CurtainUp
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A CurtainUp London Review
Don Giovanni
"You intend to let a master make a mistress out of you." — Masetto
Don Giovanni
Christopher Purves as Giovanni dining on lobster (Photo: Robert Workman)
Wanted posters in black and white with the face of a bald man. Connecting doors. As the overture plays, two men are seen standing at a door very much like the other six doors on set. Both wear black satin three piece suits but one has bright red hair and black rimmed glasses. Think Chris Evans. The other is shorter, stockier and bald. A woman enters from the left and walks past the two men but a few steps on, she stops turns and the shorter of the two men leads her through the door, from which they emerge maybe half a minute later. While the man and woman are inside, the other one, Leporello (Clive Bayley), keeps watch. This scene is repeated perhaps twenty times, each time a different woman always wearing black but of differing ages and shapes. One even is a young man. So we have a clear picture of Don Giovanni (Christopher Purves), the serial seducer or the man who loves too little.

Donna Anna (Caitlin Lynch) has a role open to interpretation. Sometimes she is raped by Giovanni, sometimes she is complicit in her seduction. In Richard Jones' production she is involved in a sex game, a pretend rape from a masked intruder. However, it goes horribly wrong when her father the Commendatore (James Creswell) interrupts his own sexual encounter in an adjoining room and comes to her rescue. He is killed by his daughter's lover.

We meet Donna Elvira (Christine Rice) the woman who believes herself to be Giovanni's wife and who has limitless forgiveness and, in this production, is quite clearly deranged. She is the woman who loves too much. Leporello illustrates the extent of Giovanni's sexual conquests with the Catalogue. Giovanni chances on peasant Zerlina's (Mary Bevan) wedding to Masetto (Nicholas Crawley) and claims the droit de seigneur. He is about to seduce her when there is a surprise in the bed. Donna Anna cosies up to her fiance Don Ottavio (Allan Clayton) with many lies. Her voice is divine but what she sings is deceitful.

At the masked ball Giovanni wears a double horned mask like twin elongated rhino horns, in case we have missed the point. At the interval I was disappointed by the unattractiveness of Giovanni. It isn't just his appearance but a lack of charisma and charm. Salvatore Montalbano manages to be very sexy despite his lack of height and hair because he is charming. I also wondered how Leporello was to swap places with Giovanni in order to deceive Elvira as they looked not at all alike.

I shouldn't have worried because in Act Two the ginger wig and glasses are removed and swapped. Elvira is wild eyed and crazy. And here is the trouble, Anna is complicit in events leading to her father's murder; Elvira is crazy and ridiculed; Giovanni isn't seductive and Leporello isn't a Cockney quick wit tied to the servant role. How can we be engaged if the only "good " person is the stolid Don Ottavio? Even the Commendatore was involved in his own sexual liaison.

At last we understand why we have been looking at a telephone box onstage as Giovanni adopts the servant's guise to seduce the maid (Danielle Meehan) by telephone and she crawls along the sofa with desire on hearing his song of seduction in a highly comic interlude. The funeral procession arrives with the Commendatore statue surrounded by a giant wreath, generous funeral flowers and Giovanni escapes the final punishment.

This has been a week for the dissolute with the opening of The Libertine and this. On the whole I prefer my Giovannis handsome and his punishment, a descent into the flames of hell; but Richard Jones' productions are always interesting visually, here a monochrome effect, and the second act of this Giovanni is dynamic. The orchestra under Mark Wigglesworth is wonderful and the singing inspiring.





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PRODUCTION NOTES
Don Giovanni
Music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Libretto: Lorenzo da Ponte
English Adaptation : Amanda Holden
Directed by Richard Jones
Starring: Christopher Purves, James /Cresswell, Caitlin Lynch, Allan Clayton, Christine Rice, Clive Bayley, Nicholas Crawley, Mary Bevan.
Conductor: Mark Wigglesworth
Set Designed by Paul Steinberg
Costumes designed by Nicky Gillibrand
Sound Design: Gareth Fry
Lighting Design: Mimi Jordan Sherin
Movement: Sarah Fahle
Running time: Three hours with an interval
Box Office: 020 7845 9300
Booking to 28th October 2016
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 30th September 2016 performance at the London Coliseum, St Martin's Lane, London WC2N 4ES (Tube: Leicester Square)
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