Don Giovanni, Grange Park Opera, Winchester

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The Independent Culture

Grange Park Opera's eighth season begins arrestingly: the flicker of candles in the gloom, indistinct figures, eerie reflections. The table is set for Don Giovanni's last supper. The guests appear to have arrived.

Grange Park Opera's eighth season begins arrestingly: the flicker of candles in the gloom, indistinct figures, eerie reflections. The table is set for Don Giovanni's last supper. The guests appear to have arrived.

But, as the first chords of the overture grimly strike home, it becomes clear that he alone is living among the undead. Seated beside him are ghostly figures from his dissolute past. In a matter of minutes, his latest conquest's soon-to-be-deceased father will join them. For the duration of the overture, though, it is business as usual for the Don.

So far, so striking. The dumb-show that plays out during the busy allegro of the overture (energetically despatched by the conductor Stefan Solyom) will be taken as read by those who know this "gentleman". He offers the lady a ring; she willingly yields to his advances. She welcomes the abuse. Enter and exit her father, the Commendatore, slain by the Don's own hand. Donna Anna cries "rape".

If only the director Daniel Slater had maintained the intrigue and momentum of this opening. Donna Anna's consensual sex and, by default, her complicity in the death of her father isn't a new idea, but it makes shocking dramatic sense.

But what then of the unfolding drama? Francis O'Connor's set, dominated by a tilted ceiling made up of giant shards of glass from a shattered mirror, is a strong metaphor of the consequences of vanity. It contributes boldly to the oppressive atmosphere, as does Chris Davey's lighting.

But a vital element - the work's scabrous humour and narrative drive - is missing, particularly in Act I. Mozart and da Ponte's audacious juggling of comedy and tragedy needs a deft directorial hand. Less attention might have been given to the ever-present (and distracting) undead and more to the living.

The characters of Don Giovanni and Leporello are, of course, central to the comedic scheme. But George Mosley, as the Don, and Henry Waddington as Leporello fail to explore the potential of the relationship, not least the idea that this servant wants to be what he claims to despise.

In rep to 29 June (01962 868 600)

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