Don Giovanni, Holland Park Opera, July 2010Posted on 5 July 2010
This production by Stephen Barlow gives a clear and convincing take on the story, with pre-First World War costumes by Yannis Thavonis rather than elaborate wigs and clothing from the eighteenth century. Nicholas Garrett sang a powerfully aggressive and hyperactive Don of short stature — looking rather like Nicholas Sarkozy — and Matthew Hargreaves was an engaging and sympathetic Leporello. Money in the form of large bank notes exchanged hands between them several times, and it was as if Zerlina and Masetto were watching from the wings, as they purloined the remaining money from the Don’s corpse at the end.
Zerlina was a prim and bespectacled girl, very well sung by Claire Wild, whom the Don turned into a sexy charmer when he removed her glasses and let down her hair — a clever touch. Her fiancé Masetto was played by Robert Winslade Anderson as angry but ineptly assertive, and his swift sharp beating by the Don was horribly convincing. Laura Mitchell was a strikingly beautiful Donna Elvira with a lovely voice, only spoiled by straining to fill the auditorium. Her acting was superb, and she was utterly convincing in her desire for the ruthless Don. Ana James sang well as Donna Anna, with Thomas Walker looking suitably ineffective as her fiancé Don Ottavio, and Simon Wilding came over very strongly as her father the Commendatore, singing an excellent bass.
The ego-centricity of the Don in this production is well indicated by nearly twenty portraits of him, hanging on the wall and propped up on the floor — all exactly the same — and it’s through one of these that the Commendatore arrives to dine with him. There is no statue of this dead potentate, but a large coffin is brought on and the Don and Leporello see him inside it while a vision appears in a mirror over the fireplace. Stephen Barlow, who created the production — not to be confused with his namesake the opera conductor — is clearly a man to watch, and I had already been delighted by his direction of the Tosca revival in 2009 at Covent Garden. This is an excellent staging in which to understand Mozart’s Don Giovanni, and Robert Dean did a very fine job conducting the City of London Sinfonia.