Don Giovanni. The music, excellently performed, and instantly familiar from a thousand variations, incidentals and adverts. But from the outset, a decision must be made about the story. The lyrics, in Amanda Holden’s clear translation, expose Mozart’s single-line story of the downfall of Don Juan, the great seducer, for what it is; a brutal mosaic of rape, abuse, gaslighting, class war, domestic abuse and obsessive cruelty. How to make this comedy? Oxford Alternative Orchestra select the bombed-out urgency of wartime and create something dark, tragic, and queasily hilarious that owes as much to Tarantino and Iannucci as is does to Mozart.
Charles J. Styles performs Don Juan, the man not used to hearing no, as a spoiled, amoral rich kid wallowing in the chaos of war, missing and catching ladies, and cock jokes - propelled forward by champagne, bravado and inhuman stubbornness. Leporello, his haplessly loyal batman (a magnificently wavering Chris Murphy) is as abused and confused as any of the ladies; Beatrice Acland, as Giovanni’s last great love, Donna Elvira, is a magnificent rock he will be wrecked on; while Donna Anna (Holly Brown) and Don Ottavio (Alex Gebhard) advance remorselessly on him like twin robotic forces of virtue, inescapable, inevitable and obliterating.
Peasant pin-up girl Laura Coppinger captures the contradictions of Zerlina’s role with sparkle, finding agency even in abject abasement to her husband (a desperately disempowered Florian Storz). War’s basic brutality bends to the implausible plot-swirls of a musical where corpses sit up and sing and a mandolin player is always ready when you need to seduce a lady-maid.
The rumbling, remorseless advance of Commendatore Peter Steer, vulturine in his military great coat, through this deliciously nasty commedia dell’morte, brings the leveller death even to the great Don Giovanni.