ENO under fire for 'Don Giovanni' rape scene

It is the story of an immoral Lothario, a tale which begins with sexual violence and ends with divine justice. You'd have thought seasoned opera-goers would be well prepared for the exploits of Don Giovanni. But that hasn't stopped a new production from being accused of "shock tactics" by suggesting scenes involving gang rape.

The English National Opera's latest production of the opera, which began its run on 6 November, has come under fire for its two rape scenes, one implying the gang rape of a woman by a masked mob wearing T-shirts featuring the image of Jesus Christ. Such scenes are believed to push the boundaries of how Giovanni's character can be interpreted, with some critics suggesting it may be sensationalism designed to attract a younger crowd.

"Don Giovanni is a shocking opera about a man who treats a woman in a disgusting fashion," said Oliver Condy, editor of BBC Music. "There is no point shying away from it and giving the audience a sanitised version.

"But the rapes are only suggested in the opera. I'm not sure they are supposed to be seen on stage, so perhaps that is taking things too far.

"It's not very savoury, and maybe they are trying to shock for shock's sake. But in an era of cuts to the arts, ENO knows it needs to find a way of grabbing an audience, and that's certainly one way of doing it."

The opera is produced by the celebrated theatre director Rufus Norris, whose previous projects include a West End production of the musical Cabaret, and Festen at London's Almeida Theatre. Around 30 per cent of opera-goers are now under 44, an increase on the 21 per cent attending operas in 2005.

This is not the first time an ENO production of Don Giovanni has attracted brickbats. "Any production of Don Giovanni that begins with Donna Anna having consensual sex on the back seat of a car is, rather like the lady herself, somewhat compromised," said The Independent's opera critic Edward Seckerson of a 2001 production reinterpreted by the Spanish theatre director Calixto Bieito.

"ENO is committed to creating a future for opera through working with a wide range of talent from across the arts," said the ENO's artistic director John Berry. "Keeping opera fresh and relevant for contemporary audiences is about creating work which has its finger on the pulse, and Rufus Norris's new production of Don Giovanni does just this, hence the overwhelmingly positive reaction from our audiences.

"The piece rarely receives unanimous applause as the narrative is about power and sex set against a sublime 18th-century score, and therefore audiences through the ages have struggled to come to terms with it, especially in modern interpretations."

Seasoned opera critics have played down this latest row. "There is nothing shocking about the production," added Seckerson. "There are lots of decisions one might have made differently. The director hasn't made a comment on the class issues pivotal to the centre of the story. He was much more interested in how sex can become a drug. But I don't think he set out to shock. I think he was more excited by the sexual interaction between the main characters. No production team sets out to produce work that doesn't succeed."

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Arts and Entertainment
Could Ed Sheeran conquer the Seven Kingdoms? He could easily pass for a Greyjoy like Alfie Allen's character (right)

tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros

Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce, Boris Johnson, Putin, Nigel Farage, Russell Brand and Andy Murray all get the Spitting Image treatment from Newzoids
tvReview: The sketches need to be very short and very sharp as puppets are not intrinsically funny
Arts and Entertainment
Despite the controversy it caused, Mile Cyrus' 'Wrecking Ball' video won multiple awards
musicPoll reveals over 70% of the British public believe sexually explicit music videos should get ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister and Ian Beattie as Meryn Trant in the fifth season of Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment

book review
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Far Right and Proud: Reggies Yates' Extreme Russia

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West was mobbed in Armenia after jumping into a lake

music
Arts and Entertainment
The show suffers from its own appeal, being so good as to create an appetite in its viewers that is difficult to sate in a ten episode series

Game of Thrones reviewFirst look at season five contains some spoilers
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench and Kevin Spacey on the Red Carpet for 2015's Olivier Awards

Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awards

Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Proving his metal: Ross Poldark (played by Aidan Turner in the BBC series) epitomises the risk-taking spirit of 18th-century mine owners

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne is reportedly favourite to play Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

film
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars in dystopian action thriller Mad Max: Fury Road

film
Arts and Entertainment
Josh, 22, made his first million from the game MinoMonsters

Grace Dent

Channel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
News
Disgraced Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson
people
Arts and Entertainment
Game face: Zoë Kravitz, Bruce Greenwood and Ethan Hawke in ‘Good Kill’

film review

Arts and Entertainment
Living like there’s no tomorrow: Jon Hamm as Don Draper in the final season of ‘Mad Men’

TV review

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

    Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

    His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
    'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

    Open letter to David Cameron

    Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
    Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

    You don't say!

    Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
    Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

    So what is Mubi?

    Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
    The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

    The hardest job in theatre?

    How to follow Kevin Spacey
    Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

    Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

    To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
    Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

    'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

    The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
    Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

    This human tragedy has been brewing for years

    EU states can't say they were not warned
    Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

    Women's sportswear

    From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
    Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

    Clinton's clothes

    Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders