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.

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


  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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