He Had It Coming, Birmingham Opera Company, Birmingham Municipal Bank, Birmingham

A brilliant version of the Don
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The Independent Culture

The term "promenade production" cannot adequately convey the ambition, energy and invention of Graham Vick's site-specific projects with Birmingham Opera Company's vast family of professional and amateur actors. In previous years, Vick's audience have sat with bags over their heads (Fidelio), been greeted by policemen (Curlew River), fed turkish pastries, and interviewed by immigration officials (Ulysses Comes Home). For He Had It Coming, Vick's salty reworking of Don Giovanni, we were led through the vaults of the disused Birmingham Muncipal Bank to a formal chamber filled with coffins. "Show some respect, please" hissed one mourner. "Jerusalem" struck up, the mourners sang, then the first D minor chord of Mozart's overture obliterated Blake's hymn, the lights went out, and all that could be seen was the revolving door through which some foul spirit had fled.

When you're sitting on a coffin and you're close enough to smell the freesias in Zerlina's bouquet, when street-walkers slide stockings over your face and nuns process behind you, Mozart's opera of licence and damnation achieves an immediacy it has probably not enjoyed since hell was commonly accepted as a reality. Sometimes absurdist, sometimes profound, Vick's ideas are profuse. His direction - of chorus, soloists, and audience - is unfailingly confident. Of the central cast, Andrew Slater's pleasingly unstable Masetto, Rodney Clarke's icy Giovanni, Mark Wilde's expressive Ottavio, Andee-Louise Hypolite's abject Elvira, Natasha Jouhl's electrifying Anna were outstanding. Musically too, this was a triumph. From the gallery, conductor William Lacey highlighted details I had never noticed before, while maintaining a propulsive journey to the terrible conclusion.