Don Giovanni @ Mayflower Theater 05/12/22

The WNO production of Don Giovanni is a perfect first step into the world of opera, recommended for everyone.

In Welsh National Opera’s production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni, no phrase rings truer than ‘hell hath no fury like a woman despised‘. Don Giovanni follows Mozart’s tale of the 17th century “sexual escapades” of a handsome young nobleman with no moral compass, famous for having slept with over two thousand women (often with questionable consent), leaving anger and grief wherever he goes.

Opera is often recognized as the most intimidating of the arts, and as the movie Pretty Woman aptly puts it, “If they love him, they will always love him. If they don’t, they may learn to appreciate it, but it will never be part of their soul. Entering the performance with an open and curious mind, accompanied by my much more knowledgeable and opera-loving grandmother as guide and co-reviewer, Don Giovanni quickly became an experience in which I learned that the opera is actually something I love now.

The velvet curtains part and the scene shifts to the scene of a candlelit night on the ramparts of a villa, with elegant voices filling the room as a couple rush out onto the balcony. In the middle of the night, the lust-filled Don Giovanni (Andrei Kymach) entered the room of young heiress Donna Anna (Marina Monzo) and raped her. As she cries out for help, her father (James Platt) rushes to her rescue but is cruelly murdered by Giovanni as he escapes, accompanied by his exasperated servant Leporello. We soon learn that Leporello (Simon Bailey) is no stranger to the Don’s bad manners, and despite frustration and jealousy towards Giovanni’s womanizers, he dutifully supports his master in prosecuting his crimes with comedic flair. .

Grieving Donna Anna and her fiancé Don Ottavio (Kenneth Tarver) now find themselves in an engagement intertwined by a vow to find and exact revenge on her father’s killer. Don Giovanni is then chased all over town by his enraged wife Donna Elvira (Meeta Raval) who has recently learned of his affairs and vows not to rest until the world knows of his crimes against women. Don Giovanni seduces and again rapes a bride, Zerlina (Isabelle Peters), on her wedding day, and her furious cuckold husband Massetto (James Atkinson) leads a collective of villagers and nobles who also seek her blood. From the start, it’s clear that revenge will be waged on Don Giovanni, but by whom remains the mystery that has audiences patiently waiting for his return.

Throughout the show, it is the singers whose voices come through with the most confidence, often with elegance, strength and anguish. Meeta Raval is an extremely expressive Donna Elvira, and the mayhem her character brings as her emotions swing between lust and vengeful fury is as endearing as it is fun to watch. Zerlina and Massetto are well matched, while performances by Don Ottavio and Donna Annas are powerful and beautifully intertwined with feelings of grief and a desire to love again. Andrei Kymach gives a good performance as Don Giovanni, although at times Leporetto seemed to be the stronger and vocally engaging of the couple, especially during a scene in which Leporetto has to impersonate Don Giovanni in an attempt to seduce Donna Elvira. From these descriptions, the web of love triangles and revenge plots might seem difficult to navigate, but the performance flows well and is supported by a setting that relies on its lighting to set the scene, with great props which fluctuate only between castle ramparts, heavy wooden gates or rocks for the occasional outdoor setting. In my opinion, perhaps more could have been offered here in terms of creating a clear environment in which its characters could exist. The choreography of fight scenes was also unconvincing or poorly executed, making it difficult to tell the difference between characters crashing playfully. another with props and when the characters have been really hurt by another.

This performance provides an intriguing insight into the power structures and gender roles of times gone by, all intertwined with the God-fearing and sin-avoidance contexts of Mozart’s day. I would confidently recommend to others as a good first step into Opera.

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