Raunchy Romp Don Giovanni Rocks Royal Opera House
Welcome to sunny Spain, 230 BT (Before Tinder). Forget Love Island — Mozart was serving sauce and scandal centuries before sexting and butt-lifts were invented. The Royal Opera House wants to set you up with the original player and serial ghoster who shagged his way across Europe without so much as an STI screen.
The impossibly handsome and enigmatic Erwin Schrott seems born to play the titular legendary lothario. His Don Giovanni is a tortured, isolated figure beneath the bombastic bravado, and his mellifluous baritone expertly soars, sighs, seduces and snarls. In the infamous, tongue-twisting Champagne Aria, Schrott goes for personality over perfection and keeps up valiantly. Form an orderly queue, ladies — resistance is futile.
As Giovanni's beleaguered servant, Leporello, Roberto Tagliavini is a magnificent foil for his master, with a delightfully rich, radiant bass. As the largely ignored Don Ottavio, Daniel Behle's arias are captivating interludes of feeling and finesse, at once deeply passionate and feather soft with tenderness.
Myrto Papatanasiu and Malin Bystrom, as spurned victims Elvira and Anna, are suitably fervent and fretful, but it's only in Act two that they really come into their own. Papatanasiu eschews the shrew and delivers a poignant aria that reveals the suffering and complexity beneath Elvira's billowing black cape. Bystrom's powerful performance leaves us struggling to reconcile the daughter grieving for her father, and the lust-struck lover who abandons the loyal Ottavio for a quickie with the man who murdered him. Louise Alder's Zerlina is a delight; by turns demure and duplicitous, she trills and colours with ease.
Es Devlin's set is an Escher-inspired, morphing mansion — haunted by the ghosts of girlfriends past, and the revolving stage creates a dizzying carousel of ribaldry and revenge. There is an elaborate use of projection, showering the set with the names of countless conquests, smears and splashes of ink, oily tears, and washes of blood. At times all the twirling and technology distracts from the human narrative, but it can also evoke chaos and delusion at the perfect moment, as in the positively epileptic Champagne Aria.
This Don Giovanni is a jaunty, raunchy romp that opts for psychological subtlety over histrionics and hellfire. This makes for a seemingly lacklustre finale, but Kasper Holten's production ultimately reminds us that hell is of our own making, and our anti-hero is consumed by the torment of a debauched, empty life, not sulphur and flame.
Don Giovanni, Royal Opera House, Bow Street, WC2E 9DD. £27-£190. Screened in UK cinemas on 8 October. Until 10 October 2019.
Last Updated 17 September 2019