Opera Anywhere make bold claims for their production of Don Giovanni being an example of the former strategy. They have, however, fallen a little closer to the latter than they might like. Luckily they’ve also overcome a shoestring budget and a somewhat mechanical piano accompaniment to bring us a solid evening’s opera.
A great deal has been made, partially due to the company’s recent television appearance, of Musical Director Anna Pelley’s new libretto. Like the rest of the production it’s nowhere near as controversial or as up-to-date as it claims (the phrase ‘cool it’ is actually sung at one point). The much-vaunted swearing manages to avoid the trap of being pointlessly shocking by not really being shocking at all – to the extent that the programme notes would have done better not to mention it as proudly as they do.
At times it seemed as though the opera’s production aesthetic was incompatible with its technical demands. Lynsey Docherty (Donna Anna) and Julia Hessey (Donna Elvira) were strong and compelling singers. However, this seemed to come at the price of a complete loss of naturalism. Both performers kept things defiantly old school – gurning, waving their hands about and lurching stiffly across the stage in the best tradition of operatic ‘acting’. Abbi Temple and, in particular, Matthew Duncan (Zerlina and Masetto) may have been less conspicuous in technical accomplishment, but their subtle portrayal of the belaguered, wronged and loving couple seemed much closer to what Pelley had in mind. The rest of the cast sat somewhere in between – Richard Strivens as the Don himself perhaps coming closest to achieving the necessary balance.
All that said, when I wasn’t forlornly waiting to be shown a new perspective, I was being thoroughly entertained by the old one. If you’re a Mozart fan looking for a good evening out, I would recommend this production without hesitating. If you’re expecting to have your mind blown as well, you’re going to be a little disappointed.