Don Giovanni, Coliseum, ENO, London
Thursday 18 October 2012
Much excitement surrounded the premiere of Rufus Norris’s take on ‘Don Giovanni’. People loved the amoral ambiguity of the scene enacted during the overture in which the Don all but raped an unknown woman, then dressed up in her clothes instead.
In this revival that scene has gone, to be replaced by one in which the Don (Iain Paterson) advances to the footlights, flanked by an army of heavies, and takes possession of a heart-shaped pink helium balloon which has been waiting for him. One senses that as the evening wears on this camp symbol will loom large.
Then comes the attempted rape, but it doesn’t ring true. It’s not clear whether this Donna Anna (Katherine Broderick) wants her assailant to get lost, or whether she wants him to stay and finish the job.
Her father the Commendatore (Matthew Best) comes out to defend her in a natty white suit and gets stabbed, whereupon Donna Anna resolutely turns her back on him and sings us her first big number. He’s bleeding to death, she sings, his face is so pale, there’s no pulse in his veins - but the funny thing is, she discovers all this without even looking at him, let alone touching him. The result is that an aria which should rend our hearts - this woman is watching her father die - leaves us unmoved.
In the course of a programme interview Norris patronisingly concedes that the opera has ‘a narrative that holds up, that has come from the theatre’, but he seems not to have thought about its theatrical implications at all. Nor does he situate it in any recognisable milieu.
At moments we seem to be in Essex, at others in the Balkans, but the characters are certainly refashioned for today: the contrition-aria of Zerlina (Sarah Tynan) knowingly skims S&M in a way which John Molloy’s Masetto is too wimpy to pick up, while Donna Elvira (Sarah Redgwick) seems - in flat contradiction to music and text - a fully-fledged hooker, and Darren Jeffrey’s Leporello is modelled on Frank Gallagher in ‘Shameless’.
For that is the world we are in. Garish and manically over-busy, this production at least brings a commanding performance from Patterson, and fine singing from Tynan, Best, Broderick, and above all Ben Johnson as Don Ottavio; Jeremy Sams’s translation works perfectly. But my God this show is vulgar.
Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treattv
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Crystal meth addict 'gouged out his eyes and ate them' while high on drug, Australian MP claims
- 2 As a white man, I'm surprised more women aren't tweeting the hashtag #KillAllWhiteMen
- 3 The ten most unequal developed countries in the world
- 4 Saudi Arabia 'seeking to head United Nations Human Rights Council'
- 5 Toddler throws a tantrum at the White House – in front of Barack Obama
Cannes Film Festival rejects women from red-carpet screening of pro-LGBT romance 'Carol' for not wearing high heels
Game of Thrones rape scene criticised as 'disgusting' by US senator Claire McCaskill who says she's 'done' with show
Beyonce angers fans by pouring expensive champagne into hot tub in Nicki Minaj 'Feeling Myself' video
Mad Men, TV review: Perfect harmony? Not quite, but an enlightening finale for Don Draper
Theresa May accused of seeking to introduce state censorship of the media by Cabinet colleague Sajid Javid
As a white man, I'm surprised more women aren't tweeting the hashtag #KillAllWhiteMen
Scotland may have to leave the EU even if it votes to stay in, David Cameron confirms
Report finds that Britain's wages are the most unequal in Europe
Almost a third of school pupils believe 'Muslims are taking over our country', study claims
The day that Britain resigned as a global power
Gay marriage 'Bert and Ernie' cake bakery found guilty of discrimination in Northern Ireland