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Don Giovanni
Don Giovanni 1979 film.JPG
Directed by Joseph Losey
Produced by Robert Nador
Michel Seydoux
Written by Lorenzo da Ponte (libretto)
Rolf Liebermann
Joseph Losey
Patricia Losey
Renzo Rossellini
Frantz Salieri
Starring Ruggero Raimondi
John Macurdy
Edda Moser
Kiri Te Kanawa
Kenneth Riegel
José van Dam
Teresa Berganza
Malcolm King
Eric Adjani
Music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Cinematography Angelo Filippini
Gerry Fisher
Editing by Reginald Beck
Emma Menenti
Distributed by Artificial Eye (UK)
New Yorker Films (US)
Gaumont (France)
Release date(s) 1979
Running time 185 min. (France)
Country France/Italy/UK/Germany
Language Italian
Budget 7,000,000 US dollars (estimated)
IMDb profile

Don Giovanni is a 1979 film adaptation of Mozart's classic opera Don Giovanni, based on the Don Juan legend of a seducer destroyed by his excesses. The film has generally been praised as one of the finer adaptations of opera to the big screen. The movie was re-released on DVD in 2008.

Plot summary

In the opera the action supposedly takes place in Spain, but Mozart's librettist Da Ponte wrote in Italian, and this film successfully uses locations in Venice and the Veneto.

The following plot summary could equally be applied to the original opera. After an unsuccessful attempt to seduce Donna Anna (soprano Edda Moser), Don Giovanni (bass Ruggero Raimondi) kills her father Il Commendatore (bass John Macurdy). The next morning, Giovanni meets Donna Elvira (soprano Dame Kiri Te Kanawa), a woman he previously seduced and abandoned. Later, Giovanni happens upon the preparations for a peasant wedding and tries to seduce the bride-to-be Zerlina (mezzo-soprano Teresa Berganza), but his ambition is frustrated by Donna Elvira.

Donna Anna soon realizes that Giovanni killed her father, and she pursues the seducer along with her fiance Don Ottavio (tenor Kenneth Riegel). Ever ready to attempt a seduction, Giovanni woos Elvira's maid. As part of his plans, he switches clothes with his servant Leporello (bass-baritone José van Dam), who rapidly finds himself in trouble with people who mistake him for his master. Leporello flees and eventually meets Giovanni at the cemetery where Il Commendatore is buried. They jokingly invite the statue at his grave to dinner. While they are dining, the supernaturally revivified statue arrives, and the horrified Giovanni is drawn into an open-pit fire.

Criticism and evaluation

The Production Design by Alexandre Trauner won a César Award in 1980. The cinematography is lush with many scenes set in visually appealing locations, such as the Villa Rotonda or gondolas gliding through the canals of Venice.

The film casts some of the best opera singers of its day. Notable set-pieces of the opera, including the catalogue aria and the duet of Giovanni and Zerlina (Là ci darem la mano), are handled well. However, the sound has been criticised for being recorded in an over-reverberant acoustic. There has also been criticism of the operatic scale of acting by some of the performers, which does not always translate convincingly to the movie screen.

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