My cheapskate Don Giovanni

3 Aug

If you want to go to Glyndebourne on the cheap, I strongly suggest that you avoid Box 20, seat 3.  I remember the logic of my choosing it for the performance of Don Giovanni on 29th July: I wasn’t that fond of the Jonathan Kent production, but the young cast might be interesting and, for £30, what did I have to lose?  The answer was about 75% of the action and, even if you don’t like the production, it’s quite frustrating not to be able to see the action and how that cast react to each other.  The sound, however, was fine.

It begins well.  The opening chords of the overture crash out just as the house lights dim, causing considerable surprise to the audience.  Andres Orozco-Estrada conducted a lively, fleet, quicksilver account of the overture and the LPO played smoothly and gave considerable pleasure.  Throughout the evening, their playing and conducting was alert and thoughtful, the speeds dynamic and stylish.  It’s not the greatest or deepest conducting of the opera that I’ve heard, but it gave a lot of pleasure and had a youthful energy about it that worked very well for the young cast.

Elliot Todore made a very handsome, sexy Giovanni – charismatic and with a steely determination about him.  I prefer a slightly more honeyed voice – La ci darem and the serenade were very nicely done but, ultimately, lacked the element of making you go weak at the knees that I really look for here.  I wonder if his future isn’t as a Leporello.  That role was sung very well indeed by Edwin Crossley-Mercer: he had the right cynical air, a very strong voice and simply needs more experience before he has the pungencyand way with the text of some of his predecessors.

The women were very strong indeed. Layla Claire struck me as a major find as Anna: a bright, clear voice, absolutely secure in both arias.  Both arias were sung out of my sight and I can’t speak about her acting.  Serena Farnocchia, a nice Mimi here, made a very impressive Elvira – passionate, secure, articulating the words, as you would expect, with real meaning.  I’ve heard more desperation and depth in Mi Tradi, but this gave lots of pleasure.  I very much enjoyed Lenak Macikova’s Zerlina – a cunning, rather manipulative performance – I loved the way she kept watching for Masetto’s reaction in Batti, batti.   If I were Masetto, I’d be calling that marriage off right now.  He was played by Brandon Cedel – a good, strong voice and a nice presence.  I could see him graduating to Giovanni or Leporello without much trouble.

Ben Johnson made a nice Ottavio and I very much enjoyed his elegant sing of Dalla sua pace – some gorgeous pianissimi and colouring of the phrases.  I was sorry that the Vienna version used here deprives us of Il mio tesoro – the Zerlina/Leporello duet is amusing once but I hope that next time Glyndebourne goes back to the usual composite version.  Taras Shtonda was one of the best Commendatores I’ve heard – his black voice implacable and, indeed, commanding.

I can’t really speak about the visual side, but what I could see suggested that Lloyd Wood, the revival director, had slightly lightened the dark approach of Jonathan Kent (fine by me) but that he couldn’t alter the fact that this Don Giovanni is as much about negotiating the very heavy set and some spectacular effects as about trying to tells about characters.

So, not a bad evening and I really ought to have been more selective with my seats or paid a bit more.  It wasn’t one of those definitive or hugely special evenings that you’ll remember for ever as one the great Don Giovannis but it was very enjoyable, well prepared, without a weak link in the cast and I’ll wager that I come across most of them again in starrier circumstances and that I’ll pay more to hear them.

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