Don Giovanni, Grand Theatre, Leeds

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The Independent Culture

A psychoanalytical approach to Mozart's Don Giovanni undoubtedly provides useful angles from which to explore the more manic tendencies of the "patient". But it doesn't necessarily make for a riveting production.

A psychoanalytical approach to Mozart's Don Giovanni undoubtedly provides useful angles from which to explore the more manic tendencies of the "patient". But it doesn't necessarily make for a riveting production.

With no "stone guest" statue, scarcely a ghostly apparition and little in the way of a hellfire finale, the end is tamely interpreted: Giovanni - surrounded by mirrors, forced to confront himself and his immoral actions - apparently self-liquidates. Only Gerard O'Connor's sepulchral tones as the Commendatore and a chilling orchestral vision projected by rasping trombones give this climactic scene any frisson. In fact, it is the orchestra, stylishly conducted in a polished performance of exemplary poise by the company's new music director Richard Farnes, that brings the most vibrant colour to the evening.

Rape, murder and treachery make this one of opera's most sulphurous stories, but you wouldn't think it from Olivia Fuchs's low-key production, which updates the action to the Spanish Civil War. Yet though a press release helpfully cites "freedom fighters, fascism, Granada's Alhambra and halls of mirrors" as her main reference points, neither the brutish nastiness of the first two influences nor the romantic exoticism of the other two is in sufficient evidence.

Where Fuchs is at her best is in pointing up the very human characterisation in the complex emotional tensions Giovanni arouses: the exposed vulnerability of the lovesick Donna Elvira, who first appears disguised in khaki jacket and kitbag, the disarrayed passions of the edgy victim Donna Anna in slinky silk, and the painful gullibility of the peasant bride, Zerlina. Giselle Allen as the undaunted Elvira and Susannah Glanville as the vengeful Anna deliver their roles with unabashed intensity.

Roderick Williams turns in a suave vocal performance as a playboy Don Giovanni, obviously a charmer yet with scarcely a sniff of the sexual predator about him. Andrew Foster-Williams provides sterling support as his batman, Leporello, and Iain Paton is particularly sweet-voiced in the role of the hapless Ottavio.

Amanda Holden's translation takes the narrative firmly into the world of Men Behaving Badly, giving the repartee between master and servant a witty, conversational spontaneity. The performances, both individually and as an ensemble, have much to commend them, but a less static production would have served Mozart's challenging score better.

Touring to 30 April ( www.operanorth.co.uk)

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