29 August 2010

Don Giovanni at Glyndebourne

It has been a few years since I last saw a production of Don Giovanni at Glyndebourne, more years than this blog can remember anyway, but it's a great opera so there was no harm in going to see the new production this year.

I don't generally read reviews but I had picked up that there was something special about the set and the way it changes.

This is a recent trend at Glyndebourne, e.g. The Fairy Queen last year, and it's one I am unsure about. I fell in love of the simplicity of Glyndebourne that lets the singing and the music weave their magic without unnecessary distraction and I am not yet convinced that the new rich complex sets do more than distract.

The set makes an immediate bold statement as we see Don Giovanni climb out of the window of the bedroom of his latest conquest.

Following that it rotates a lot and slides a little to become various streets, rooms, gardens and, of course, a graveyard.

These transitions were slow and subtle which meant that they were less of a distraction than I feared but, on balance, I still prefer the simpler static sets like those used in Macbeth.

But let's get back to the music as that is what opera is all about and Mozart operas are rich with it, especially Don Giovanni.

Mozart's style is to have the characters singing to the audience as much as they do to each other as they enlighten us with their thoughts.

This means that the arias often have several people singing at the same time and all facing the audience. Magic.

All the singing was as good as you would expect from Glyndebourne and the opera is a joy throughout. The only slight disappointment for me was the character of Don Giovanni who while he sang very well was not that convincing as a Lothario and even less so as the unrepentant sinner bound for hell.

Perhaps the criticism is a little unfair but the previous time that I saw Don Giovanni he descended in to hell with a real swagger and bravado, bringing the opera to a truly dramatic ending, and I guess that few performances will match that level of emotion.

So, more a four star performance than a five but they are four very good stars and it would not take too much to tempt me to go to see that production again.

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