Don Giovanni: Behind the curtain

Don Giovanni: Behind the curtain
Glyndebourne Touring Opera, Pablo González
Glyndebourne, Lewis. 28 October 2016

An interesting new departure for the Glyndebourne Tour is ‘Don Giovanni: Behind the curtain’, with the subtitle of ‘The essence of opera revealed’. Using the cast and orchestra of the real thing, but with a ‘community choir’ replacing the chorus for the final scene, this was an informal introduction to opera in general, and Don Giovanni in particularly. Created by presenter Paul Rissmann and the revival director Lloyd Wood, this was a lively and informal educational event.

The overture started as usual but then, during the opening scene, Paul Rissmann bounced on stage to interrupt the proceedings Continue reading

Glyndebourne: Don Giovanni

Glyndebourne: Don Giovanni
Glyndebourne Touring Opera, Pablo González
Glyndebourne, Lewis. 30 October 2016

Following their ‘posh frocks and picnics’ summer opera Festival, Glyndebourne hit the road during the autumn taking a reduced Touring Opera programme to places like Milton Keynes, Canterbury, Norwich, Woking, and Plymouth in November and December. They start the tour with around six performances at Glyndebourne itself, with a more relaxed dress code than the Festival and without the 90 minute dinner interval. With a slightly less elevated cast accompanied by the ‘Glyndebourne Tour Orchestra’ (rather than the Festival’s usual team of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and London Philharmonic Orchestra), the sets and production are otherwise essentially the same as in the Festival. This year they are touring a revival of Jonathan Kent’s 2010 Festival production of Don Giovanni (with Revival Director Lloyd Wood) and a new production of Madame Butterfly.

I didn’t see the 2010 production of Don Giovanni, or this summer’s Festival revival, so for me this was a new show. Set in a post-Mussolini Italy, the broody set, designed by Paul Brown, is focused on a massive central cube that presents all four of its sides, plus different incarnations of the central space, to the audience. It is a powerful image, but not without potential issues. Its overpowering presence centre stage pushes most of the action to the front or the side of the stage: no bad thing in itself, but giving a rather cramped feeling Continue reading

ENO: Don Giovanni

ENO: Don Giovanni
English National Opera
Coliseum. 4 October 2016

It would take a brave barrister to defend a serial rapist with the argument that “his gigantic passion beautifies and develops its object, who flushes in enhanced beauty by its reflection”. But that was one of the many attempts by 19th century commentators to interpret Mozart’s Don Giovanni in the light of their yearnings for the romantic hero, in this case from, the Swedish philosopher, Søren Keirkegaard in his discussion of aesthetic and ethics in the pseudonymous Either/Or. He goes on to refer to the Don as “the very incarnation of sensuous passion and desire” and a “simple, exuberant, uncomplicated, unreflective man”. Nowadays we are more likely to be reminded of The Archers’ Rob Titchener, Donald Trump, and the likes of Jimmy Savile and that ilk. In that vein, it is usually overlooked that the full title of the opera is Il dissoluto punito ossia il Don Giovanni – The Libertine (or Rake) Punished, namely Don Giovanni.  Continue reading

Wind in Basingstoke

The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment brought their programme of music for winds to Basingstoke’s Anvil, the day after their performance at the Queen Elizabeth Hall (6 Feb).  Under the banner of the OAE’s ‘Flying the Flag’ series, they focussed on central Europe and Bohemia, with Mozart and his little-known friend Josef Mysliveček, as well as the later Bohemian composer Josef Triebensee, who arranged movements of Don Giovanni for the Prince of Lichenstein’s harmonie wind band around 1790.  The evening opened with Mozart’s monumental so-called ‘Gran Partita’ (Serenade No 10 for 13 wind instruments); nearly an hour of music of the most extraordinary intensity, and given an exceptional performance by the OAE players.  I particularly liked the way that they slightly extended some key rests, adding to the air of suspense.  Josef Mysliveček met the young Mozart in Bologna, and was an early influence despite their later falling out.  The composer of some 29 operas and 55 Symphonies, the jolly little Wind Octet No.2 in E flat (discovered not so long ago in a pile of manuscripts in the Black Forest) was probably not the finest work to display his talents, but the OAE (in the more traditional wind band grouping of 8 players) bought out his humour of his writing, not least in one little passage where a oboe scale was finished off, after a slight pause, by the second oboe.  The choice of Triebensee’s arrangement of Don Giovanni was apt, as the opera itself includes an on-stage wind band playing an arrangement of Mozart’s own Figaro – Mozart’s dig at the bourgeoisie habit of background music.  A fine oboist himself, Triebensee played the tricky second oboe part in the first performance of The Magic Flute, and makes much of the oboe in his arrangements, generally of soprano arias.  Although lacking a vocal line, his arrangements are clever reinterpretations of Mozart’s originals, and formed a light-hearted end to what had possible been a rather heavy evening for Basingstoke’s concert goers.