London Offic. lOa Soho Square

London. W.I


Edited by


Talaphona Gerrard 2136. 2137

Tela,rams Parmaxto. Rath. London

Vol. XV


No. 171

A s a recorded presentation of an opera tic performance I consider the three albums of Mozart's Don Giovanni given by the Glyndebourne Festival Company the nearest illusion the gramophone has yet produced of an actual opera being performed . And wha t an opera i t is, the result, like so many great works of art, of a happy accident of genius, not solemn <esthetic theory. Most of the criticism which can be levelled against its uncertain dramatic construction, i ts occasionally obscure dialogue, and its irrational plot disappears in listening to a continuous playing of the forty-six sides, and if a continuous playing be beyond the power of our concentration we can provide our own climaxes and thus avoid every anticlimax which occurs. Moreover, some of the scenes are positively helped by being beheld only with the mind's eye. We can imagine for ourselves the arrival of that relentless statue at Don Giovanni's supper-table, picture for ourselves the flames of hell shooting up as he is dragged below by demons.

Once upon a time there was a performance of Don Giovanni in a Dublin theatre. The final scene had been reached. Don Giovanni was standing on the trap singing for all he was worth:

, Who lacerates my soul? Who tortures my body? Oh, what torment, what cruel agony! What pangs of hell !

I am terrified! Ah!" The red Bengal flares were lighted underneath the stage. The trap slowly lowered Don Giovanni to the demons waiting below. Unfortunately, while his head and shoulders were still above stage the trap stopped and refused to descend any farther. A stage manager with presence of mind would have rung down and given a miss to the final scene, which in any case is an anticlimax. Instead of that the trap was sent up again and. the conductor signed to the orchestra to play over agam:

" Chi r anima mi las cera ?

Chi m'agita Ie viscere ? Che strazio! Ohime! Che smania ! Che inferno! Che terror! Ah!" And again the red flames shot up and the trap descended. But this time only as far as Don Giovanni's


knees. The stage manager and the conductor lost their heads. Don Giovanni was fetched up again, and for a third time sang through his ultimate agony. Again the trap descended very, very slowly, and at last stuck while Don Giovanni's head was still above stage. On this occasion, however, the trap could not be made to bring him up again . The red flares burnt themselves out. The triumphant chorus of demons was silent.

And then a small boy sitting in a corner of the gaUery shouted across to a friend of his sitting on the other side of the theatre: "Heaven and the Holy Saints be praised, Paddy! Hell's full at last."

We gramophone players can avoid such a scene as . that. Even if our fibre needle chooses to behave as unreasonably as that trap, we have always an infallible steel needle to play the Don out of this world .

I t would be impossible to enumerate the many delights of these twenty-three discs, but I must mention the scene where the Minuet is heard, for it provides the finest moment for me that the whole of my operatic gramophone repertory can offer, and I venture to suggest that a separate recording of this should be issued for the benefit of those whose purses can never provide them with the six spare guineas to buy the whole opera. I f this be out of the question, why not a good recording of this scene with other artists? I t is one of the most ravishing scenes in the whole of opera and should long ago have been recorded separately.

I have no intention of disparaging Gilbert and Sullivan opera when I affirm that all that pleases us in Gilbert and Sullivan can be found a hundred times more pleasing in the operas of Mozart, and it is really tragic that for one person in this country who is really familiar with the operas of Mozart a hundred are familiar with Gilbert and Sullivan. I look back with amazement to the days of my youth, when i t was the generally received opinion that Mozart was a composer of the same calibre as to-day we should consider Rossini. We can depreciate as much as we like the critical standards of to-day, but at least this generation can congratulate itself that i t has restored Mozart to th at position, or rather has for the first time placed Mozart in that position on the very summit of music which his genius deserves, and i t will be a queer generation that succeeds in dethroning him again. I