Don Giovanni has always been one of my favourite operas since I was very young. When I heard that it was going to be performed at Warwick Arts Centre by Opera Warwick, I knew I’d be first in line to get a ticket. However, I became dubious upon finding out that it was inspired by Mad Men with an English libretto. Having recently seen Mozart’s iconic opera, which presents the exploits of the infamous, eponymous womaniser, Don Giovanni, at the Royal Opera House, I was hesitant about how the lavish and highly traditional setting would be transformed and transpire on stage in Opera Warwick’s unusual adaptation. However, after the musical treat that was opening night, I couldn’t feel more shamed of my musical snobbery, and can only praise director Fraser Simpson and musical director Samuel Foster for pulling off this vision!
What Opera Warwick presented was a production that was nothing short of impressive. The production design was superbly executed, with a fantastic moving set designed by Warwick graduate Lizzy Leech and clever use of costume (designed by Lauren Clarke). The idea of ‘Don’ Giovanni (get the Mad Men reference?) was as plausible as though the music had been written far more recently. This perfectly complimented the highly impressive libretto, which combined the subtleties of the original Italian with some, often more than a little crude, puns resulting in a production that was as comic as it was technically outstanding.
Every performer on stage was as much of a joy to watch, as they were to listen to, their voices brought to life with the accompaniment of the exceptional orchestra, conducted by Ben Hamilton. Mention must be given to Rory Carver, who was a superb Don Giovanni, embodying sinister sophistication with a hint of casual complacency, while every note was performed flawlessly. The audience loved his character, and hated him, and I personally found myself eager to find out how this particular ‘Don’ would come unstuck as his Casanova-like exploits became public. Similarly, Samuel Lom as Giovanni’s side-kick, Leporello, who was the perfect comedic match for his ‘master’, drawing many laughs from the audience while singing with great technical skill. I was most bowled away, however, by Matt Bond as Il Commendatore, whose voice resonated throughout the theatre in the final moments of the performance, and almost stole the show.
The women also held their own, and none more so than the three leading ladies, Harriet Fletcher (Elvira), Imogen Faris (Anna) and Giulia Boggiano (Zerlina). I particularly enjoyed the way in which their characters developed throughout the performance, particularly Boggiano, whose silly Zerlina upon first appearance transformed into a force to be reckoned with in the second act. Delighting the audience with more flawless singing, these three ladies were the perfect compliment to the strong male performances.
This was a performance that I could have watched again and again. Despite being more familiar with the original Italian libretto more than I would ever publically admit, I found myself quite enjoying my first experience of an English libretto, and indeed, was quite relieved to be continuously checking the surtitles!