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Friday, 19 November 2010

Don Giovanni at The ENO

This production of Don Giovanni has a modern urban feel, and is eerily creepy. The interpretation of Mozart’s famous opera is much darker than other shows I have seen recently at the ENO. We are warned before entering that we will experience strobe lights, a strange sensation when sitting in a big opera house. Besides the visual effects, atmospheric breath noises are used and throughout the performance masked demons sneak and run about on stage, an appropriate production for Halloween.

Kirill Karabits is an energetic conductor and he seems to empower the orchestra which is in fact a lot smaller than it sounds. Unfortunately I found the orchestra’s rendition of the overture a bit lacklustre and boring, which didn’t set the scene particularly well. The cast is made up of familiar names, with Iain Paterson in the lead role, bellowing maliciously as the callous Don Giovanni. His only fault is not being quite charismatic enough for this lecherous role. Brindley Sherratt is the most convincing actor on stage as the greasy sidekick, Leporello. He is surprisingly hilarious as well vocally brilliant. I particularly enjoyed Leporello’s catalogue aria that director Rufus Norris re-imagines as a doctor’s statistical presentation, clever timing provides the audience with many laughs. I must also mention the witty translation of Jeremy Sams, that brings some entertainment to an otherwise rather dreary night.

I found Norris’s overall production idea bewilderingly strange. I was confused about where the action is in fact set, at the start it resembles the skate track on the Embankment, and later in the performance is more like an underground drinking dive. The vile Jesus t-shirt costumes worn by the rampaging demons are also very bizarre, and muddle the already complex storyline.

All in all I found this to be a disappointing setting for Mozart’s great opera, and with the late start I was relieved to be leaving at 11 o’clock.

Don Giovanni continues at The Colliseum until 3 December 2010, book tickets here.

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