That's how brother Søren Kierkegaard described Don Giovanni, and it is with that elusiveness that Mozart and da Ponte's "young and extremely licentious cavalier" comes across in the new TDK DVD of Roberto de Simone's 1999 Vienna production. The images above show Carlos Álvarez in three of the many guises that Don Giovanni takes on during the show.
I contrast de Simone's "traditional" staging with Peter Sellars' "revisionist" take on Don Giovanni in my Newsday essay, Cutting-edge? Cut it out.
The image below shows the Act I finale of Don Giovanni in Sellars' production, which has just been issued on DVD along with the other da Ponte/Mozart operas, Le nozze di Figaro and Così fan tutte. (The trio will be available as a boxed set later this year.)
While both performances of Don Giovanni are musically strong, my preference in this respect is for the Vienna set. Yes, it boasts the starrier cast—though my beloved Anna Caterina Antonacci (Donna Elvira) has not one but several holes in her voice. But it also has Riccardo Muti at the helm, who shapes Mozart's music with fire and supple grace. (By the way, did you catch Muti's sublime Salzburg Festival Zauberflöte? *vilaine fille faints from bliss*) Craig Smith, bless his heart, presides over a loving, beautiful, but unbelievably portentous reading of the score. (Completists, take note: Smith includes Zerlina and Leporello's "Per queste tue manine" duet.)
According to Dana Sanderson's invaluable Opera on DVD page, Calixto Bieito's Barcelona staging of Don Giovanni will be released in the States in November. *That* should be an eyeful. (I have never seen a Bieito show, but trusted friends who know his work tell me that it is both appallingly outré and stunningly keen and thoughtful.) We'll see…