Don Giovanni, British Youth Opera, Peacock Theatre, London

A chic Elvira meets the paparazzi
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The Independent Culture

When British Youth Opera presents Don Giovanni as its season-opener at the Peacock Theatre tomorrow, its setting will recall the world of Fellini's La Dolce Vita. Why? As their director, John Lloyd Davies, explains, "You can't do an enormous amount of crinoline on a limited budget, but you can do chic modernity."

As he points out, that film was the origin of the word "paparazzi", after the name of the photographer in it, and Davies has found many uses for the associated imagery. Elvira makes her first appearance accompanied by a crowd of photographers, and Leporello keeps his account of the Don's conquests not in a notebook but in a fat photo album.

"And the Commendatore makes his appearance in the graveyard as a huge projection, suggesting the power of the photographic image as a thing capable of haunting people. The way we're doing it, it also has a dash of the Aboriginal idea of the photo stealing identity. All Don Giovanni's conquests come back to haunt him as photographic images, with the female chorus as gravestones, complete with the suitcases they took with them when they were thrown out of the house by their irate parents. Hell for him will be a crowd of girls in white dresses who are dragging him off to a frozen world."

Davies's Commendatore will be played as a typical post-war Italian father who has lived through the conflict and finds the younger generation totally irresponsible. The cast spent the first day of rehearsals studying Fellini's film.

This opera is in Davies's view an ideal work for his young and very international cast (the Don hails from the Ukraine). And it brings BYO full circle, in that this was the work with which it began life 20 years ago: one of its excellent traditions is to invite distinguished former alumni - including Peter Auty, Garry Magee, Sally Matthews, Rosemary Joshua, and Katarina Karnéus - to sit in on rehearsals. So we're assured of a stylish ride.

8-15 September (0870 7370 337)

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