As a change from worldbuilding posts and interviews with specialists, here’s a post about an opera I attended this weekend.
Mozart’s Don Giovanni was first performed at the Prague Estates Theatre in 1787. I’ve been to over a dozen live productions (including at the Prague Estates, although considerably later than 1787!) and watched maybe twenty different recordings on video/DVD.
Some were produced in a historical style…
while others had a more modern setting.
However, the Felici Opera production was the first I’ve seen in Tudor style, which predates Mozart himself by around two centuries!
The costumes and style worked well, given the rich surroundings of the venue: the Marble Hall at Hatfield House, which was built in 1611. Felici Opera performed to the accompaniment of two pianos, timpani, trombone and the Pirton Early Music Group on recorders (I may have got the terminology wrong – I claim no expertise.)
The opera was sung in English. I’m not massively keen on translated performances since some phrasings simply don’t translate well: such as Don Ottavio’s “Lo giuro”, or Leporello’s “mille e tre”. This translation was pretty good, even though I’m not sure there was much point in switching the “one thousand and three” location to England rather than Spain.
The style of the performance definitely emphasised the comic aspects of the opera. Don Giovanni is generally categorised as comic opera (admittedly rather dark) as opposed to tragedy. I’ve noticed a tendency in previous live performances to emphasise grit and gore, and to downplay the comic aspects. The move back to comic is a refreshing change.
And the comedy was wonderfully carried by Leporello, the eponymous antihero’s reluctant sidekick. From sarcastic exchanges with his master, to mugging like mad while trying to lure Donna Elvira out of the house, his performance was a hoot. Interestingly, this performance included the “Restati quà… Per carità” duet between Zerlina and Leporello. It’s generally omitted but this time gave Leporello more chance to show off his comic acting.
The other characters were true to form as well. Don Giovanni, brazen and unapologetic till the end. Donna Elvira, driven by a combination of feeling betrayed and yet still wanting to help. Donna Anna, also driven, but by a sense of justice and vengeance. Don Ottavio—sorry, I can only ever view him as a rather weak sidekick, but that’s no reflection on this performance! Zerlina the ingenue and Massetto her jealous husband rounded off the main cast. The Commendatore of course appeared at times of high drama.
The singing was excellent. I did feel that Don Giovanni’s voice was a touch overshadowed in the ensemble pieces, but he came across well in his solos. Additionally, Zerlina’s voice seemed a bit unpolished in a couple of spots, but nothing that interfered with my enjoyment.
I’ll certainly be keeping an eye out for future productions by Felici Opera.