Welsh National Opera’s production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni comes to Southampton as part of their national tour, and this production is in the usual grand style familiar to followers of WNO.
Don Giovanni is not a very likeable character - having seduced over two thousand women - all neatly catalogued by his faithful servant Leporello. The story begins with Don Giovanni attempting to rape the comely Donna Anna, and killing her father, the Commendatore, whilst making his escape. He later tries to seduce Zerlina - a peasant girl on the very day of her wedding to Masetto, whilst avoiding the jealous gaze of the slighted Donna Elvira. He even swaps clothes and identities with his servant Leporello, so he can seduce Elvira’s maid! It is no surprise then, that there is a collective desire to end Don Giovanni’s philandering ways, and the story moves inevitably towards his deserved downfall.
With a plot like that you know that you are in for an evening of dark stories and serious music, and the story is very involved with its twists and turns, all so that Don Giovanni can add the next conquest to his list. David Kempster’s portrayal of the scoundrel Don Giovanni is compelling and strong, especially the way he treats his loyal servant with complete disdain. David Soar as Leporello, plays the best servant you can have and his delivery of the arias is superb, especially when he is showing Donna Elvira the contents of the ‘book of seduced women’.
The women in the story all show their vulnerability whenever Giovanni is around, however Camilla Roberts’s Donna Anna is strong and powerful, and really brings out her desire to rid the world of the villainous Don. Her consort, Don Ottavio (Robin Tritschler), is the perfect gent; caring and loving. His rendition of ‘Il mio tesoro’ is touching and beautifully delivered. Donna Elvira (Nuccia Focile) is perhaps a little less convincing and contradictory in her quest for vengeance.
Gary Griffiths, as Masetto, gives a really strong performance and brings some lighter moments to the story when he frolics with Zerlina (Claire Ormshaw).
Carlo Malinverno brings just the right amount of gravitas to the proceedings as the doomed Commendatore , with a wonderful bass voice, and certainly holds the audience during his scenes as the phantom ‘stone statue’ . The retribution and following scenes are most effective, and delivered with real passion. (It is a shame that on review night the surtitles packed up just at the moment critique so these scenes had no translation, but as the majority of the audience was quite obviously familiar with the material it did not seem to matter too much).
Directed by John Caird, this production follows a more traditional staging with atmospheric lighting, (by David Hersey), which accentuates the dark and brooding story. John Napier’s scenery too is dark and heavy, but put to clever use to portray the different scenes. I would personally have liked to see a more modern take on the theme; similar to their treatment of other Mozart Operas, but it will certainly please the traditionalists. Napier (along with Yoon Bae) also created the costumes which are a triumph and a real highlight.
The orchestra, conducted by a youthful James Southall, provideds the perfect accompaniment to the action on stage.
A good night’s entertainment - a little longer than most audiences are used to - at 3 hours 25 minutes - but certainly worth the trip to the Mayflower to see an excellent production of grand opera how it should be done. The combination of a good story and that wonderful Mozart music makes for a satisfying evening out!