Don Giovanni (Welsh National Opera Tour), Mayflower Theatre | Review

Saturday, 24 March 2018

Don Giovanni (Welsh National Opera Tour)
Mayflower Theatre 
Reviewed on Friday 22nd March 2018 by Lucy Jardine 

This performance of Don Giovanni was part of a short Welsh National Opera (WNO) season at the handsome, art deco Mayflower Theatre in Southampton. WNO are touring England and Wales until mid-April performing Don Giovanni, Tosca and La Forza del Destino and based on this performance I would recommend seeing any of the three productions if you can.

Don Giovanni is one of Mozart’s best known operas, first performed in Prague in 1787. The events take place in 18th century Seville and this production is true to the original setting, with elaborate costumes to match. The production is sung in Italian, but surtitled in English on a discreet display high above the stage, so you can easily follow the words and see where the story is heading.

Our hero – or anti-hero – is the amoral libertine Don Giovanni (played by Gavan Ring), whose only purpose in life is to seduce as many women as he can, using whatever mixture of money, deception & physical violence is necessary to complete the task.  

Somewhat reluctantly aided and abetted by his servant, Leporello (David Stout), Giovanni attempts to seduce the newly-married peasant girl Zerlina (Katie Bray), while avoiding her husband Masetto (Gareth Bynmor John) and trying to elude his former lover, Donna Elvira (Elizabeth Watts), who cannot make up her mind whether the man who betrayed her deserves forgiving or murdering.

Meanwhile, Donna Anna (Emily Birsan), attended by her steadfast lover Don Ottavio (Benjamin Hullett), is bent on avenging the killing of her father, the Commendatore (Miklos Sebestyen), at the hands of a masked assailant who's eventually revealed to have been the Don himself.

As you might expect from the full title of the opera, “Il dissoluto punito, ossia il Don Giovanni” or “The Rake Punished, or, Don Giovanni”, things do not end well for our main character when he finally has to face something that he can’t bribe, beat up or outwit.

Overall this was an enjoyable performance with a strong cast, but Emily Birsan as Donna Anna and Katie Bray as Zerlina stood out for the combination of great singing and good acting they brought to their roles. David Stout as Leporello also outshone his master on a number of occasions.

photo credit: Richard Hubert Smith