Heritage Opera has staged a variety of operas since 2006 using only professional singers selected, whenever possible, from the north of the UK. Their version of Don Giovanni is sung in Italian with English surtitles, with Benjamin Cox conducting an orchestra of five musicians from the piano, who do Mozart‘s music justice.
Matthew Kellett‘s lovely (bass-baritone) vocals introduce the first scene at the Commendatore’s house. He is an entertaining, comic Leporello who pleases the audience. On the other hand, Victor Sgarbi (baritone) is a less then dashing Don Giovanni, but sings well. He is trying to violate Donna Anna (Andrea Tweedale), who is wielding her clear soprano voice more skilfully than the disproportionately large sword. Her fiance Don Ottavio (David Menezes, tenor) vows revenge.
The entrance aria of the Commendatore (Stephen Holloway, bass), Donna Anna’s father, is good, but unfortunately he fails to project his voice to the grandeur the role and situation require. Donna Elvira (Sarah Helsby Hughes, soprano) is the suitably pathetic, rejected and abandoned lover still in love with the philanderer. In vocals and movement she conveys the character well.
The stage is covered by three sets of stairs arranged in a half-star, simple and effective. A backing of semi-transparent white curtains changes colour throughout the performance. The story moves up and down the stairs and disappears behind the backing. From here the statue of the Commendatore speaks to Don Giovanni. Donna Elvira’s maid (Eleanor Strutt), somewhere behind the curtain, is being serenaded through it by Don Giovanni. People come and go through it. It helps to determine the atmosphere. The lighting, though interesting, could have been used much more successfully had it corresponded better, employed more intentionally to support the dramas unfolding on stage.
In the last effective scene Don Giovanni is pulled down into hell by demons’ hands – only just visible – and at the end the stage is purple and green and silent. The debaucher is gone. But it is a shame the company decided to stage the epilogue, thus softening the dramatic effect of the “real” end.
It has been an evening of beautiful singing, but in a production that does not fully convey the drama of this opera.