Rufus Norris’s production of Don Giovanni — Mozart’s take on that conqueror of women who remains unrepentant to the last — first appeared for English National Opera in 2010. For its first revival some of the staging has been altered, with the consequence that the more hyperbolic and tasteless aspects have been removed, while the dynamism and intensity of the production has remained. Although many principals reprise their roles, the cast feels, if anything, even stronger than before, so that what came across as inherently flawed two years ago now feels leaner, meaner and far more fit for purpose.
The performers are headed by Iain Paterson who is all the more believable in the title role for the fact that the source of his magnetism is hard to define, and yet so clearly in evidence. Darren Jeffery is strong and sturdy as the torn servant Leporello, while Sarah Redgwick provides a heartfelt performance as the stubborn, yet needful and forgiving, Donna Elvira. Katherine Broderick is a rousing Donna Anna, Ben Johnson a beautifully toned Don Ottavio, and Matthew Best puts in a mighty vocal performance as the Commendatore.
The production still lacks a sufficiently strong setting to delineate the original plot’s social hierarchies. As Heaven nightclub’s gay retelling of the story proved by relocating the action to the 1980s, that setting does not have to be 1787, provided it is coherent on its own terms. Here, however, the 1950s is merely alluded to on occasions, although this would be a far greater problem were the performances themselves not so good at exploring the power relationships.
Paterson reveals the gentrified Don’s total disregard for the feelings of ‘plebeians’ (this production gives a nod to Andrew Mitchell by stressing that word), while in two immensely spirited performances Sarah Tynan and John Molloy as Zerlina and Masetto bring home the working class’s naivety and susceptibility. Add in Edward Gardner’s sensational conducting, Paul Anderson’s brilliant lighting and choreography that is more restrained and effective than before, and you have a Don Giovanni to savour.
Don Giovanni is at the London Coliseum until 17 November (nine performances). For tickets (£16-99) call 0871 911 0200 or buy online.
Photo: Iain Paterson’s Don Giovanni finds it all too easy to lead Sarah Tynan’s Zerlina astray, (c) Richard Hubert Smith.