Opera Scotland

Don Giovanni 1985Scottish Opera

Read more about the opera Don Giovanni

Scottish Opera's subscription season 1984-85 consisted of nine operas, including six new productions, one of which was a world premiere. They began with Cavalli's Orion, which received its UK premiere at the Edinburgh Festival before joining the season's repertoire. The other works given were Fidelio (revival), Rigoletto (revival), Capriccio, Bartered Bride (revival), Barbiere di Siviglia, Don Giovanni, Orlando and Hedda Gabler (Edward Harper world premiere).

This short series of performances, at a time when Scottish Opera hardly toured outside Glasgow, resonated for years in a way that the staging scarcely justified. Vick's appointment as Director of Productions was in no way controversial. As an assistant with the company he had improved other productions on revival, and he had shown great promise in small-scale works - Fanny Robin, Savitri, L'elisir d'amore and the Rossini double bill. At this point it may be noted that his own assistant on this production was Tim Albery, whose later work with Scottish Opera would include such small beer as Fidelio, The Trojans and The Ring. Vick went on to do quite acceptable stagings of Hedda Gabler, La Vie Parisienne, Il trovatore, Carmen and Billy Budd. Only his Oberon was beyond the pale, and that was more a problem with the bizarre rewrite perpetrated by Anthony Burgess than with Vick's startling attempt to rescue it. Yet this one production of a Mozart classic seemed to colour his entire period with the company, and certainly cut it short.

The first problem was that it should really have been unnecessary, given that David Pountney's 1979 version, on which Vick had assisted, was actually rather good, and only needed a bit of work. To junk it so quickly was simply an extravagance which the company really couldn't afford.

The new staging was very well cast, with Sergei Leiferkus as a thoroughly dangerous Giovanni and Willard White returning for a second go at Leporello. There were no weak links, but the inevitable star, and the reason for remembering the production long after the trivialities of the staging are forgotten was the wonderful company debut by Karita Mattila. Her singing was simply peerless, and even her acting, within the confines of the nun's habit she was obliged to wear, fitted in well. While she has since given several concert appearances at the Edinburgh Festival, she has not returned in any operatic role. All the singers performed as though convinced by Vick's logic, and Gibson, conducting his third version of Giovanni with the company, was generally dramatic.

As the curtain rose the stage was in darkness. Indeed the set was simply a black box. A small door opened at the back, and a little boy, toddler size, was silhouetted against a blinding light. He moved slowly forward during the overture. An anonymous figure appeared, bucket of whitewash in hand, and proceeded (very slowly) to scrawl graffiti on the walls. This continued at great length. The actual drama continued in modern dress. The stage was variously furnished with sofa-bed, TV, toilet, coffin, and other accoutrements. The audience was mystified and restless.

There was one undoubted masterstroke which made the entire enterprise worthwhile, and that was Vick's treatment of the Epilogue. Instead of the usual face-the-audience sextet, the survivors were joined by the lately deceased Giovanni, who swaggered into view, and discovered, to his increasing horror, that he was now in Hell - for the first time in his experience he was ignored by women, all of them - they were unaware of his existence, and he didn't like it. This was a superb way to end the evening.

Performance Cast

Leporello Giovanni's servant

Willard White

Donna Anna the Commendatore's daughter

Kristine Ciesinski

Don Giovanni a young nobleman

Sergei Leiferkus

Commendatore an elderly aristocrat

Oddbjørn Tennfjord

Don Ottavio engaged to Anna

Anthony Roden

Donna Elvira a lady from Burgos

Karita Mattila (Exc May 21, 25)

Evelyn Nicholson (May 21, 25)

Zerlina a peasant girl

Faith Elliott

Masetto a peasant, engaged to Zerlina

Jonathan Best

Performance DatesDon Giovanni 1985

Map List

Theatre Royal, Glasgow | Glasgow

17 Apr, 19.15 20 Apr, 19.15 23 Apr, 19.15 25 Apr, 19.15 27 Apr, 14.15

Theatre Royal, Newcastle | Newcastle-upon-Tyne

21 May, 19.15 25 May, 19.15

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