Don Giovanni, Glyndebourne, July 2010

This production starts with a bang. The audience, seated in a lighted auditorium, is suddenly plunged into blackness as the first chord comes thundering from the orchestra. Then as the stage gradually lights up during the overture we see a cubical building of stone slowly rotating, showing different facets, and I thought of Dr. Who’s tardis. This turned out to be right on the mark, as the building later opens out to reveal various sets, the last of which shows a long table adorned for dining in a raked and dissolute room. The Commendatore appears from beneath, and drags the Don to hell at the front of the stage. This Jonathan Kent production is cleverly lit by Mark Henderson, and the designs by Paul Brown suggest a spooked version of La Dolce Vita in late 1950s Italy.

The End of the Party in Act I, Glyndebourne photo by Bill Cooper

Within this context, Gerald Finley is the perfect Don, suave and brutal. His killing of the Commendatore is done by dragging him to ground and clobbering him with a brick. After that, both he and Luca Pisaroni as Leporello performed with an insouciance that gave the impression either one would happily shop the other if push came to shove. Their singing had a clarity and attack that made them seem a nasty pair of scoundrels, and with such performances the rest of the cast could be almost passengers, yet there was some excellent support.

The Don with Zerlina, photo by Bill Cooper

Guido Loconsolo performed well as an unusually assertive Masetto, with his two-tone shoes and youthful physicality, and Anna Virovlansky as Zerlina was prettily seductive and absolutely infuriating in her flippant responses to him. Kate Royal sang well as a mousey Donna Elvira, still in love with the Don but clearly incapable of attracting his attentions, apart from her angry assertions of his callous inconstancy, and William Burden was a very fine Don Ottavio, restrained yet powerful. Brindley Sherratt sang well as the Commendatore, and Anna Samuil did her own thing as Donna Anna, singing out strongly for her fans in the audience, yet never quite integrating with the rest of the cast.

The Commendatore crushes the Don, photo by Bill Cooper

This was, at least for me, a super production, and the first orchestral bang at the start was followed by another when the wedding party suddenly poured forth from the cubical structure, and a third at the start of Act II. My only complaint was that the Act II fight where the Don beats up Masetto was poorly done — the blow knocking Masetto to the ground was very wide of the mark — but this is something that should be rehearsed by fight director Alison de Burgh before every performance. However, Vladimir Jurowski did a superb job with the orchestra, which played with immense feeling for the light and shade of Mozart’s score.

Performances continue until 27th August.

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