Known as Mozart’s darkest opera, Don Giovanni lives up to its reputation as a tale of murder, rape and revenge.
Don Giovanni exists in a world where he takes what he wants, when he wants, without regard for who he hurts along the way. With his power, position and considerable wealth, he intimidates and belittles those around him. Feeling untouchable, our opera begins as Don Giovanni commits the ultimate crime.
Set in 2018, this modern, fast-paced production explores the opera’s themes of power, privilege and sexual assault which are as relevant today as they were when the piece was written in 1787. Inspired by the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, Opera on Location are proud to be exploring the relationships between men and women following the “Weinstein Effect” – echoing uncomfortably with the present, will the Don’s privilege protect him or will his insatiable appetite eventually lead to his downfall?
Opera on Location are delighted to be creating their sixth production this August in Eagle Works, Little Kelham. This exciting and brand new location is the perfect setting for our modern take on this fantastic opera that comprises horror, love and comedy in a perfect blend that will leave both opera stalwarts and first time audiences ‘devilishly’ satisfied.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
The stories of Mozart’s prodigy are well known and his brilliance is recognised throughout the world. He began playing the keyboard at the age of three and started composing at five. He was a touring musician by six and before his 12th birthday had written two operas! Of his 22 operas, many of them are frequently performed today including Don Giovanni, The Marriage of Figaro, Cosi Fan Tutte and The Magic Flute.
Cast and Creatives
Location: Eagle Works
Built in 1835, Eagle Works was originally used to make files and refine steel. In 1864 WK Peace & Co left the building and moved across the River Don to a new factory. They took the name of Eagle Works with them and the old site was renamed Horseman Works, later becoming part of Global Steel Works.
The building has recently been renovated as part of the Little Kelham development.
Ron Simpson (The Reviews Hub), August 2018 ★★★★
Read online at The Reviews Hub...
Opera on Location has been operating in the Sheffield area for five years, typically presenting two operas a year. Don Giovanni, intimately staged in a long narrow acting space with the audience on two sides, offers a modern slant on the opera that brings out both elements of the dramma giocoso to great effect.
The stage contains three office desks and chairs. Leporello sits at one of them, bored, his work done, waiting for his master to stop doing whatever it is they do in private offices. Soon the Commendatore (in this all-youthful version, Donna Anna’s brother) is slain, Donna Anna and Don Ottavio appalled and the familiar action commences. The office remains the focus and Act 1 ends up with an office party, and we all know what happens there – sadly there is no photocopier on the set!
Don Giovanni is one of the operas most beset with silly productions, but this is in no way silly: maybe it blurs the class differences and the appearance of knives and guns is rather atypical of UK offices today, but it is an intelligently thought through and consistent approach to the opera. Leporello’s Catalogue aria, for instance, is totally apposite and amusingly realistic as he uses his computer to check out Don Giovanni’s conquests: 1,003 in the City, rather than in Spain.
The second half makes less sense, but it always does whatever the interpretation or in a totally traditional production. From unlikely mistaken identities to talking statues to dragging Giovanni to Hell, Act 2 needs help from powerful characterisation and intense singing to involve the audience – and it gets them from Opera on Location.
Director Ashley Pearson and Musical Director Juliane Gallant (who also supplies the indefatigable piano accompaniment) use the acting space in a way that exploits its advantages and minimises its difficulties. Gallant unifies ensembles down the whole narrow strip with great skill and Pearson deliberately plays on the tennis-match tendency in the watchers, switching attention from one end of the stage to the other. Here both are playing shots at the same time, so the audience has to choose: you miss some action, but the sense of eavesdropping on events is exhilarating.
Andrew Randall’s Don Giovanni is partly defined by his youthfulness. There are both mischief and instability in his evil. Randall plays to the audience with great skill, chatting up female front-rowers with winning insouciance, and also fields a fine lyric baritone. The relationship with Leporello is always crucial and here the recitative passages are sharply defined and natural-sounding. James Berry’s grumbling Leporello, always the put-upon servant, matches impeccable diction with adept physical comedy.
Fiona Hymns’ Donna Elvira comes on like visiting middle management, cloaking her unrequited passion in a veneer of authority. In the early scenes, Andrea Tweedale tends to oversing as the distraught Donna Anna, but she never pales by the side of Elvira (the fate of so many Donna Annas) and both women are superb in their set-piece Act 2 arias. Don Ottavio is often seen as a thankless part: you trail around like Donna Anna’s pet dog for two acts and then the director takes your great showpiece, Il Mio Tesoro, off you! Gareth Lloyd gradually builds an awkward sympathy for the character – and, if he doesn’t get a shot at Il Mio Tesoro, at least his Dalla Sua Pace is one of the evening’s highlights!
Though the opera is supposedly about male domination, half the characters are in female-dominated situations, Anna and Ottavio, but also Zerlina and Massetto. It’s a triumph for Alex Vilkaitis’ unassuming Massetto that he manages to register so strongly alongside Cally Youdell’s wonderfully feisty Zerlina, the ideal mix of innocent and minx. Thomas D. Hopkinson is an unusually young Commendatore, but as sonorous as his elders.
A final word for the updating of the translation: Pearson, Gallant and Tweedale combine most cleverly to re-work sections of the text to fit the action and setting (much use of computers and camera-phones).
Alex Burns (Classicalexburns), September 2018
Very rarely do I find myself near enough speechless at the end of a concert or production, but Opera on Location‘s production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni did just that. From beginning to end I was hooked on this unique production, and the way some of the themes of the opera were handled were second to none.
The modernisation of the plot and some of themes really hit home about how relatable some of these characters are in the modern day. The nod to the #metoo movement was poignant and well handled by director, Ashley Pearson. Being so close and involved with the opera in the stunning location of Eagle Works, Little Kelham was such a delight. Just looking around the room during the opera told a thousand words. People were fully engaged and emotionally invested in the characters and their emotions.
The subtle scene, lighting and costume changes added to the charm of this production, with it being brought into the modern times. As well as this, with the opera being sung in English, it allowed the audience to fully understand and follow the opera with the characters. One of Opera on Location’s missions is to make opera accessible for all, and with their unique blend of on-location venues, professional musicians and using translations, this is always achieved with great success.
The cast were truly outstanding, what an honour it was to sit so close to such talent. Andrew Randall’s depiction of Don Giovanni was sinister, with comedic undertones, making his character more human, rather than being like an evil villain caricature. Each character was well-developed, and performed with such integrity that it really took you into each scene. Andrea Tweedale’s depiction of Donna Anna was bold and strong, making her one of the stand outs for me. Gareth Lloyd’s charming character, Don Ottavio, had the audience falling in love with him from the word go, which really brought this character to life.
One cannot forget the input of the musical director, Juliane Gallant. Her daring piano accompaniment and musical direction throughout was sublime and faultless. Her dynamic playing laid a solid foundation for the singers to soar above and bring Don Giovanni to life (or ironically death in the opera itself!). I distinctly remember a moment in the final scene where all characters were lined up singing together, and the faces of some audiences members was such a delight to see. Pure shock at the drama and intensity of the opera, but also of the sheer talent in front of them. I was truly blown away by every part of this production and is genuinely the best opera I have seen to date.
I really struggle to find fault with this production, it was a fantastic night out and I would heartily recommend going to any Opera on Location production, they are always of such high quality.