Instant Opera‘s production of Mozart’s great opera, Don Giovanni (also my favourite opera) is ‘super bad’. Why? Because it involves vampires. What if I told you that, in this production, the Don isn’t just a cold-hearted murderer and polygamous lover, with a long list of international conquests, but Britain’s own version of Count Dracula… Think about it for a second. It sounds interesting, doesn’t it? But does it work?
Performed at Normansfield Theatre in Teddington, I got to see a fantastic show of classical singers falling for, and chasing after, the elusive Count Dracula. In a previous life he was an explorer and whaler from the 17th century. Set two hundreds years after, the Don has returned to give a kiss of death, literally a bite on the neck to whoever he fancied, and they’d turn, too, transforming into hungry zombie-esque vampires. And it is no surprise that his funny, yet scared manservant, Leporello, is the only survivor.
With Nicolas George‘s original concept, stage director João Aboim and the impressive stage of Normansfield Theatre, the production allude to a mythic past, which, to my knowledge, hasn’t been staged before. For those brand new to Don Giovanni, this production has set the bar high for the next production they see of this phenomenal opera. The music, score and unparallel arias are performed with great momentum and gracious feeling by Instant Opera’s orchestra, with detailed conducting by its maestro Oliver Till. Given the intimate staging the music felt fresh and new, even though, we know, Mozart composed the opera in the late 1700s. The staging is a simple mix of different background changes for various scenes, yet they add a great effect. We were in safe hands with the creative and high-level group of performers.
George’s Don Giovanni is a convincing Casanova, wearing sunglasses to avoid the sun’s natural light. He wins the hearts of everyone including the men, besides David Danson‘s Masetto – he really didn’t like the Don. George’s master scene is at the opera’s conclusion portrayed as his own version of Gary Oldman’s Count Dracula like the 1993 film – he’s lascivious and monstrous. As Leporello, Crispin Lewis‘s singing is marvellous especially when he performed ‘Madamina, il catalogo è questo’. It’s the kind-of singing that belongs at a grand opera house, but I’m glad we got to see him here. He acts as the Don’s foil which Mozart added for comic fervour.
Vocally strong sopranos are Emma Dogliani and Tamara Ravenhill as Donna Anna and Donna Elvira: Don’s previous conquests he had betrayed, bitten and left behind. They make great divas on stage, attempting to capture the Don and revealing his supernatural secrets to the world. Camilla Jeppeson has sweet-sounding vocals. Her Zerlina is innocent and curious about the Don, but her naivety gets her in trouble. Her rendition of ‘batti batti o bel masetto’ was musically alluring and persuasive.
Other notable performances include Andrew Evans as the loyal partner of Donna Anna, Don Ottavio, and Stephen Holloway as the Commendatore who stabs the Don in the heart with a wooden stake at the end scene, ensuring our Count Dracula is sent back to the pits of hell. Another effective device was the men in cloaks who accompanied the Commendatore; they appeared to be devoted vampire hunters. The production has awakened a new imagining of Don Giovanni that is accessible and fun. With this type of unique production, I look forward to seeing another production by Instant Opera.
(I was provided a press ticket to review the show. All photos by Diogo Aureliano.)
Instant Opera’s next production is Cosi fan tutte showing on 12, 13 and 14 October. They also have an Opera Gala on July 1 at Normansfield Theatre, Teddington. Click here to go to their Facebook page and here for the Normansfield Theatre website.