Image courtesy of James Glossop
“Loporello’s rather oaf like simplicity contrasts brilliantly with Jacques Imbrailo’s suave, cool and arrogant Don Giovanni, sweeping about in a rather splendid coat like a cross between Zorro and Prince Charming”
If Don Giovanni lived today, The Priory would have him in a heartbeat. I think it’s safe to say his lascivious antics would more than qualify him as a sex addict. Unfortunately for Don Giovanni (and rather fortunately for the women of Western Europe it seems) instead of a £600 a night treatment programme, he finds himself dragged into the fiery depths of hell -free of charge, I presume – to be toasted for all eternity by beings that rather resemble the desert people of Star Wars. Still, it makes a good opera.
In this version, presented by Scottish Opera, the drama has migrated east from its original setting of Spain to a shadowy 18th Century Venice. Perhaps they are hinting at the similarities between Don Giovanni and the legendary seducer Giacomo Casanova –acquaintance of Mozart and his librettist Lorenzo De Ponte. Apart from this slight geographic adjustment, this production is a fairly traditional one – there’s no La Scala floor to ceiling mirrors to accuse the audience here! In a world abuzz with finding new adaptations, angles and settings, though, Scottish Opera prove that traditional does not have to mean dull.
One of the more challenging aspects of this rather tricky work is its drammo giocoso genre. Playing the comedic moments for optimum laughs whilst building the dramatic undercurrent to a climactic and rather sensational finale is an art, and something this production does well. It is a production of rich characters in which no emotion is half felt and the cast largely embody these. The Laporello/Don Giovanni relationship eschews the more rigid servant/master dynamic in favour of a more shiny superhero and less successful sidekick feel. Laporello, played gloriously by Peter Kalman, draws hearty laughs from the audience with his reluctant service, sarcastic comments and fantastic acting. His rather oaf like simplicity contrasts brilliantly with Jacques Imbrailo’s suave, cool and arrogant Don Giovanni, sweeping about in a rather splendid coat like a cross between Zorro and Prince Charming. It’s safe to say his dark good looks and robust, velvety baritone proved an irresistible elixir for women both on and off stage.
Sneaking up behind him, though, is Barnaby Rea’s Masetto who oozes masculinity from every pore. It is a delight to watch him being frustrated and manipulated by the bewitching Anna Devin as Zerlina. In a cast of magnificent voices, Devin’s stands out as something particularly special. Apart from her delightful, impish acting, her soprano is as resonant as a bell, sailing effortlessly over the orchestra to caress and entice the audience. On a slightly disappointing note, Ed Lyon’s Don Ottavio stuck out as a little lost. Despite pleasing vocals, he lacked the developed character of the rest – and his Captain Hook costume was a little bizarre.
The passion flowing from the stage was matched by that rising from the pit. The orchestra seemed to delight in Mozart’s complex score, particularly the final, ombra soaked scene filled with drama, tension and trombone blasts. It was generally led well by the baton of Speranza Scapucci, although a slightly livelier tempo would have been no bad thing.
Mark Jonathan and Simon Higlett, too, should be congratulated on their lighting and set design. The dark palette and clever lighting (or rather, shadow) design kept the production cloaked in a veil of mystery and reinforced the dark nature of the plot, in a subtle rather than overpowering way.
Don Giovanni is one of the most performed operas in the world for a reason. It has excellent music, an engaging plot and some wonderful personalities. Scottish Opera have produced a very accessible production with some top notch character development, rich voices and effective staging. Whether you are a seasoned opera goer or a complete beginner, you could do worse than catch this interpretation of the Mozart classic.
Reviewer: Madeleine Ash (Seen 19 November)