Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Reviewed by Michelle Ewen
Scandalously entertaining, Don Giovanni is a five-star romp through the ages which left us both wooed and wowed at The Lowry!
Presented by Opera North, Don Giovanni tells the story of a time-travelling lothario who leaves a trail of broken hearts – and even a corpse – in his wake before finally facing retribution.
With the Time’s Up movement empowering victims of sexual harassment and violence, Mozart’s work circa 1787 remains as relevant today as it did in the eighteenth century and, thanks to its stunning staging and raucous puppetry, this production feels thoroughly modern and provocative.
Mozart presents us with three female leads: Donna Anna (Jennifer Davis), who Don Giovanni molests before killing her father Il Commendatore (James Platt); Donna Elvira (Elizabeth Atherton), who Don Giovanni has previously seduced and promised to marry; and Zerlina (Kathryn Rudge), whom he is intent on bedding on her wedding day to Masetto (Ross McInroy).
Slipping back and forth in time, Don Giovanni manages to stay one step ahead of all three women with the help of his long-suffering servant Leporello; indeed, it is only when Don Giovanni defiantly asks the statue of the murdered Il Commendatore to dine with him that his past transgressions look set to finally catch up with him…
William Dazeley has all the prerequisite charisma and acting chops to carry the title role of Don Giovanni, yet it is his partnering with John Savournin as Leporello that delivers the greatest satisfaction. Fully indulging in Mozart’s brand of nudge-nudge wink-wink bawdy comedy, Dazeley and Savournin are a riot, as well as bona fide masters of gesticulating rudely with their canes.
The black, lowbrow comedy they indulge in offers the perfect counterbalance to Donna Anna’s palpable grief, which the brilliant Jennifer Davis portrays so believably. Whether she’s being roughly molested, lying prostrate on the floor or flopping in anguish against her ever-patient fiancé Don Ottavio (Nicholas Watts), Davis’ vocals never falter – making this a stunning Opera North debut for the graduate of DIT Conservatory of Music and Drama in Dublin.
As the flirtatious Zerlina, Kathryn Rudge is delicious – simultaneously reassuring her husband-to-be Masetto, while actively encouraging Don Giovanni’s panting advances. Her vocal theatrics during a simulated sex scene had the audience in stitches!
Praise too for James Platt, who lends just the right amount of gravitas to the role of Il Commendatore – making for a sensational last act.
While the Opera North cast and chorus are to be congratulated on their first-class performances, it is Alessandro Talevi’s direction, Madeleine Boyd’s set and costume design, Matthew Haskins’ lighting and Victoria Newlyn’s choreography that takes the staging to a whole other level.
The device of inserting a Punch and Judy-style stage ‘window’ into the curtain was ingenious – especially when the actors’ lower bodies were replaced with identical miniature puppets. These were, without doubt, some of my very favourite scenes in the whole production.
And what is an opera without music? Hearty congratulations to the Opera North orchestra, which was expertly led by Christoph Altstaedt – breathing new life into the familiar and seducing us with every note.
Don Giovanni has one final performance at The Lowry on Friday 9th March at 7pm with a bookable free pre-show talk at 6pm, tickets available here.