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A CurtainUp London London Review
Don Giovanni from OperaUpClose

But the thing he finds most thrilling is a woman who is not willing. — Alexander
Don Giovanni from OperaUpClose
Marc Callahan as Johnny and Gerard Delrez as the Commendatore (Photo: Simon Kane)
OperaUpClose had great success with their scaled down version of La Boheme which they brought from The Cock Tavern Kilburn to the Soho Theatre in Londonís West End. This year they offer a modern version of Don Giovanni with a new libretto from the director Robin Norton-Hale, published by Oberon. Instead of an orchestra, Emily Leather plays the score on a piano with some original electronic rap extras from composer Harry Blake which you might not recognise as Mozart.

The premise is that the Don Giovanni for the twenty first century is a banker called Johnny, as if bankers could have any more bad press than they have had already! Played by Marc Callahan who has the kind of schoolboy face which will get him IDíd in any bar, it is barely credible that he has had the years to claim 1003 conquests in London let alone 640 in New York and another 380 in Sydney, Berlin and Tokyo. We are indebted for this information to an updated version of Giovanniís servant Leporello, renamed Alexander (Tom Stoddart) who we are told is Johnnyís intern and who is dragged along in the wake of his mentor. The flaw is, that if according to Alexander, Johnny scores once a day, he has been on a six year internship!

The opening scene sees Johnny raping Anna (Fleur Bray) after a dinner party at her barrister fatherís house and then murdering her father the Commendatore (Gerard Delrez). Zerlina (Emily-Jane Thomas) is a gap year student about to go off to Bangkok with her awkward boyfriend Nathaniel (Marcin Gesla). Anthony Flaum as Octavius is Annaís conventional fiancé.

The singing of the arias is fine. We are constantly reminded that there is so much more talent out there than there are employment opportunities in traditional venues. However on characterisation I found Marc Callahanís Johnny to be singularly lacking in charm, he seemed as reptilian as his snake skin shoes but maybe a platinum credit card is all it takes for a modern day Giovanni to be sexually successful? There are witty touches with Giovanniís plethora of text messages, deleted of course by him. There is real emotion from Rosalind Coad in her portrait of the abandoned Elvira but I had trouble in believing in Emily-Jane Thomasí teenager.

The opera comes in at two and a quarter hours with some cuts to the recitative and the finale of the first act and with a truncated ending of the second act. The set looks like an installation from a modern art gallery with its scaffolding stairs and balcony but the final scene has a coffin filled with the embalmed body of the Commendatore rather than a statue which comes to life and this is problematic. Giovanni meets his end by hanging himself in shadow behind a screen rather than being dragged off to Hell.

Last yearís La Boheme had a scene set in the bar at the Soho Theatre which was atmospheric, exciting and innovative. In this yearís Don Giovanni Johnny and Alexander race across the balcony and can be seen if you were looking up at the time but blink and youíll miss it.

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Don Giovanni
Music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Libretto by Robin Norton-Hale
Directed by Robin Norton-Hale

Starring: Marc Callahan, Tom Stoddart, Fleur Bray, Rosalind Coad, Elmily-Jane Thomas, Marcin Gesla, Anthony Flaum, Gerard Delrez
Design: Cherry Truluck
Live Electronic Score: Harry Blake
Musical Director: Emily Leather
Lighting: Phil Hewitt
Running time: Two hours 15 minutes including one interval
Box Office: 080 7478 0100
Booking to 17th September 2011
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 22nd August 2011 performance at Soho Theatre, 21 Dean Street, London W1D 3NE (Tube:Tottenham Court Road)

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