Director: Gavin Quinn
Composer: Wolfgang Mozart
Translator: Roddy Doyle
Conductor: Fergus Sheil
Roddy Doyle and opera may sound like an unlikely combination, but for the Dublin Theatre Festival Roddy has translated Don Giovanni in a fantastic relocation of Mozart’s definitive opera to dear, dirty Dublin. Doyle’s libretto for the Opera Theatre Company sees the exploits of literature’s most infamous charmer (Giovanni, not Roddy) brought to the land of saints and scholars. In his new surroundings Don Giovanni now seduces brides-to-be outside the Gravedigger’s pub and has a strong penchant for girls from Kildare.
The libretto, as one might expect, is full of well-crafted wit. David Kempster puts in an emphatic performance as the Don, more than matching the ingenuity of the scripting. He shows an impressive range as he drifts from the dramatic heights of murder and seduction to everyday slagging and sayings. “What’s the story?” he often asks his henchman Leporello (John Molloy), which in its elongated operatic form takes on a more threatening tone.
Molloy is excellent as Giovanni’s sidekick, playing the perfect foil to the braggadocio. He is both eager and reluctant to help his boss, simultaneously slick and awkward – a very Roddy character. When caught in bed disguised as Giovanni, Leporello pleas “it was just a bit of gas – she mistook me for he”.
We might expect more laughs from a Roddy Doyle piece, but there is a marked attention to ensure the high drama stays intact, that the opera doesn’t descend into farce or pastiche. Tara Erraught’s tragic figure Elvira (one of Giovanni’s many heartbroken lovers) epitomises the more emotive and earnest element of the performance. She swings violently in her moods from lust to despair to revenge – exceptionally conveyed by Erraught’s powerful voice.
Yet there are still some hilarious clashes of culture. After midnight reveries Giovanni and Leporello enjoy sitting around and drinking tinnies. Giovanni sings in the pub about ‘sculling pints and making babies’ – channelling his inner Jarvis Cocker. In an image which epitomises the performance towards its end, Giovanni gorges himself on a last supper of KFC buckets before the final dramatic face-off with his demons.
The production’s transposing to Dublin manages to work without being overly coercive on the opera. The length of the piece might be bit long for Commitments fans, but with all things considered the alternative takes on Doyle and Don Giovanni alike makes for a unique performance.
Runs until the 2 October as part of the Dublin Theatre Festival | Image: contributed