Thursday, 2 November 2017

Thought provoking & musically satisfying: Don Giovanni from HeadFirst Productions

Mozart: Don Giovanni  - Matthew Sprange, HeadFirst Productions
Mozart: Don Giovanni  - Matthew Sprange,
HeadFirst Productions
Mozart Don Giovanni; Matthew Sprange, Caroline modiba, Elizabeth Roberts, Samuel Pantcheff, Jorge Navarro Colorado, Sian Cameron, dir: Sophie Gilpin, cond: Sonia Ben Santamaria; HeadFirst Productions at the Pleasance
Reviewed by Anthony Evans on Oct 30 2017 Star rating: 3.5
Mozart's Don in a new production as part of a Festival of Love, Sex and Death

After their successful outing with Puccini's La Boheme, HeadFirst Productions returned to the Pleasance with a production of Mozart's Don Giovanni (30 October 2017) with Matthew Sprange as the eponymous (anti-)hero, Caroline Modiba and Elizabeth Roberts as the Donna Anna and Elvira. Samuel Pantcheff sang the careworn Leporello, with Jorge Navarro Colorado as Don Ottavio, Sian Cameron as Zerlina and Ian Beadle as Masetto, and Stephen Holloway was the Commendatore. Sophie Gilpin directed, and Sonia Ben Santamaria was the conductor.

How are we to judge the Don? Is he man free from the social mores of his time or a malevolent narcissist? The trouble I’ve always had in forming a cogent view is that the opera’s construction has been fiddled and farted with so often, including by Mozart, to accommodate the exigencies of cast and taste, that it can prove difficult to see the wood for the trees. The Don’s motivations are a mystery and Anna and Elvira’s seem to turn on the head of a pin.

Mozart: Don Giovanni  - Jorge Navarro Colorado, Caroline Modiba, HeadFirst Productions
 Jorge Navarro Colorado, Caroline Modiba,
HeadFirst Productions
Sophie Gilpin has a very clear view of the man she sees, whether this holds on closer examination is a moot point but nevertheless it’s a point of view I found entirely stimulating. This Don is a psychopath, cool and calculating, a country mile from a hero of the Enlightenment. His chameleon nature could be a mix of behaviours appropriated to achieve his ends, but it wasn’t clear why any woman would find the Don so beguiling. I didn’t get a feeling of either his overweening power or his charisma. He was simply a bally bounder; Donna Anna would surely have smacked him in the face.

It’s impossible for recent events not to have coloured our view of il dissolute and it’s difficult to reconcile some of the comedy with modern mores, but the verismo interpretation of the piece held the musical humour in a mirthless embrace. Leporello’s “who’s dead – you or the old man” was thrown away and il catalogo was a grim read. Elizabeth Roberts’ Donna Elvira was suitably overwrought; humiliated and seemingly full of guilt you wonder why she would continue her attempts to capture his heart. “Batti. Batti” took on a wholly uncomfortable tone making poor Zerlina entirely resistible. Not even Don Ottavio’s heartfelt “Dalla sua pace” was able to lift the dour mood. There wasn’t a buffo or mezzo carattere in sight. I thought this a pity as there’s a lot to be gained in a mosh pit of ideas.

Musically, the cast were uniformly in fine voice and Sonia Ben Santamaria kept a tight reign on proceedings. Caroline Modiba’s Anna, in particular, caught my ear; “non mi dire” was especially affecting. In any case, whether I was entirely convinced dramatically or not is by the by, it didn’t need to be a psychologically perfect evening to be thought provoking and musically satisfying.
Reviewed by Anthony Evans
Mozart: Don Giovanni
Monday 30 October 2017
HeadFirst Productions at the Pleasance
A Festival of Sex, Love and Death
Don Giovanni : Matthew Sprange
Donna Anna : Caroline Modiba
Donna Elvira : Elizabeth Roberts
Leporello : Samuel Pantcheff
Zerlina : Sian Cameron
Don Ottavio : Jorge Navarro Colorado
Masetto : Ian Beadle
Il Commendatore : Stephen Holloway
Director : Sophie Gilpin
Conductor : Sonia Ben Santamaria

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