Reviewed by David Warwick
The Welsh National Opera played to a packed house at the Mayflower theatre on Friday (23 March 2018) and provided an excellent evening’s entertainment.
Don Giovanni is the ninth most frequently performed opera in the world and combines both serious and comic action with dark overtones of the supernatural. It is based on the legends of Don Juan and tells of the arrogant, but charismatic, libertine and seducer Don Giovanni who is totally amoral and has seduced or raped over 2000 women. The opera starts with Giovanni attempting to rape the Commendatore’s daughter, Donna Anna. He then kills the Commendatore in a duel and continues to seek out other women to add to his conquests, including the newly married Zerlina. In an almost farce- like fashion, Giovanni is pursued by a variety of ex-lovers, fiancées and irate men folk who seek his demise. Throughout the action, Giovanni is accompanied by his hard done by servant, Leporello, who often provides comic relief to the drama unfolding around him. Eventually, in the churchyard where the Commendatore is buried, Giovanni makes Leporello invite the stone statue of the Commendatore to join them for dinner. This he does, and the statue offers Giovanni a chance to repent of his life style and gain redemption. When he refuses, Giovanni is surrounded by a chorus of demons who despatch him to hell to receive a well-deserved comeuppance.
This production is sung in Italian with English surtitles which made following the action very straight forward. The drama is staged during the Spanish ‘Golden Age’ and the costumes are appropriately opulent. This contrasts with the very dark set by John Napier which is designed around Rodin’s ‘Gates of Hell’ and consists of huge blocks of masonry which are constantly, and rather distractingly, moved around the stage although they did provide a suitably macabre backdrop for Giovanni’s descent into hell.
Gavan Ring as Don Giovanni certainly looked the part as he swept around the stage in a magnificent white coat and hat and David Stout was an excellent foil as the put-upon servant Leporello. Their singing was good but for me the best singing was that of the three key female roles Camilla Roberts (Donna Elvira), Emily Birsan (Donna Anna) and Katie Bray (Zerlina). All three sang beautifully and very clearly. Miklos Sebestyen as the Commendatore, Benjamin Hulett (Don Ottavio) and Gareth Brynmor John (Masetto) completed the strong choral cast list.
Mozart’s score is well known and was well executed by the orchestra ably conducted by James Southall. At times the singing was overpowered by the orchestra and there were a couple of glitches with the set, but these are minor criticisms of an otherwise polished production directed by Caroline Chaney.
The Mayflower is an excellent venue and a deservedly popular theatre. There is good parking and a good selection of restaurants within easy reach making it the ideal place for an enjoyable evening’s entertainment.
The Welsh National Opera are touring with Don Giovanni until 19 April 2018, for more information and tour dates visit www.wno.org.uk.
For other shows at the Mayflower Theatre in Southampton visit www.mayflower.org.uk or call the box office on 02380 711811.
Mayflower Theatre, Commercial Road, Southampton, SO15 1GE | 02380 711811