper, where he appeared until the Anschluss. He was distinguished, inparticular, for his Mozart roles, Tamino, Belmonte and, as in the 1936Glyndebourne season, Don Ottavio. The American soprano Ina Souez, who had sungLiu to Eva Turner's icy Turandot at Covent Garden in 1929 and appeared asFiordiligi in the first Glyndebourne season, returned in 1936 as a very successfulDonna Anna. Luise Helletsgruber, a stalwart of the Vienna Staatsoper since herdebut in 1922, had taken part in the first Glyndebourne season as Cherubino andDorabella, and now took the part of Donna Elvira. David Franklin made hisoperatic debut as the Commendatore, the start of a notable career, andLeporello brought to the house the comic dramatic talents and fine voice of theItalian bass Salvatore Baccaloni, who, at La Scala, had followed Toscanini'sadvice in specialising in buffo roles. The leading role of the Donhimself was sung by the Australian baritone John Brownlee, who had made hisfirst appearance in London in 1926 when he sang Marcello in the last two actsof La Boheme in Melba's farewell concert, He had since then made a namefor himself in Paris and had returned to Covent Garden in 1930 as Golaud inDebussy's Pelleas et Melisande and in a series of major Verdi roles. Hehad taken part in the 1935 season at Glyndebourne as Don Alfonso but in 1937began a long and fruitful association with the New York Metropolitan Opera,which continued until 1958.
Glyndebourne in1934 was the start of a remarkable venture. Mercifully deflected from hisoriginal Wagnerian intentions by the common sense and experience of his wife,John Christie was willing to finance a most unusual enterprise, which allowed performersfull rehearsal time as guests at his house and resulted, under the guidance ofFritz Busch, in setting a rare standard of Mozart performance. By 1939, when theseasons were interrupted by the war, Busch had established a repertoire ofMozart operas that, in eventual revival after the war, were to remain at thecore of Glyndebourne productions.
The presentrelease includes a collection of arias from the opera by some of the greatestsingers of the century. The Russian bass Chaliapin is heard in Leporello's CatalogueAria, and Richard Tauber in the two arias for Don Ottavio. Other excerptsfrom the opera are sung by Frida Leider, Ezio Pinza, Elisabeth Schumann,Elisabeth Rethberg, Rosa Raisa and Giacomo Rimini in recordings made between1928 and 1939.
II dissolutopunito ossia Don Giovanni
In Vienna during the last ten years of his life Mozart was atlast able to rum his fuller attention to the composition of opera, a form forwhich his native Salzburg had offered less opportunity. In 1786 hehad won success with Le nozze di Figaro, a collaboration with theItalian librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte. In Prague the acclaim for the opera had been even greater and Mozart and Da Pontehad been commissioned to provide a new opera for the following winter season.
Da Ponte found himself busy with three libretti at the same time, working, ashe alleged, at night for Mozart, in the morning for Martini and in theafternoon for the court composer Salieri. Whatever the truth of this, he had anearlier model on which to base Don Giovanni, a recent treatment of thesubject that had been staged in Venice, and thestory of Don Giovanni and the Stone Guest was, in any case, well known, fromthe play on the subject by Tirso de Molina in the early seventeenth century onwards.
In Prague in October Mozart had allowed ten daysfor rehearsals of the opera. Not surprisingly this proved far too optimisticand the work was finally staged in Prague two weekslater, on 29th October 1787, too late for the celebration of themarriage of Archduchess Maria Theresia and Prince Clemens of Saxony for which the commission had been intended. DonGiovanni, however, won immediate success in Prague and a performance was commanded in Vienna for the following May. Here opinions were divided, with some, includingthe Emperor in one recorded comment, judging the music unsuitable for thevoices or too difficult to sing. Da Ponte reported a more considered opinion.
The Emperor had told him that he had found the work particularly fine but notperhaps to the taste of the Viennese, while Mozart himself had been content toallow time to do its work and history to give the final verdict on a work ofthe value of which he had no doubt.
 The Overture, in an ominous D minor,suggests something of the ghostly conclusion of the opera in its introductor