Sinner Man: A Review Of Scottish Opera's Don Giovanni...
Scottish Opera's arresting new production of Don Giovanni is arguably the perfect opera for these times. A revival of the 2013 production, it's interesting to consider how differently it may be viewed by today's audience. For some it will simply be another fantastic production of one of the best known operas, but for others - and I am one - there is something more going on here, something which speaks to the modern world and the attitude to relationships and the accountability and responsibility which is rightly demanded between individuals today (something covered in the excellent programme - publications which are always an intrinsic part of Scottish Opera productions).
Don Giovanni is an entitled man who lies, cheats, and seduces his way through life with little care for the consequences, and is supported by the widespread belief that a so-called gentleman would never be so immoral. Sound familiar? Unfortunately far too familiar. The women Don Giovanni seduces are ghosted, gaslighted, used and abused. 'Donna Elivira' is particularly cruelly treated in this way as a lover spurned, but who is still offered just enough hope to keep her hanging on - her love for the Don never far from the surface despite it all. Without wanting to give any spoilers, 'Donna Anna's' experiences at the hands of Don Giovanni are notably worse, and the relationship between Zerlina and the cuckolded Massetto, were it to happen today, could be coming to a courtroom near you soon for every gory detail to be replayed to the public. It's a wonderful example of how to engage a modern audience with a classically told tale.
In some tellings of the story of Don Giovanni, or Don Juan as the legendary figure is also known, the suggestion is that the Don is somehow a victim as women just love him too much - he can't help it. That was nonsense even in the 18th century, (although it perhaps explains why Lord Byron picked him as the subject of his famous epic poem - to in no small part justify his own controversial reputation). Scottish Opera's version leaves us in no doubt as to who this man is, and where the blame lies. His refusal to change will make him an antihero in some people's eyes, but here the punishment will fit the crimes.
The performances are all exceptional, as proven by the rapturous applause which greeted the curtain call, but mention must be made for 'Scottish Opera Emerging Artist' Lea Shaw as Zerlina, and especially Hye-Youn Lee as 'Donna Anna', who really conveys the pain and suffering she feels. This is not only through her astonishing singing, but equally moving acting - something that is often overlooked in opera. People who have read my reviews of Scottish Opera productions before will be familiar with high praise for the set, costumes, and lighting, but they have never been better than they are here.
We open to a Venetian fog which we have to peer through as shocking events unfold, setting the scene for not only the depths of Don Giovanni's depravity, but also the spineless nature of his servant Leporello, who is happy to snipe and condemn his master from the sidelines, but who soon comes back when a coin or two is proffered. Once the fog lifts, the stage continuously moves and shifts to take us inside to outside and back again, from dark lit backstreets where no good happens, to bright and open piazzas, cemeteries, tombs, and baronial homes. It's a magical mystery tour which keeps you guessing as to where this life of licentiousness is leading.
After a very dark night of the soul Don Giovanni has to decide whether to repent or face the consequences. It would be nice to think that there is some form of similar justice in the real world for all the Don Juans out there, but reality tells us differently far too often. Scottish Opera have offered a version of this famous opera which not only entertains (and, it really does) but also makes you think. Art at its finest should work on a number of levels, and this Don Giovanni sees everyone involved at the very top of their game.
Here are some images from the production:
Photo Credit: James Glossop
Don Giovanni will be touring at the following theatres around Scotland:
Theatre Royal Glasgow: 15 May – 25 June 2022 Eden Court Inverness: 24 – 28 May 2022
Festival Theatre Edinburgh: 5 – 11 June 2022 His Majesty's Theatre, Aberdeen: 16 – 18 June 2022
You can find out more, and get your tickets, at scottishopera.org.uk
And for a real sense of what to expect, here is the trailer: