29 November 2016
Reviewed by Paul Charlesworth
Every winter, Glyndebourne Opera chooses a couple of productions from its repertoire and takes them on tour to several large theatres around England. For towns such as Woking and Plymouth, this has now become an important annual event within the theatre calendar. This year, they are touring Don Giovanni and Madama Butterfly and we were lucky enough to catch Don Giovanni on its opening night at the New Victoria Theatre in Woking.
Don Giovanni is certainly one of Mozart’s greatest works, but although generally considered a comic opera, it has dark, serious undertones and at the time when Mozart and his colourful librettist, Lorenzo Da Ponte, first presented the piece, it would probably have been seen as socially subversive.
All of these aspects are skilfully brought together in Glyndebourne’s revival of Jonathan Kent’s 2010 production. The action is staged in an inventive setting, comprising a large on-stage cube that opens out at different points in the narrative to reveal a startling array of interior and exterior locations. Particularly clever is the steeply sloping tomb, on which Don Giovanni invites the corpse of the Commentatore, whom he has murdered in the opening scene, to dinner. This morphs into a vertiginous palace dining space for the final scene, in which the philandering Don is dragged down into a fiery inferno.
The evening of our visit, saw two substitutions due to illness. Norman Patzke stood in for Duncan Rock in the title role and managed demonstrate just the right mix of swagger, bravado and distain, while Charlotte Beamont, replacing Louise Alder, played a mischievous, sassy Zerlina. The other main roles were all well executed. Special mentions are due to Brandon Cedel, for his comic characterisation of Leporello and to Magdalena Molendowska for some fine soprano singing, swinging between vengeful obsession and loving forgiveness in the role of Donna Elvira. The cast was competently supported by the orchestra under the baton of Ben Gernon.
The broadcast transmission of opera from Glyndebourne, the Royal Opera and the New York Met. has allowed many more people to become familiar with this greatest of all musical and theatrical art forms. Nothing, however can match the immediacy of being in the theatre for a live performance. Some, however, still find the prospect of live opera a bit daunting, and perhaps even the very name “Glyndebourne” suggestive of a level of rare cultural elevation. If you are in this category, there probably couldn’t be a better opportunity dip your toe into the water. Don Giovanni and Madama Butterfly are amongst the most accessible operas and Glyndebourne brings world class performers and performances to provincial theatres.
There’s still time to catch the Glyndebourne tour at Woking until Saturday 3rd December and then, the following week, at the Theatre Royal Plymouth. Do try to get there.
Tickets cost from £21.40 to £93.40 (plus £2.85 transaction fee).
The next performance of Don Giovanni at the New Victoria Theatre in Woking is 2 December 2016, for more information or to book tickets click here or call the box office on 0844 871 7645.
New Victoria Theatre, The Ambassadors, Peacocks Centre, Woking, Surrey, GU21 6GQ