Don Giovanni, Glyndebourne, East Sussex – review

If there is one opera that is a graveyard for producers, it is Don Giovanni. Like others before it, Glyndebourne’s recent production by Jonathan Kent, first seen in 2010, gets so tangled up with the stage mechanics – a rotating box opens up to reveal various sets inside – that it forgets to tell us what it thinks this most intellectually challenging of operas is about. The result is a jumble of ideas.

It takes a musical performance out of the ordinary to lift a staging like this and Glyndebourne is fortunate to have the compelling young Andrés Orozco-Estrada as the conductor of this revival. Where the production lacks any clear line of thought, he provides clarity, urgency and an unflinching sense of direction. The London Philharmonic Orchestra supports him with crisp playing and it is entirely thanks to them that the final scene, when Don Giovanni goes down to hell, is so scorching (Kent’s production does not manage to light a single flame).

Fortunately, there is also a good cast of mostly young singers. Ready to chew up the stage if necessary, Canadian baritone Elliot Madore works hard to create a charismatic Don Giovanni very much his own: an insolent, over-sexed young pup, who has money and power he cannot handle. His voice is slightly on the small side, but he compensates with energy, punch and a nice line in warm lyricism.

Of the others, Layla Claire’s Donna Anna dominates through the size of her voice and the electric current that runs through it. The sound sometimes has a sharp edge, but every moment of her portrayal is vibrant with emotion. Serena Farnocchia brings a firm, bright, Italian soprano to the role of Donna Elvira and Ben Johnson shows skill in shaping the first of Don Ottavio’s arias (the second is cut, as this is the Vienna version). Lenka Máčiková and Brandon Cedel make an exceptionally nice couple as Zerlina and Masetto, both with promising voices, and Taras Shtonda is a vocally solid Commendatore. Only Edwin Crossley-Mercer’s Leporello disappoints. His Italian words are murky, not helpful when the comic patter needs to sparkle, and the world-weary spiv characterisation does not convince. As a team, however, they send this Don Giovanni down to hell with some style.

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