tue 21/11/2017

Don Giovanni, Glyndebourne Festival Opera | reviews, news & interviews

Don Giovanni, Glyndebourne Festival Opera

Don Giovanni, Glyndebourne Festival Opera

A polite romp about the bushes in a white DJ is not what you hope for

Not so much fire and brimstone: Glyndebourne's Don GiovanniBill Cooper

It seems somehow wrong to come away from a Don Giovanni feeling a bit noncommittal about the whole thing. It’s the sort of opera that should raise you from your seat – that should fire and inspire – but this performance, directed by Jonathan Kent, never truly got off the ground. The set – a sort of Rubik's Cube of a building designed by Paul Brown that opened in ever more ingenious ways, and morphed from chapel to party house to graveyard – was clever and satisfying and mirrored the steady disintegration of the characters as we progressed. But without the intensity and the drama from these characters, it was rather wasted.

Gerald Finley was a toff of a Don Giovanni, who wouldn’t have been out of place lounging across the Glyndebourne lawns and dragging off a lady or two to have a quick romp with in the bushes. Of course, we all know that Don Giovanni has his arrogant bounder side, but there has to be a bit more swagger, a bit more sex, a bit more inherent loutishness there too – I bet the larger part of the Don’s 1,003 Spanish conquests were from the equivalents of Magaluf and Torremolinos, and he wouldn't have got those wearing a white DJ. Finley’s rather preppy look suggested he’d be happier picking up freshers at Oxford.

As with the appearance, so with the voice. There’s a natural lightness to Finley’s voice that can be very attractive, but it didn’t do it for me last night – there just wasn’t the gravel there to grip as it might have done. In contrast, Leporello, played by Luca Pisaroni, was rather stylish in his haplessness, with a roguish air that was distinctly appealing and a tone that suited his more cagey character well. The other performers were all decent, but I wasn’t left rocked by any of them. Kate Royal was a disappointment as Donna Elvira, as was William Burden as Don Ottavio: the former seemed to have left her voice at home, the latter was unmemorably beige. Anna Samuil (Donna Anna) was considerably more gutsy, with a voice that carried much better than the others, and Anna Virovlanssky was pleasantly and cutely coquettish as Zerlina.

Underpinning this was the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, directed by Vladimir Jurowski. There were some pleasantly rich sounds emanating from the pit from time to time, and there was plenty of depth to be found in the playing, though it felt extremely serious - lacking in essential sparkle and wit. A number of timing issues when the orchestra was positioned around the stalls created the occasional aural equivalent of watching 3D television without the glasses.

The thing is, this Don Giovanni wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t brilliant, and you rather hope for brilliant at Glyndebourne. I’m not sure what they need to do to provide that extra zip and zing, but I’m sure it wouldn’t take much. Let’s hope they find it before the end of the run.

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Comments

i totally agree with all of this ,, gerald finley is too roger moore to be menacing and there is no sense of decadence - and of course he not Tom Allen or Gobbi ,, i thought the best rounded performance was Zerlina - showing that something beautifully done is what glyndebourne is about - i went home grateful that it had not rained rahter than feeling privileged to have heard the music

Haven't seen it yet, but wouldn't surprise me to learn that Jonathan Kent has turned in yet another anodyne show - suppose they had to play safe after the Vick 'sea of ordure' version which so upset the regulars. And Finley is sooooo vanilla. Don't want to think of him as Hans Sachs. Given the WNO triumph they might as well give up on that one.

I on the other hand thoroughly enjoyed this production. You cannot embody a character who is in large part archetype, so there is no wholly satisfactory Don Giovanni, or for the same reason Carmen, or Hamlet. Likewise, partly because of it's enormous ambition, there is never going to be a seamless production of this opera, the lightning switches of mood from melodrama to low comedy to the mythic, are very hard to pull off, and it does not have the depth of characterisation, and the subtlety and truthfulness of their interplay that you find in Cosi or Figaro. For these reasons, I think it is more wrong than usual to set up anything you have seen previously as any kind of definitive production or performance. It is much better and more enjoyable to try and take this on its own terms. We don't ever expect to see a definitive Hamlet, we talk of an actor giving us his Hamlet, so why do so many opera critics in particular talk about a singers performance in relation to that of others they have seen in the past? Setting it in the world of Fellini's "La Dolce Vita" works really well, and Gerard Finley's Don ticked enough boxes for me, and his sinister, conspiratorial, almost co-dependent relationship with Leporello was beautifully portrayed. Indeed he is the most credible Don I have seen. The staging is endlessly inventive and effective, which should be no surprise to anyone who saw the completely magnificent and totally eccentric box of delights that was last year's Fairy Queen. In short it's is a brilliant production of this flawed masterpiece.

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