This, the first revival of Kasper Holten’s Don Giovanni, is a production full of visual spectacle. His ability to pull the spectator’s focus with lighting design and choreographed set movement must be applauded. Es Devlin’s revolving set is constructed on two levels and allows for a number of dark corners for Giovanni to enact his seductions on unsuspecting ladies.
The ultimate triumph of this production is the video design of Luke Halls. The evolving facade of Devlin’s set acts a backdrop on which wonderful swirling corridors of Don Giovanni’s mind and the scribblings of names in the book of conquests are projected. These stenographic and dramaturgical decisions bring Mozart’s tragicomedy to life and are a bold choice.
This star-studded cast do not disappoint – you can expect no less from the Royal Opera House. I am very glad to see Rolando Villazon back singing again after some severe vocal trauma. His Alfredo days may be over but Don Ottavio is a shrewd repertoire choice as he re-establishes himself on the international scene again. His lyric and open Italian sound suits the role better than most tenors, especially lighter ones usually cast in the role. He is sounding lovely but not at full strength – still having to lighten off at the top, especially in the arias, as vocal rehabilitation continues.
Albina Shagimuratova in the role of Donna Anna presents a commanding performance. She brings a wonderfully dramatic and fully lyric and beautiful sound to the role in a convincing Donna Anna. Julia Lezhneva too impressed as Zerina; sweet voiced and well acted. Her nuanced singing was lovely but was troubled on occasion with intonation. Christopher Maltman in the title role is at ease both on stage and in the singing of this famous seducer. His singing is rich and bright at the top and has the depth needed for some of the more dramatic moments. Close at hand is Alex Esposito as Leporello who sings an impressive rendition of ‘Madamina’, receiving huge applause.
By using the Vienna edition, removing the epilogue and leaving the piece at its dramatic climax after Don Giovanni’s dragging to hell by the Commendatore, the audience are left with a much more affecting ending. It’s a decision I wish directors would regularly choose when mounting a production of this opera, and is much more preferable to the dull moral of the epilogue. Although perhaps distracting at times, especially from the singing, the visual spectacle of Holten’s production is most intriguing and is sure to make this revival a sure-fire success.
Don Giovanni is playing at the Royal Opera House until 3 July. For tickets and more information, see the Royal Opera House website. Photo by Bill Cooper.