I've seen Don Giovanni THREE times now. Twice at the Royal Opera and once at the English National Opera. The latter was probably the worst production of anything I've ever seen, ever. The Royal Opera's production isn't the most well thought out staging I've come across either. It lacks something, the stage seems too minimalist and the centre piece, a glass (i think it was supposed to be glass) tiled thing covered in crosses and indents of hands reaching for the heavens, looks like what I would envisage a Malibu vicarage to look like. Anyway - the stagings might not be the real problem for me here. I'm sorry to say it Mozart, peace be with you, but I just really, really don't like Don Giovanni!!!
Each time I've seen this opera it's frustrated me. The story itself is a good one, based on the love excesses of Spanish lothario Don Juan, who's essentially a total slag and has slept with countless women across Europe. Anyway, for me that all gets lost in the tediousness of it all. It's not a short opera at 3 hrs 30mins, and last night I felt every minute of it. I just really hate the way it rambles along. It has around six or seven key characters, and each one seems to have to get their piece heard, which means every time anything happens all of them have to do some sort of solo or duet. Yawn. Then there are also the long pauses in music, common in opera from this era, where a man on what I think is called a harpsichord, plays a few random notes to accompany the singers speaking/singing on stage. There were so many moments when I just wanted the characters to spit it out, say what they had to say and then get off stage for the next scene. The ending of Don Giovanni is possibly the most annoying bit for me. Following a big dramatic scene which sees the Don condemned to hell (complete with roaring flames, and a rather naff looking gold hand swinging from the ceiling in the ROH production), the curtain drops, everyone cheers and it seems like the perfect place to end so we can all go home. No. Oh no. We have to then sit through the the other leading characters coming on stage to do a moral sing-song about what happens if you're a naughty, evil person. So pointless and so annoying!
I am aware that i'm bashing a piece that many see as an opera classic, and a Mozart opera classic at that. I love Mozart, he's probably my favorite composer. When the music does come in Don Giovanni, the Overture and the Don's final scene being great examples, it's as wonderful as ever. I thought it was well conducted yesterday evening too. There were some other positives as well. Erwin Schrott, playing the Don, was excellent. He was funny, mischievous and I have to say dashingly handsome in the role. The rest of the cast were also very good. They all had the audience roaring with laughter on many occasions. I wasn't one of them i'm afraid. I think I like my opera full of drama, deceit, murder and suicide! I think the problem for me, aside from only having seen mediocre to awful productions of Don Giovanni, is that these earlier operas, from the late 1700s, are just not really what I enjoy most about the genre. The more opera I see, the more I realise that it's the Italian greats of the 19th and early 20th century that really do it for me.
So please, Mozart, wherever you are, don't judge me for this account of Don Giovanni! Your music is wonderful, i'm just not sure your opera is for me. Not this one at least. That's probably my loss, but c'est la vie!
The Mozart/Da Ponte cycle concludes for me on Monday, 20th February with Le nozze di Figaro.
Seat: A15, Lower Slips Left, £13 *** (A full time leaning seat, not bad for the price though)
The Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2012/jan/24/don-giovanni-royal-opera-house-review
Next Opera: Le nozze di Figaro, 20th February