Welsh National Opera
Ticket Price: £43.90
What an absolute triumph for the Welsh National Opera (WNO) at the Bristol Hippodrome last night. The company is celebrating its fiftieth anniversary of bringing opera to the Bristol theatre. To make it even more special, Don Giovanni was one of the works they first performed in the city in 1968 as part of a three week run of operas.
If you missed it at the Hippodrome last night, then you missed something really special. This staggeringly brilliant production of Mozart’s dark comedy perfectly fused the humour, love, loss and drama against the beauty of the music. This was achieved through perfect casting and James Southall’s flamboyant conducting.
Mozart meant business from the start with this fun overture. The conductor pulled out the darkness, the warning of what is to come, yet also had fun with the lighter moments. In fact, Mozart scribbled the entire overture in less time than it took to write and publish this review.
Don Giovanni is one of the most performed operas in the world. It could become an increasingly difficult one in the #MeToo era. For those who aren’t familiar with the story, it is based on the fictional character of Don Juan, a man who basically seduces, sleeps with and rapes nearly every woman he encounters – in Spain, 1003 women alone.
It is saved through the strength and determination of the female characters. Though they don’t have the satisfaction of seeing the retribution fall upon Giovanni at the end, it is a highly satisfactory ending both dramatically and morally. Miklós Sebestyén’s grave, and unyielding Commendatore pulled us towards the highly anticipated ending, enhanced by John Napier’s dark and brooding designs.
Zerlina’s Batti, batti, o bel Masetto, could be more problematic, were it not for the wide-eyed innocence of Katie Bray’s fresh and youthful performance.
Gavan Ring was perfect as the suave, silver-tongued devil with his philandering ways. It was entirely possible to see why the wonderfully dignified Elizabeth Watts’ with her stoically suppressed rage as Donna Elvira would have fallen for him.
In many ways, the story is not just Giovanni’s. It is about the relationships between the people he meets along the way – Donna Anna’s really slow burning relationship with Don Ottavio. The jealousy of Masetto towards Zerlina. Elvira’s need to rip out the heart of Don Giovanni. She can’t make him love her but won’t give up trying. There’s a life lesson for men who lie to women right there.
Despite Don Ottavio being an awkward kind of character, Benjamin Hulett pulled a blinder with his beautiful Dalla sua pace.
Of all of them, it’s David Stout’s Leporello that steals the show. He’s a great comic actor that never misses an opportunity to pull out the humour from the libretto. Madamina, il catalogo è questo (The Catalogue Aria) was of course a highlight. As was his staggering around the stage in darkness with Elvira. And was that a bread roll he was hungrily eating whilst Giovanni was rowing with a dead Commendatore at the gates of hell?
Don Giovanni is a fantastic opera. It’s a Christmas wish list of plot devices – ghosts, murder, sex, excess partying, anger, comedy and dramatic divine retribution, all set to the most impossibly beautiful music. The WNO’s production was a stunner and surpassed my expectations which were already quite high.
If you want to see this production, the last chance will be on Thursday 19 April 2018 at Venue Cymru, Llandudno. Otherwise, there is still time to see Tosca and La forza del destino before the WNO depart the Bristol Hippodrome on Saturday.
For more information about the opera and the WNO, visit: https://www.wno.org.uk/event/don-giovanni
For tickets for the remaining operas in Bristol, visit: www.atgtickets.com/Bristol
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