REVIEW: Don Giovanni – Teatro Real (Madrid)

A mafia-esque setting for a Teatro Real (Madrid) co-production of Mozart’s blinding opera, Don Giovanni, raises disturbing questions about the alleged ‘virtue’ of the other characters…

Mozart's Don Giovanni (dir: A.Perez/D.Tcherniakov) at the Teatro Real in MadridDon Giovanni is based on the old morality tale of the inveterate womanizer, whose past catches up with him with supernatural drama. The play version was first plumed by Spaniard Tirso de Molina in the 17th century, and had been bandied about a bit before Mozart and the Italian librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte refashioned it to their own brilliant, witty ends. Premiered in Prague in 1787, its success in the city was sadly not repeated in stuck up Vienna, where the opera raised eyebrows for its unconventional melange of the serious and the comic. Giovanni himself was suspiciously attractive, while his conquests, Donnas Elvira and Anna, and the peasant girl Zerlina, were rather too easily persuaded than was entirely appropriate… It was only in the 19th century, with its passion for probing the dark heart of human nature, that the opera was resuscitated as a work of **genius**.

The Dude

Under the musical direction of Alejo Pérez and the stage direction of Moscow-born Dmitri Tcherniakov, a booze-fuelled Giovanni (Russell Braun) is more of a loose canon than a wild card; he reels about the stage in a dirty brown mac, like a Saturday-night Colombo meets The Big Lebowski, pleading with the heavens to pay him some attention. The clumsy subheading to the production, ‘Lifeless even before going to hell’, seems appropriate to his stumbling, self-delusional state – alas, poor Giovanni! he totters on the brink of heart-attack abyss.

Bad Company

Yet, intriguingly, in this production it is the other characters that toss him into that chasm! A manipulative Donna Anna (Christine Schäfer), a tarty Zerlina (Mojca Erdmann), her neanderthal fancy-man Masetto (David Bižić), and best of all the pervy servant Leporello, (Kyle Ketelsen). How they spin a sticky web around our dribbling protagonist, whose success with women baffles him yet more than it does us! (Though isn’t that always the way, sigh).

New Heroes!

It is a bit of a dark reading, and the conspicuous absence of a supernatural revenge presents something of an anti-climax in the thumping finale. Yet the very pleasing side-effect of this is well worth the experiment … for the real heroes of the piece – slighted bride Donna Elvira (Ainhoa Arteta) and heartthrob Don Ottavio (Paul Groves) – simply knock you audibly senseless.

Don Giovanni at the Teatro Real this April, 2013Don Giovanni – Teatro Real (Madrid)
just 24th April, sorry!
But the production (Teatro Real/Festival d’Aix-en-Provence/Bolshoi Theatre/Canadian Opera Company) then travels to the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence in July, 2013. Rod Gilfry is the Don, count on Paul Groves and Kyle Ketelsen in their parts, and the London Symphony Orchestra provide the music. Hooray!