Wednesday, 11 August 2010


31/7/10, Glyndebourne

The night of the bats. There was one flying round the auditorium when we entered which remained throughout the first act, flitting occasionally across the lights and adding considerably to the atmosphere. And when we got back to our (rather grand) B & B there was another flitting around in the hallway and landing which the landlady's son finally got rid of with the aid of a gigantic butterfly net.

The production itself was rather dominated by its set, an extravagant affair of hydraulics and walls (which became sloping playing areas) all turning on the revolve, which caught fire at the end of Act 1. Designed by Paul Brown. Surely, one thought, they cannot take that on tour but apparently they will. Though undeniably impressive it often gave the singers difficulty and limited movement.

Directed by Jonathan Kent, who chose to reimagine the Commendatore as a kind of B movie zombie (which worked well enough) but otherwise played this rather puzzling piece pretty straight.

The setting was 1960s Italy, Fellini-style. Luca Pisaroni was an engaging comic Leporello, played as a rather cringing character (though some of his music suggests a rather more self-confident character), a seedy paparazzo-style figure with a Polaroid camera (cf the version we saw at BAC a year or so ago). Gerald Finley sang his umpteenth Don Giovanni, looking a dead ringer for Marcello Mastroianni. It occurred to me that he doesn't have as much to do as you might expect: Leporello has more stage time.

Kate Royal (sigh) sang Donna Elvira in a belted raincoat: there is something gawkily restrained and rather English about her which suited the slightly loopy Elvira.

Anna Samuil as Donna Anna got the biggest cheers, which made me wonder who the star is meant to be. Donna A and Donna E have one big aria apiece in the second half. Zerlina (Anna Virovlansky) has more to sing and do: she was a sparky little thing in a ghastly blonde wig. Presumably Mozart's original cast included a first-rate omic actress who got the Zerlina-Susannah parts and a couple of stand-and-belters who couldn't act. Masetto (in shiny wedding suit) and Don Ottavio are rather thankless parts.

The plot really is very problematic. It relies on all the women being in two minds, up for it but then again not up for it (or instantly regretting it). Donna Anna's screams at the start in this production are not because Giovanni is raping her but because he's leaving and refuses to stay. Zerlina succumbs (in a nice touch when she and Don G first meet and she is easily seduced her high note comesas he runs his hand up her skirt) and willingly goes off in the party scene (another touch of Fellini, with everyone moving very slowly in a kind of three a.m. torpor) only to cry rape off-stage. It's not clear why.

You're left wondering what on earth all these women actually see in him. And you feel if women were as changeable and unreliable as this plot suggestsm Don G would have come a crashing cropper long, long ago.

At one point the party band (and chorus) went to the back of the circle, invisible from our seats, and created an intriguing stereo effect which was only partly spoilt by the fact that the party itself was very distinctly taking place on stage in front of us, not behind us.

I liked the quote from Figaro, and Leporello's "I know this".

David Hockney was sitting immediately in front of us. Norman Lamont was there with a tall and striking blode. Danielle de Niese was at the dinner but not, so far as I could see, at the show.

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