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Don Giovanni

don Giovanni Returns to the coliseum

Rufus Norris’ production of Don Giovanni returns to the Coliseum with plenty of advance publicity. Why? The poster which promised the double entendre of Don Giovanni – Coming Soon featured a discarded condom packet. The outcry followed. While some found it apt or amusing others were offended by the explicit sexual content. Well to the offended, I ask what it is that they think is the theme of Don Giovanni? Pretty love story with a warm ending?

Norris’ production has been reworked in quite a major way and we have lost the overture rape scene as well as the wire set construction with the fireworks and all the electricity. Instead of the Jesus shirts, the devils all wear Commendatore blood stained white suits with the black bin bag head gear recalling the Commendatore’s ignominious end and ready to take Giovanni down to Hell which is a rather disappointing end after Covent Garden’s roaring flames earlier this year. I think the major effect of the re-working has been to make it a jokier affair and of course Jeremy Samm’s witty libretto assists. Samms’ libretto is so good you don’t miss the Italian! There are some interesting allusions to self loathing when Giovanni looks at and tears down a poster on the wall of himself. Norris has kept the perfect woman sequence when a romantic Giovanni seems to be trying to find the lost perfect woman of his dreams.

Darren Jeffrey replaces Brindley Sherratt as Leporello, a manservant who looks as if he has been recruited from underneath the arches at Waterloo but who has good stage presence, albeit in a dirty mack. Katherine Broderick’s Donna Anna sings beautifully but there is little or no chemistry between her and her fiancé Ottavio (Ben Johnson). The masquerade dances have been thankfully cut. Norris’ production finely contrasts the seedy behaviour with the magnificent music which is excellent from the orchestra under Edward Gardner and the singing is fantastic even if Iain Paterson as Giovanni doesn’t seem to have total sexual charisma.

The current production is booking in the repertoire to 17th November 2012
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 17th October 2012 at the London coliseum, St Martin's Lane, London WC2N 4ES (Tube: Charing Cross/Leicester Square) The original review below

Original Review
To be faithful to one girl would be cruel to the others. — Don Giovanni
Don Giovanni
Iain Paterson as Don Giovanni and Sarah Tynam as Zerlina
(Photo: Donald Cooper)
Theatre director Rufus Norris has brought a fun and up to date production about sex addiction for Mozart's opera Don Giovanni at the Coliseum with Jeremy Sams' witty, English translation. Although most of the scenes are tongue in cheek where we will laugh at the serial conquests of the philanderer, during the overture a girl is held down by six devils and raped by a rich man. This scene of savage brutality serves to remind us of the pain this sexually predatory behaviour causes less we forget.

There are three women: Donna Anna (Katherine Broderick) a young noblewoman violated by Don Giovanni (Iain Paterson) in disguise whose father, the Commendatore (Matthew Best) is killed by him after the father challenges his daughter's attacker to a duel. Donna Elvira (Sarah Redgwick standing in for the indisposed Rebecca Evans) is the woman wronged by Don Giovanni, who is still drawn to him and who believes he could be reformed if only he were to repent. Zerlina (Sarah Tynan) is the spirited peasant girl who Don Giovanni takes a fancy to on her wedding day to Masetto (John Molloy), hoping to use a version of the "droit de seigneur" - his power and position to claim to the bride before the groom.

Giovanni's servant Leporello (the popular Brindley Sherratt) gives us many insights into the promiscuity of his master in his mischievous numbers. "Dark and fair girls, Swedish au pair girls" start the slide show of completely indiscriminating conquests "If they're fatter, does it matter?". A spreadsheet is used by Leporello to convey the vast numbers of conquests with histograms showing the numbers of women for every month. In Act Two, Giovanni sings his own love song to slides of images of his perfect woman. The point being that he hasn't found her yet, providing a psychological clue as to the motivation and inherent never ending quest and appetite of the sex addict.

The staging has a pair of curious aerial, curved wire structures which generate electrical charges for all the sexual energy being generated here and which eventually lower to guide Don Giovanni down into hell with fireworks. Giant and numerous projected red demons join those on stage to good effect but the whole descent into damnation is not really terrifying. Three asymmetrical walls spin onstage at moments of great commotion, providing a good background for lighting shadows and giving the players different levels to play on and stairs to run up, windows to sit on or look through.

During the deception scene, Don Giovanni's five pursuers are transfixed in different trance dances, Donna Anna's takes the form of an Irish Riverdance, frantic feet and hands by her side and Zerlina's is altogether coarser as if she is dying to have a pee, while Donna Anna's fiancé Ottavio (Robert Murray) performs an unsexy striptease. Ever present demons with devil masks but wearing images of Jesus with a bright red background had me puzzled.

The music, with young Ukranian born Kirill Karabits conducting, is lovely and I thought there was some outstanding singing. Sarah Redgwick was excellent as Elvira and the trio sung by Anna , Elvira and Ottavio at the end of Act One where they unmask and denounce Giovanni for his crimes is divine. Katharine Broderick has a lovely voice and her acting performance as Anna will develop in confidence. Iain Paterson had the best hand of the night for his energetic and beautifully sung performance. I normally miss the Italian but Jeremy Sams' libretto is so irreverent and enjoyable.

The director has some witty touches with helium filled, heart shaped balloons bobbing up from the set, courting couples dancing onstage. His production is not only easy to follow but full of lighter moments.

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Don Giovanni
by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte
English translation by Jeremy Sams
Directed by Rufus Norris

Starring: Iain Paterson, Matthew Best, Katherine Broderick, Robert Murray, Rebecca Evans, Brindley Sherratt, John Molloy, Sarah Tynan
With: Gareth Charlton, Rain de Rye Barrett, Nathan Dummett, Valentina Formenti, Myrto Grapsa, Gareth Green, Juana Maria Jiménez, Anthony Kurt-Gabel, Nick Lawson, Eftichia Panagropoulou, Katerina Toumpa, Patrice Turlet
Conductor: Kirill Karabits
Chorus Master: Martin Merry
Leader: Janice Graham
Costume Designer: Nicky Gillibrand
Movement: Jonathan Lunn
Projections Designer: Finn Ross
Set Design: Ian McNeill
Lighting: Mimi Jordan Sherin
Sound: Ian Dickinson
Running time: Three hours with one interval
Box Office: 0871 911 0200
Booking in the repertoire to 3rd December 2010
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 6th November 2010 at the London coliseum, St Martin's Lane, London WC2N 4ES (Tube: Charing Cross/Leicester Square)

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