DramaNorth East & YorkshireOperaReview

Don Giovanni – The Grand, Leeds

Music: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Libretto: Lorenzo da Ponte

Director: Alessandro Talevi

Reviewer: Dawn Smallwood

Completing the bill of the Fatal Passions season this winter is Mozart’s Don Giovanni.  It is one of Mozart’s most popular operas, and the audience has the opportunity to re-evaluate the title character, Don Giovanni. He is particularly relevent today, especially with what has come to light recently via the media.

Don Giovanni is set to Lorenzo Da Ponte’s Dramma giocoso, Il dissolute punito, ossia il Don Giovanni, which first premiered in Prague in I787.  The legendary story follows the fictional Don Juan who is reputed for his sexual promiscuity.  He is successful in seducing many women, until he experiences a situation beyond his control.   The story also introduces Leporello (John Savournin), a “faithful” servant to Don Giovanni (William Dazeley) who is keen to expose his master’s sexual exploits via Madamina, il catalog è questo.  Giovanni is pursued by Donna Anna (Jennifer Davis) and her fiancé, Don Ottavio (Nicholas Watts), who want to avenge her father’s death and Donna Elvira (Elizabeth Atherton) who has been promised hand in marriage.   The latter three are determined to denounce Giovanni and would go at any lengths to do so even warning the women about him especially to Zerlina (Kathryn Rudge) who is celebrating her marriage to Masetto (Ross McInroy) and is fancied. 

Mozart’s music always speaks for itself; a variety of key signature musical moves depict the comedic, farcical and serious content of the opera.  Don Giovanni is no exception, and is packed with farcical interaction among the characters. There are innuendos and references, particularly of an adult nature, and significantly, the moral conclusion of the opera where Giovanni meets his fate.  There is a number of fitting arias and many will recognise Non più andra from The Marriage of Figaro.

Madeleine Boyd’s staging works well with the puppetry, which enhances the characters’ personalities and storytelling, while the use of picture frame is admirably used for setting the mood.  The opera travels in time and the digital use of dates reminds the audience how relevant Don Giovanni is today, despite being written in the C18th. This is reflected in Boyd’s costumes which are worn by the company appropriate for the eras of the scenes.

The company of Opera North has again, put on an excellent performance.  One of the highlights must be the portrayol of Leprello sung by John Savournin.  His portrayal is outstanding and his interacting asides confide with the audience that he has had enough of Giovanni’s exploits but at the same time, due to fear and intimidation,  pretends to be “loyal”.  The company performs and sings marvellously and is in unison with Victoria Newlyn’s choreographic direction.

Don Giovanni explores extremely strong and fatalistic themes, some rather uncomfortable but so relevant today, including sexual harassment, rape culture, abuse, power misuse, manipulation in cultural and gender contexts.   Giovanni meets his punishable fate, just as many perpetrators today are now facing theirs as a result of the #MeToo movement. Many women are bravely saying enough is enough in a similar vein to Giovanni’s victims who warn others of his true self.

This opera is topical and hugely relevant; the fatality of the story reflective of parallel events in the C21st.  Don Giovanni, with a modern remake, is fit for purpose and another must see from Opera North this season.

Reviewed on 21st February 2018 | Image: Contributed

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The Yorkshire & North East team is under the editorship of Jacob Bush. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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