Jonathan Kent’s interpretation of Don Giovanni is powerfully conceived: fast-paced, darkly layered, and morally complex. The set exemplifies the shifting allegiances and moods of the opera. Darkness fades to reveal a spinning cube, clad with the suggestions of palazzos, high renaissance erotic art and Venetian town houses. This unfolds to reveal interior and exterior grandeur, sanctuary and ultimately disintegration. The costumes were largely in monochrome: the sharp suits and feminine excesses of the 1950s, suggestive of the passion and playfulness of a dissolute aristocracy.
Natasha Jouhl has a beautiful colour and length to her voice, and sang the role of Donna Anna with authenticity and simplicity. Zerlina, sung by Eliana Pretorian, also held the audience and negotiated the transitions from victim to temptress to aggressor with grace and credibility. But the superlative performances of the evening came from Robert Gleadow as Leporello and Audun Iversen as Don Giovanni. Between them they conjured a relationship of power and corruption, reluctant affection and opportunistic manipulation essential to the farcical twists of the narrative. From the very outset, Leporello embodies the uneasy mix of the ridiculously exposed (he is in his underwear) and the subversive power of the servant.
The potency of the subject is matched by the creative decisions of the production. Act one closes with the set ablaze, a premonition of hell-fire and damnation, as literally Don Giovanni’s conceits go up in flames. Torchlight and sudden darkness lend the shifting identities of Leporello and Don Giovanni credibility. An open grave for the Commendatore as the dead rise up in judgement against the living provokes a gothic shudder in the audience. We are in the realm of a desperate passion.
For sheer energy and commitment, Glyndebourne’s touring production of Don Giovanni is an opera of furious, breathtaking pleasure.