Two (better) recordings of Don Juan

In the last post I briefly reviewed the only two commercial recordings of Byron’s Don Juan that I have been able to find. Neither was much to my taste, although I’d be interested to hear from anyone who has a kinder opinion.

There are a couple of non-commercial recordings that I’d like to recommend to you. I think each of them is better than Davidson or Bethune, although neither is complete.

The first is a recording made in (I’m guessing) the 1940’s by Tyrone Power. His voice has a lovely natural timbre; his projection is great (from low in the chest). He gets a lot of variation of intonation and pace and he speaks the poetry seriously, but with meaning, catching not only the rhythms but the rhyme that carries so much of the humour in Don Juan.

Of course, Power had the looks and the agility to be the Don Juan from Central Casting. His Mark of Zorro was the the second movie version of the Zorro tale — the first being the stylish Douglas Fairbanks’ 1920 version. But Power and Basil Rathbone made the franchise indelibly theirs. He was a very good actor with a naturally credible leading-male style and a fine expressive touch who was trapped for many years by 20th Century Fox in ‘swashbuckling’ roles. If you’ve never seen him in the last movie he completed — Billy Wilder’s 1957 movie of Agatha Christie’s Witness for the Prosecution with Marlene Deitrich and Charles Laughton — then you’ve missed one of the greatest movies of the 20th century. Alas, he died of a massive heart attack on the set of Solomon and Sheba (1958) in the midst of a duel with George Sanders.

I’m sorry that Power does not appear to have recorded all of even Canto One of Don Juan. But I offer below an excerpt from the recording available here (there seems to be a rip-off available on CD on Amazon, too). In the excerpt, Power is heard reading verses 138 to 142 of Canto One, at the point where Julia’s jealous husband, Alfonso, bursts into her bedroom in the middle of the night, looking for her lover (Juan, unknown to Alfonso).

The final recording I offer for your review is my own. I recorded this version in March, 2012, shortly before I first came across the Tyrone Power version. I’m delighted to find that my approach is not far from his. This is the recording that I’ll be issuing as part of the illustrated audio ebook to be real eased in the next few weeks. I’d love to know what you think.

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Byron fan (not fanatic); poetry lover (not tragic); doctor of melancholia (not gloom).

2 thoughts on “Two (better) recordings of Don Juan”

  1. I love to listen to audio tapes while I work and have listened to hundreds. I have had my favorites but Peter, yours is up there with #1.

    Though no one can argue that Tyrone is a master, I have to say, I like your recording better! When I first heard your voice, I kept thinking, ‘He really loves this poem!’ I could hear it in your voice and to witness the affection for Lord Byron’s work, I just had to work on this project with you! Now, I know I was right to pursue it for it has been so rewarding to work with such passion. Of course we had all the dark days and triumphs that goes hand in hand with the creative process but that is the stuffs of good theatre and after all, you are never really good friends until you have duked it out and come back shaking hands.

    I strongly encourage anyone to get this audio, find a quiet place, put your feet up and enjoy this first Canto of Don Juan. Peter clearly understands (and loves) every line in this very complex poem, and he skillfully sets the tone for each word. Even if you think you are not a real poetry reader or don’t feel you understand, you will find yourself listening over and over just for the shear enjoyment, and you will understand. For the same reason, this is perfect for introducing students to Byron.

    Oh yea, like the drawings too. 😉

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