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Royal Opera House Live: Don Giovanni

Home > Brisbane > Cinema | Film Reviews | Opera
by Helen Belli (subscribe)
I am now living in Kariong on the Central Coast
Published March 19th 2014

Act One: Don Giovanni: 'He is the scum of the earth'

That is if you agree with (Veronique Gens) Donna Elvira. Don Giovanni has a dream career, seduction.

This production is set around 1850. During the overture a video writes onto the set his 2066 conquests up to date. For most of the first act we enjoy his 4 new conquests, all in a days work.

He is engaged to Donna Elvira but before breakfast he woos and wins Donna Anna, who later calls rape and tells how she was forces upon to her wimp of a lover Don Ottavio. Does 'the Don' murder her father or does he defend himself. It is hard to believe a man who has made love, to now 2067 women, is capable of murder.

This Don has charisma and oozes sexual appeal, he isn't the usual tall, bulling Don he is a man as he says 'knows what women want', he promises fidelity and marriage. Well, it was written in 1787.

The Don gets fed up with Donna Elvira and Donna Anna and turns his attention to a peasant girl Zerlina, who is won with the touch of a finger, while Donna Elvira's maid disrobes after one serenade. He doesn't care if they are thin, fat, rich, poor old or young, he just wants them all. What's new.

Except for Don Ottavio the singing is excellent. The singers become the characters. You will be gently seduced by the rich baritone voice of Kwiecien as the Don and Alex Exposito's powerful voice repeatedly reminding his master that his way of life can only lead to ruin.

This Zerlina is no soubrette, poor Mazetto has to watch her being seduced on their wedding day. She too later calls rape, these ladies indulge in a lot of rewriting of history.

What looks life a mansion in the deep south of America revolves constantly with its insides exposed. There are no scene changes which makes for marvellous continuity. Entrances are made through doorways and stairways.

There is a castle south of Rome that has 36 stairways, this set doesn't have that many, but enough to confuse both the director and actors at rehearsals. The ghost of the Commendatore, Donna Anna's late father, never leaves the house. He watches the Don's merry go round life on this long, long day. Sometime in the afternoon the Don invites him to dinner.

Leporello is beside himself and the action changes from comedy to drama.

Act Two: As dinner progresses so does the mood of the Don. He now understands for the first time that other people's lives are destroyed by his actions. He doesn't go to hell as Mozart originally wrote, rather he is left frightened and bewildered to ponder his future. The audience can write their own ending.

Kasper Holten is the new musical director at Convent Garden and is responsible for this engaging production of what is considered a difficult Opera to stage.

This interruption of Mozart's masterpiece was both booed and clapped at the opening night, the boos may have been because of technical faults. The costumes echo the late 19th century and their stitched up morals, but they fit elegant singers who live their roles to the hilt. Get the DVD if you can. This is opera at its best.
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