Thursday, 31 July 2014

Love among the ruins: Don Giovanni at Glyndebourne

Don Giovanni (Glyndebourne Festival,  Andrés Orozco-Estrada, London Philharmonic Orchestra)

You are sitting in the sunshine, on an immaculate July afternoon. The bell goes, and in you go. A salvo is fired into the calm of the gentle murmur of anticipation: the lights are cut and the incomparable overture begins. A real piece of theatre.  

The revival of Jonathon Kent’s production of Don Giovanni at Glyndebourne, a staple opera of one by one of the festival’s staple composers brought some mixed reviews. But the reality is that it is a superb production. The staging was based on a large revolving box which opened at different angles and ways. The set within this is somewhat rusticated, but still has a solidity about it. It works very well even if you need a reasonable seat to see it all – which we fortunately had. 

The catalogue aria (‘Madamina, Il Catalogo é question’) must rate amongst the greatest and wittiest. The use of photographs and an instant camera worked well as a motif, and the photographs arranged into albums to flick through on stage was quite amusing even if they couldn’t equate to the volume claimed – Ma in Spagna son gia mille e tre
The theatrics were never underdone. The explosion of flames at the end of act two gave a foretaste of DG’s fate. 

The dinner scene was a real triumph. Conducted at an angle, that the singers managed it so well indicates their skill as actors too. Flipping the table to reveal Don G’s invited but unwelcome guest was a thrilling moment, however expected it was. 

Festival 2014, Don Giovanni. Don Giovanni (Elliot Madore). Photo credit Robert Workman.
Elliot Madore (above) made an exquisite Don Giovanni, he looked slick and greasy, yet it wasn’t unreasonable that he might have seduced so many women. He had the charm and looks to do it. Infidelity on such a scale requires faithful help, and Edwin Crossley-Mercer’s Leporello was spot on too. He clearly wouldn’t have minded a shot in his master’s place –until he saw his fate perhaps. The Commendatore Taras Shtonda was wonderful. Donna Anna (Layla Claire), Don Ottavio (Ben Johnson) and Donna Elvira (Serena Farnocchia) all made for a first-rate cast. The LPO under Andrés Orozco-Estrada were wonderful. Mark Henderson’s lighting gave the whole thing a ghoulish, ghastly, love-among-the-ruins kind of feel, with real success. 

Overall: an extremely strong cast of principals, a wonderful stage, and a really super opera. I’d hear this happily every year. Or maybe even every week.

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