Music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, libretto by Lorenzo da Ponte
English Touring Opera
It was thrilling to see ETO’s live performance of Don Giovanni after recent experiences of ‘live’ opera performances relayed to cinemas from the Metropolitan Opera, Covent Garden and other prestigious venues. While it is a privilege to see world class performances in famous opera houses, there is no substitute for sitting in an audience and responding directly to the creative experience.
This production is an absolute delight. The cast is flawless, the music wonderful and the setting effective and appropriate.
There is tremendous rapport between the cast members, especially those who have been seduced, humiliated, bamboozled, or taken advantage of by the Don, who stands majestically and coldly above the rest in a powerful performance by George von Bergen, who has huge stage presence, a splendid voice and is satisfyingly remorseless. He deserves what he gets!
In contrast, Matthew Stiff’s Leporello is warm and engaging, conflicted between his disapproval of the Don and occasions when he can enjoy dubious side benefits. Again, a lovely voice, effective in the ‘Catalogue' aria, and vitally important in the ensemble pieces.
Camilla Roberts plays Donna Anna with depth of feeling and a rich tone in the high register. She is particularly moving in her duets with Don Ottavio, Robert Lyn Evans, whose mellifluous tenor voice delights the ear.
Ania Jeruc is an elegant Donna Elvira, dressed for much of the time in an unusual black and white dress, boldly patterned with the ace of spades. She gives a dynamic performance and is particularly effective in the coloratura passages.
Lucy Hall is a charming Zerlina, highly animated, full of smiles and laughter and naughtily flirtatious. She is at her best in the reconciliation scene with Bradley Travis (Masetto) when it convincingly clear that he cannot resist her charms.
Travis, as the almost cuckolded bridegroom, has a wide emotional range, a pleasing baritone voice and explores the comic potential of the role to great effect.
I was particularly moved by Timothy Dawkins’s Commendatore and concerned when his off-stage voice was heard in the final scenes that we might have to imagine rather than see him dragging the Don off to Hell. But not so. And it was such a good idea to have the final scene played forward to the audience rather than have the Don dragged off to upstage flames.
The small orchestra conducted by John Andrews does justice to Mozart’s irresistible music, and the performance is greatly enhanced by the rich tone of the ensemble and choral passages.
Anna Fleischle’s set with its vault-like curved walls and metal staircase leading to an upper level adapts effortlessly to the range of settings in the opera and is as effective in the dark Commendatore scenes as in the joyful wedding scene, where it is transformed by the addition of colourful rags attached to ropes and the carnival costumes of the visiting nobles.
ETO is in the early stages of an extensive four-month national tour which covers the length and breadth of the country. Don Giovanni enthralled the Sheffield audience and will, I’m sure, delight audiences wherever it is performed.