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Don Giovanni: Behind the Curtain at Milton Keynes Theatre

Published by: Alison Smith on 11th Nov 2016 | View all blogs by Alison Smith

Reviewed by Alison Smith 10th November 2016 

Don Giovanni: Behind the Curtain has the subtitle ‘The Essence of Opera Revealed’ and Thursday’s performance was, for me, just that, a revelation. The performance was an educational opportunity for both novices and keen opera fans to understand the complexities of staging an opera – the music for each character, the role of the chorus, the importance of each instrument and the costumes of the singers. Opera has always been considered a high-brow music genre and to have it demystified in an amusing, down-to-earth manner was enlightening. 

I am a newcomer to opera and so I was delighted by the explanations given by Paul Rissmann. Rissmann appeared immediately after the overture and for the rest of the evening delighted the audience with his interviews, videos and even games. In the first Act there were musical excerpts from Don Giovanni with explanations of some of the different singing styles such as recitativo, which echoes the natural rhythms of speech and pushes the drama forward, arias which reveal the feelings and emotions of the character and slow the dramatic movement. 

In Don Giovanni the title character is a serial seducer of women and the murderer of the Commendatore ( Andrii Goniukov). Duncan Rock plays Don Giovanni and seeing him on the stage out of the seducer’s role, chatting to Rissmann, emphasised the magic that is a transformation into a believable opera character. The women who Giovanni pursues, Donna Anna (Ana Maria Labin), Donna Elvira (Magdalena Molendowska) and Zerlina (Louise Adler) reveal their characters through their interpretations of Mozart’s score. Elvira’s music had a constrained rhythm, which echoed the woman’s frustrated, regulated upbringing, while Zerlina, a peasant girl, was portrayed with gentle melody. Anna’s music was coloratura, a richly ornamented melody underscoring her pain. My school Italian did not help me to understand the words, but Mozart’s music for each role and the women’s musical expression were the keys to capture their emotions.  And of course there were the wonderful English supertitles above the stage! 

Act 2 included the dramatic finale of the opera in all its bloody glory, a grave used as a dinner table, a corpse as a guest and Don Giovanni damned to eternal hell fire. (impressive lighting and smoke effects for this).The dark music echoed the supernatural situation, the tragic mood delineated by the trombones; the deep bass of the Commendatore juxtaposed with the pitiful baritone of the sinner. After Don Giovanni’s death the other characters, the non-sinners, refocused their lives, Giovanni’s servant Leporello striving to find a better master, Elvira determined to enter a nunnery and the couples seeking to live happily ever after.

 This performance was well worth seeing – next time for me the complete opera Don Giovanni the Drama Giocoso. I am a convert!


Glyndebourne’s Don Giovanni: Behind The Curtain 

Thursday November 10th 

0844 871  7652 

Booking fee applies




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