I first recorded Canto 1 of Don Juan, on a whim, for the public domain audio-library Librivox, in 2006. I bought a Sure microphone, a stand and a digital interface to my Mac, that I set up in the office of my Melbourne apartment. I read the Canto through, in parts, over a day or so and recorded it; edited out the errors, re-recorded bits and uploaded the file in seven parts.
It has had about 73,000 downloads since the end of November 2006. Try it out… But wait until you hear the latest version!
My idea was to read the “main” parts of Canto I without the fiery Dedication or the epilogue beyond verse 203. The first I thought would not interest a modern audience that probably had no idea who “Castelreagh” was nor why Byron should hate him so and could care less about a nineteenth century literary controversy between Byron and the “Laker” poets (Wordsworth, Coleridge). As for “Southey”? Who he?
I’m now a much bigger fan of the wonderfully splenetic Dedication, although it still probably needs an historical gloss for many readers.
I also omitted the final twenty-odd verses from the original recording because I thought they were an anti-climax to the rest of the poem. Rather like the last trivial, moralising scene of the Mozart-da Ponte Opera “Don Giovanni”; there, in the dining room immediately after the statue of the Commendatore drags the wicked Giovanni down to hell, the minor characters gather to praise wholesomeness and conjugal modesty.Blah!
But the new version will contain the whole Dedication and Canto; every word!