WNO Don Giovanni review

A MORE THAN 5-STAR WNO DON GIOVANNI


DON GIOVANNI
Welsh National Opera at Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff *****
Welsh National Opera's current revival of its original 2011 production is quite simply the best Don Giovanni of the many I have seen in nearly 60 years.
John Caird's direction unfolds the drama of this come-uppance parable with clarity and originality, whilst at the same time preserving precious values of not interfering with the composer's and librettist's intentions, and staff director Caroline Chaney has brought everything up shiny and new.
Except all is not sparkling, with not much cliched Spanish sunshine. Lighting and set design are heavy and dark (a reviewer colleague has likened it to a Renasissance Caravaggio painting), with a nocturnal skyscape looking down on everything). This is a wonderful team performance from the WNO squad, lighting designer David Hersey complementing the original designs, both costume and set, of John Napier.
The set is simply stunning, a huge sombre marmoreal wall which will divide into multifarious sections creating doorways, alleyways, balconies, and so much else, above all the terrifying gates of hell., surrounded by hooded, sinister monks. No spoilers here, but Don Giovanni's dragging into the inferno is brilliantly achieved, and I wish I could reveal how striking is the subsequent image.
As for Mozart's music, the WNO Orchestra plays beyond the top of its impressive form under Tobias Ringborg, a conductor certainly to look out for, supporting a cast which is continuously engaging and involving.
In the cast I saw, Duncan Rock was a swaggering but initially likeable Don, and Joshua Bloom sympathetic as his grumbling manservant Leporello. They even looked alike, making the scene where the Don makes Leporello make up to Donna Elvira while he himself gets off with a servant-girl elsewhere all the more realistic.
Meeta Raval brought an extra psychological dimension to the seduced and now delusional Donna Elvira. Her "Mi Tradi" was spectacularly delivered. The self-pitying outbursts of Donna Anna, yet another seducee, were powerfully voiced, with Kenneth Tarver giving stoic support as her fiancée, Don Ottavio.
The country bumpkins Zerlina (Harriet Eyley) and Masetto (James Atkinson, who made more of this usually one-dimensional role than anyone I have previously experienced) made an engaging contrast to all this heavy drama.
Almost everything had been dark in this show, and engrossingly so. But after Don Giovanni has perished in the flames of hell, the remaining characters sing a joyous, moralistic fugal madrigal. And all the lights come on brightly!
Christopher Morley
*At Birmingham Hippodrome later in the spring.

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