(2-CD, Notes in Spanish and English, libretto/translation Italian/Spanish)
[TT= 152:00 ]
(Rec. Live, Teatro Rosalia de Castro de La Coruña, 9 & 11 June 2006)
reviewed by Christopher Webber
“Sex, blood and candy floss”
Ramón Carnicer (1789-1855) is honoured as Spain’s most representative early romantic opera composer. He ran opera theatres in Madrid and Barcelona, became first Professor of Composition at the Royal Conservatory, and was the teacher of Barbieri, Gaztambide and Hernando. Although he did write zarzuela-style works in Spanish, his Italian operas such as Elena e Malvina (according to Emilio Casares the best of them), Cristoforo Colombo and Elena e Costantino form his musical testament. Il dissoluto punito ossia Don Giovanni Tenorio was his third opera, premiered at Barcelona’s Teatro de la Cruz in June 1822. According to the editors of the ICCMU edition “it represents a profound exercise in synthesis”, combining his customary Rossinian style with a Mozartian sound-world, to produce a greater level of dramatic tension.
Indeed. Mozart is very much the spectre at the feast, with full brass blaring out the Commendatore’s “Don Giovanni, a cenar teco” only a few bars into Carnicer’s overture. And this is only the first of several highly self-conscious references to Don Giovanni and even Le Nozze di Figaro – in the opening chorus the soldiers wittily allude to “Non piu andrai” as Leporello waits for his master to return from a midnight tryst with Donna Anna. Yet Carnicer’s aim is not pastiche. He shapes the familiar 2-act plot in his own way, following Tirso de Molina’s 1630 El burlador de Sevilla by delaying the Commendatore’s death. He cuts out the lower-class love-interest of Zerlina and Masetto, and reduces Leporello’s comedic scope, though retaining a Catalogue Aria to the familiar text – large portions of the libretto are indeed undiluted Da Ponte. Donna Anna becomes very much the central figure, a bel canto heroine in Rossini’s grandest seria style.
The mixture of sex, blood and candy floss makes baffling listening. Although (as Cortizo and Sobrino point out in their helpful programme note) Don Giovanni was not to be premiered in Spain for another twelve years and didn’t become a popular favourite for a long time afterwards, there’s a clear sense of Carnicer tipping the wink to the Barcelona cognoscenti, who would surely have known their Mozart and appreciated the quotes. Despite the seria apparatus there’s little personal about the score, and Il dissoluto punito comes across as a stylistically uncertain comment on an earlier masterwork rather than standing on its own feet. A handful of numbers (notably the Act 2 cemetery scene) rise well above routine; but the final impression is one of dilettantism, a playing at the periphery of drama rather than full engagement.
He gets mostly sterling advocacy in Autor’s beautifully presented set, taken from live performances at last year’s La Coruña Festival. Packing the performance onto 2 CDs has involved breaking the Act 1 finale with an ugly fade across the discs. On the credit side, veteran Rossinian Alberto Zedda ensures tempi are tight, spruce and aptly varied. The orchestral playing is competent, the chorus disconcertingly weak. Dimitri Korchak is a very young, personable but bland tenor Giovanni, though that fairly reflects much of his emptily virtuosic music. Annamaria Dell’Oste is a suitably steely Anna, well-contrasted with the warmer-toned Enrica Fabbri’s Elvira, a role which runs out of notes all too soon. José Julián Frontal’s light-grained baritone renders his Leporello rather more seductive than his master. He does his considerable best to make hay from Carnicer’s Catalogue Aria but alas, the odious comparison provides us with an object lesson in the gulf between the Merely Pleasant and the Totally Unforgettable.
© Christopher Webber 2007
Il Dissoluto Punito,
ossia Don Giovanni Tenorio: Ramón Carnicer. Cast: Dimitri
Korchak – Don Giovanni, Wojtek Gierlach – Il Commendatore,
Annamaria Dell’Oste – Donna Anna, Juan Luque Carmona – Don
Ottavio, Enrica Fabbri – Donna Elvira, Leporello – José
Julián Frontal. Coro y Orquesta Sinfónica de Galicia, c. Alberto