The perennial question of “Do bad boys have all the fun?” is answered with a resounding “No” in this magnificent revival of Sir Thomas Allen‘s production of Don Giovanni, currently touring around the country. Though it may be grounded in 17th-century Venice, the opera’s big bold themes are, sadly, as relevant today as they ever were.
In a strikingly theatrical production, Scottish Opera doesn’t shy away from the big issues. Within the first five minutes we are viscerally immersed in violence against women, murder, and attempted sexual assault. The scale and quality of the performances match the importance of the issues, showing a cast and crew barrelling their way back to live indoor audiences after a challenging pandemic period. The company has clearly used this time well, and their streamed and outdoor performances have kept opera lovers engaged, and their own skills honed until this resplendent return.
The eponymous role carries the weight of the production with a commanding vocal performance; yet, as a character Don Giovanni is hard to empathise with. The supporting characters have more scope to explore their emotional ranges, human strengths, and frailties, and the entire cast make the most of the opportunity. The expressive vocal deliveries, without exception, allow us to explore the layered, complex, and flawed humanity laid bare before us.
There is some dark comedy within the production, but high drama and stirring performances make for an intense experience, visually represented by the hats and wimples that could take a curtain call on their own. Mark Jonathan‘s lighting design is perfect, dramatic without being intrusive. Musically we are expertly transported from stirring, passionate drama to heart-breaking pathos with ease.
There are stand- out performances from all of the supporting roles. Hye-Youn Lee shines steadfastly in the role of Donna Anna, and Zachary Altman’s Leporello allows him to express the full emotional range of the character, both complicit and conflicted.
In a world where hedonists seem to escape justice more often than we would like, there is a satisfying moral conclusion at the dramatic denouement. Immerse yourself in this magnificent production and share the passion and joy of live opera once again.