Iain Paterson as Don Giovanni and Sarah Tynan as Zerlina, (c) Donald Cooper
The story of Don Juan, the conqueror of women who remains unrepentant to the last, has been told in many forms. None, however, is quite as famous as Mozart’s Don Giovanni of 1787, and here at the Coliseum theatre director Rufus Norris makes his operatic debut with the work.
The production ditches the original setting, and instead relies on the characterisations themselves to draw out the social hierarchies involved. In this way, Iain Paterson’s Don Giovanni comes across as an affable upper class figure with a (slightly refined) Russell Brand-style charisma. He’s not a conventional heartthrob, but it is believable that women in their spades could fall for his charm. Similarly, Sarah Tynan’s Zerlina and John Molloy’s Masetto are portrayed as decent, but simple, folk who can all too easily be manipulated and misled.
Other star turns come from two basses. Brindley Sherratt brings out all of the ambiguities in the character of Giovanni’s servant Leporello, while Matthew Best’s Commendatore leaves us lamenting that the part isn’t bigger. Sarah Redgwick also gives a storming performance as Donna Elvira, having only replaced Rebecca Evans at the eleventh hour.
If, however, the cast and Kirill Karabits’ conducting are strong, the staging is more problematic. It has its moments as free standing sets spin around to maximise on the ‘in one door, out the other’ farcical elements. Too often, however, it feels arbitrary, and with no clear lead as to the time period involved (some costumes are 1950s, others feel ‘futuristic’) it is hard for the production to fire on all cylinders. This Don Giovanni ultimately prevails but, given its considerable list of strengths, it is more surprising it’s such a close run thing.
Until 3 December (ten performances).Tickets: 0871 911 02000 or from the ENO website