Libertine Don Giovanni seduces Southampton through song
The libertine, the seducer, the swine! Don Giovanni flirted his way right into the hearts of the crowd, with the third in the series of the rabble rouser operas, at the Mayflower Theatre.
The Welsh National Opera held a trio of Italian operas at the iconic Southampton venue from some of the world’s greatest composers for its Spring season.
I have to be honest. I’ve been to the opera when I was younger and did not enjoy it. So my hopes weren’t too high for the evening.
However after interviewing ‘Don Giovanni’ himself aka tenor Gavan Ring, my excitement grew. He was so passionate about opera, the way he described the music, the set, the costumes and the emotions made me feel like I was missing out on something truly great. And, after this evenings performance, I can safely say I have been missing out.
I am now feeling a little sheepish, having previously turned my nose up at this corner of the arts. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t think I’m a full opera convert but, with the right performance I think it would change a lot of people’s perspectives. It has certainly changed mine.
The performance was incredible and it was funny. Actually funny – Don Giovanni and his servant Leporello (IRL*, David Stout) are a comic duo until things take a turn for the worse. They bounced off each other so well, with Leporello mocking his master’s ability to sleep his way through the women of the countries and cities they have visited. They are PICs, partners in crime, one has an insatiable lust for women and the other easily led.
When the lothario’s latest romp ends in rape and murder the victim of the crimes sets out to seek vengeance. The story unfolds with comedy and drama entwined to have you laughing one moment and near tears the next. I won’t go into the story too much because it’s based on many relationships and it’s complicated in a good way. Plus, if you ever go to see this opera, the surprise twists and turns, and Don Giovanni’s endless quest for bedding ladies, really make the story. It’s a bit like the many relationships and dramas you’d see in a reality television series, only with more sex, swordplay and songs.
The story ends on a high as the womaniser gets his comeuppance when he has the chance to repent and show remorse but doesn’t. The message is one about karma – it will come for you. The Welsh National Opera describes it as ‘wicked people will always come to a bad end and sinners must die the same way they have lived.’
I definitely believe that what goes around comes around, so the moral of this story really resonates with me.
I think it resonated with the crowd too because Gavan played the part of Don Giovanni so well that there were some comic boos from the crowd during the curtain call. These certainly weren’t for a bad performance but, because the audience couldn’t separate Gavan from Don Giovanni. Gavan did such a good job that people were not pleased with his character!
It’s also worth noting here that Gavan got the biggest clap of the night, a resounding success for his debut in the role of Don Giovanni.
High praise also goes to the transforming set, which was a series of walls that folded, moved and changed to convey completely different places. It was very impressive. I don’t think my explanation will do it any justice!
This classic story set in Spain wouldn’t have been complete without the beautiful costumes. Traditional Spanish lace dresses, big headdresses and lots of velvet added real luxury to the performance and helped to distinguish between characters.
Don Giovanni’s costume was mostly white, a big floor length sweeping coat topped off with a wide brimmed hat and feather. It was extravagant and matched the character of the lead role perfectly. It also created a silhouette that made the main character instantly recognisable.
The only time I struggled with the opera was toward the end of the second act when the songs were a little bit longer. But, lets put this in context, I’d gone to the opera after being up since 6am and doing a full day at work. Predictably, I was a little tired by the time of the second act. Realistically I think it was a bit of both, the songs got a bit longer and I got a little bit more tired. And, let’s not beat around the bush, I am an opera novice. A mere rookie who rarely listens to classical music and is more likely to blast her ears with Blink 182 or Beyonce. Anyway, I digress…
One of my main concerns was that I wouldn’t be able to follow the story but, the surtitles, made it unbelievably easy to understand. Being able to give context to the actions and gestures of each song without knowing Italian was a big relief. It also meant that at all times I knew exactly what was happening rather than guessing and making my own interpretations about everything. It made the opera very accessible and inclusive. A real game changer in my eyes.
It was an unexpectedly brilliant evening and I owe Mayflower Theatre**, Welsh National Opera and the cast of Don Giovanni a real whopper of a thank you for inviting me to get out of my comfort zone to discover just how amazing opera can be. What a privilege!
Have you ever been to the opera? What do you think about it? Share your thoughts in the comments section of this post.
*IRL – in real life. I’m all for inclusivity and if you didn’t know what this meant, well now you do. Don’t create acronyms things without explaining them – it’s very rude and plain confusing if the person reading it has no idea what you mean. Even if it is now used quite widely.
**Gifted PR experience – all the views are my own, otherwise what’s the point?!