Opera Scotland

Don Giovanni 2022Scottish Opera

Read more about the opera Don Giovanni

The opera chosen to tour the four cities with theatres  that can take the full company of Scottish Opera was a very welcome revival of Sir Thomas Allen's staging of Don Giovanni, first mounted in 2013. By coincidence it also marked the 60th anniversary of Scottish Opera's first season in 1962.  The opening Sunday matinee in Edinburgh fell on 5 June, the precise date, allowing a sense of real celebration.  If the lasgow and Inverness runs provided an appropriate end to the 2021/22 season, Edinburgh and Aberdeen were able to kick off the anniversary one, with a second Glasgow run.

In Simon Higlett's creepy and atmospheric designs, this staging is located firmly in 18th century Venice,  There is an appropriate sense of decadence and decay, with very little of the action occurring in daylight, and regular outbursts of quite heavy rain to usher in scene changes - largely by rotating the substantial pieces of masonry into different patterns.  Sir Thomas Allen returned to direct the staging himself, and as one might expect, given the passage of time since the first run, he had clearly thought deeply about possible refinements and modifications.  These appeared right from the off, as the houselights flickered and a clap of thunder ushered in a fierily dramatic account of the overture.

Sir Thomas was one of the great interpreters of Don Giovanni during his singing career, appearing all over the world in the role.  His first performances were directed by Sir Peter Hall at Glyndebourne in 1977. No doubt, over the years, he may have regarded other directors with rather less enthusiasm. Nevertheless, he was able to distil all sorts of interesting ideas from those different experiences as well as coming up with fresh details of his own.

By the time of the Edinburgh opening, this revival had settled into one of the best performances of this appallingly difficult work that most of the audience will have seen.  The orchestra under Stuart Stratford was superb throughout, darkly dramatic and fleet-footed, particularly through the first act.  After the interval things became more lyrical in the lead-up to the final catastrophe.

The cast was remarkably well-matched.  Roland Wood summoned up the suitably baleful tones when needing to show his contempt, but he was not lacking in the suavity that any successful Giovanni must generate.  Zachary Altman, an unusually tall and elegant Leporello, sang with elegance and wit, appearing as a surrisingly distinguished figure.

When the treacherous part of Donna Elvira is cast with a mezzo-soprano it is ually an indication that her big second-act solo, 'Mi tradi' is to be cut.  Not here, though - Kitty Whately had quite a triumph with it, showing no sense of the strain that those high notes sometimes cause.  Hye-Youn Lee was every bit as successful as Donna Anna.  Her soprano comfortably negotiated all her treacherous vocal ornamentation with not the slightest suggestion of difficulty.

Lea Shaw sang beautifully as Zerlina, playing a rather more intelligent character than usual, and Emyr Wyn Jones made rather more of a three-dimensional Masetto than is often seen.  Pablo Bemsch (Ottavio) and Keel Watson (the Commendatore) both gave firm support.

In all, this performance was hard to fault.  It is to be hoped that Sir Thomas will be able to direct another revival before too long, particularly if the musical side can be as dramatic as this.

Performance Cast

Leporello Giovanni's servant

Zachary Altman

Donna Anna the Commendatore's daughter

Hye-Youn Lee

Don Giovanni a young nobleman

Roland Wood (May, 15, 18, 21, 24, 26, 28; Jun 5, 7)

Jonathan McGovern (Jun 9, 11, 16, 18, 23, 25)

Commendatore an elderly aristocrat

Keel Watson

Don Ottavio engaged to Anna

Pablo Bemsch (Exc May 21)

Shengzhi Ren (May 21)

Donna Elvira a lady from Burgos

Kitty Whately

Zerlina a peasant girl

Lea Shaw

Masetto a peasant, engaged to Zerlina

Emyr Wyn Jones

Performance DatesDon Giovanni 2022

Map List

Theatre Royal, Glasgow | Glasgow

15 May, 15.00 18 May, 19.15 21 May, 19.15 23 Jun, 19.15 25 Jun, 19.15

Eden Court Theatre | Inverness

24 May, 19.15 26 May, 19.15 28 May, 19.15

Festival Theatre, Edinburgh | Edinburgh

5 Jun, 15.00 7 Jun, 19.15 9 Jun, 19.15 11 Jun, 19.15

His Majesty's Theatre, Aberdeen | Aberdeen

16 Jun, 19.30 18 Jun, 19.30

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