The comical tragedy of Don Giovanni at the Royal Opera House projects Mozart’s opera in an effortlessly modern manner but maintains the past integrity.
The opera follows Don Giovanni, a nobleman who gets his way with many, many women. His servant Leporello helps him with his pursuits. After his most recent interaction with Donna Anna, Don Giovanni kills her father Commendatore who wants to stop him. Donna Elvira, another of Don Giovanni’s pawns, is looking to get vengeance on him. Donna Anna recites her interaction as rape to her fiancé Don Ottovio. Massetto and Zerlina are getting married nearby and Don Giovanni invites them to celebrate in his mansion, Zerlina is his next target. This new venture leads to more complications and even a switch between Don Giovanni and his servant Leporello then leads to even more mishaps.
An essential feature that makes this production unique is the projection, the elegance and precision keeps you engaged throughout. From moving through the interior of the mansion to the beautiful visuals of blood and hatred, the mental and emotional states of characters are always aesthetically present. The list of his body count is reinforced throughout the piece; the overwhelming number of names that fills the whole stage during the overture gives this production a modern opening. It is like watching the opening credits of a movie; it establishes the theatrical world immediately. The video designer Luke Halls also uses moving images that enhance the narrative, an example would be when all the characters are walking through the mansion looking for Giovanni, and the projection creates a corridor that moves to give the actors motion. The projection also has a theme that is apparent throughout, Halls has created a chalk motif that illustrates the list as well as this expressive interior of the mansion.
The set of Don Giovanni is minimalistic but adds complexity when working with the projection. The white cube set that represents Giovanni’s mansion is simple but infused with the projection and displays the complexity of character and narrative. Es Devlin’s set design and Luke Halls’ video design collaboration shows that both cannot exist without the other; the set and projection compliment one another and demonstrates the ensemble that opera is. The set revolves which allows smooth transitions throughout the piece and suggests the passing of time/space. The revolving set also separates the space within this piece, which leads the performers to sing with an intimacy that I thought I would not get at the Royal Opera House because of its vast space. The set has many different doors that aid in the changes within transitions; this controls our view in terms of angles and space.
The lighting designer Bruno Poet is astute as the lights work with the projection completely; the LED lights that represent open flame are a great feature that gives the set a modern aesthetic. At one point the projection takes one half of the set and the lights take the other, what is interesting about this is the cooperation that both designs have.
The costumes are of Royal Opera standards; Anja Vang Kragh’s work gives the production individuality, as every piece of costume is specific to each character and displays the character’s personality. The costumes all compliment each other and fit in with the set and lighting.
The performers are outstanding; they all create a flawless sound. The use of space is efficient, and the staging of the piece is clear. Director Amy Lane brings forward the comical value as well the tragedy that is fundamentally what this opera is about, Lane demonstrates this with elegance and authenticity.
Don Giovanni at the Royal Opera House is a production that demonstrates creative collaboration; every creative on this production gives the show a flavour that works in partnership with one another. If you want to see substantial opera, then Don Giovanni at the Royal Opera House is the one to see.
Don Giovanni is playing at the Royal Opera House until 17 July
Photo: Bill Cooper