You know this is going to be something other than a straightforward staging from the first doom-laden notes of the overture. Conductor Jakub Hrusa injects an element of savage mockery as this progresses which is borne out by Ashley Dean’s version of Joanathan Kent’s original production once the curtain rises. We’re confronted with a black and white world which is blood-red spattered; certainly we are in Seville, but this is Spain in the dying days of Franco’s dictatorship. Everything and everyone is touched by corruption.
Paul Brown’s set is a flexible cube, anchored to a revolve. The cast of singers – who really can act – play out the story as apparent normality of walls and floors degenerates into tilted distortion. There’s no safety behind these massive doors. Don Giovanni himself is something worse than merely immoral; he’s a psychopath and Audun Iversen conveys this very well as well as making much of his two brief arias. It's always interesting to see how Giovanni will make his escape at the end of the first act. This solution is certainly unusual.
The outstanding performance is that of Natasha Jouhl as Donna Anna. She is far more Giovanni’s nemesis even than her murdered father (a fine characterisation by In-Sung Sim who has a vocal depth which more than holds its own against the other two dark voices in the final trio). Jouhl’s voice is a big one, but she is capable of much delicacy in phrasing and ornamentation. Nicole Heaston is the troubled Donna Elvira, moving in her mental conflict as she hovers between her desire to be righted and self-abasement. Callum Thorpe's Masetto sketches in a young man who knows that othe people will always have the upper hand.
Don Ottavio in this version loses “Il mio tesoro” but retains “Dalla sua pace”. Emanuele d”Aguanno does well enough with this, but it’s a fairly thankless role whatever the production. What we get instead, however, is the often-cut second act scene in which Zerlina (Eliana Pretorian) finally takes her revenge on Leporello. Pretorian offers a portrait of a girl who’s no shy village maiden but a young cat with the sharpest of claws. Robert Gleadow’s Leporello is another good characterisation, a mistreated servant in almost masochistic thrall to his master. One expects the catalogue aria to be one of the opera’s show-stoppers, and Gleadow doesn't disappoint us.