ADVERTISING AT CURTAINUP
Short Term Listings
BOOKS and CDs
LETTERS TO EDITOR
Writing for Us
A CurtainUp London Review
In the first scene, Anna (Natasha Jouhl) is not raped but is playing a sexual S and M game with Giovanni (Grant Doyle) where he is the one that is tied up and blindfolded. As her father, the Commendatore (Christophoros Stamboglis) comes downstairs to investigate, Anna releases Giovanni and as they fight, he defends himself with a table knife. Giovanni and Leporello (Joshua Bloom) flee. The paramedics arrive and take the Commendatore to hospital. There can be no doubt that Anna knows who the man is, that she later claims attacked her, to her fiancé, the geeky Ottavio (Jesús León). This is the major deviation from the original plot, and as we meet them all three women, Anna, Elvira and Zerlina are not the innocent victims of the libertine.
We first meet the weeping Elvira (Sophie Bevan) making her way through a whole box of paper handkerchiefs before Leporello’s masterly rendition of “The Catalogue” of Giovanni’s female conquests are printed off on a roll of computer paper, until it is 50 feet long and still printing. Elvira here is as much a figure of fun, of self inflicted misery, passive aggressive, as victim which of course puts a different slant on the plot. When Giovanni sees Zerlina (Mary Bevan) she is in full Essex wedding outfit, a spangly cut out micro dress with a layered tulle train like a chorus girl and with go go dancing bridesmaids in mango tulle for her wedding to Masetto (Callum Thorpe). Elvira and Giovanni struggle over Zerlina, Elvia holding Zerlina’s arms while Giovanni holds her legs in a comic scene.
The disadvantage of director’s Daniel Slater’s original approach is that it make us question Anna’s distress as mere acting as we realise that much of what she relates is a lie. It is as if we are looking at Lady Macbeth here rather than Donna Anna. But we start to sympathise when Masetto says, “It is we men who are the weaker sex.” All of the women seem knowing or complicit.
The opera takes place in a multilevel apartment block set with designer chrome and white leather minimalist furniture with Giovanni as some kind of property developer and Leporello as his chauffeur. But this auditorium is wonderfully involving and intimate after the vast opera houses and although there are plot twists, Slater’s direction has a clarity of vision even if some of the motivation raises questions and the libretto may not always reflect the director’s design. We know what has happened; it is the why we want to debate.
I was impressed with Sophie Bevan’s singing as Elvira, angry enough to be believably unhinged and I loved Joshua Bloom’s finely sung and wily Leporello. Grant Doyle as Giovanni has a school boyish charm like a television presenter, with his hair flopping forward over his face and we can see, that together with his wealth, he will attract women. The ending is a personal, original if less spectacular version of Hell, with Anna choosing to join Giovanni over Ottavio.
After an hour and a half for a dinner or picnic interval in white tents in the grounds ass dusk falls, the stage lighting came into play. It lit the white furniture ochre before the audience leaves to torchlight and candles on the path. The Garsington Opera Orchestra conducted by Douglas Boyd is just splendid, delivering Mozart’s wonderful tunes brilliantly and the whole evening is very special indeed.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
Click image to buy.