Posted in Opera

July 12: Don Giovanni

Every year, the Royal Opera House live-streams three of its summer season performances to a number of “Big Screens” dotted around the country. There just happens to be such a screen not too far from my home, and I often brave the noise and traffic fumes for an evening of culture which always includes a Wimpy takeaway in the interval.

This year, the offerings were a little bland – Swan Lake, La Bohème and Don Giovanni. I’m not really a ballet lover, and I have already seen this particular version of Bohème on this particular big screen, so the only one for me this year was Don Giovanni. As it happened, the performance started well before sunset, and the day was too hot for me to sit in an open, unshaded space, so I plugged the laptop into the TV and live-streamed the opera into my living room via YouTube. Wimpy has joined the ranks of fast food outlets that do home deliveries, so I didn’t even have to miss my interval picnic.

I find it odd that while ballet live-screenings are introduced by Darcey Bussell (who has the validity of actually having been a ballerina), opera live screenings are nowadays introduced by Gok Wan, who seems an odd choice.

The set for this production was interesting- a blank cube of doors and staircases, revolving slowly. There was little colour, apart from the occasional washes of red used to represent blood, and at the very end, hellfire. It is difficult to describe the way that lighting and projection were used to bring the set alive – the images below give a flavour of the way that text and “grey veiling” was used. The ghosts of past conquests were effectively creepy, and there were some moments, such as the role-swapping of Leporello and Don Giovanni where video was used comically and cleverly, but overall, I found the set very distracting, and the closeup camera work made it difficult to see the complexity of the character action.

The story is an old one – a life of debauchery gets its fitting end, but I felt that there was a little too much of the debauchery and not enough of the end. The voices were all excellent, the characters were all stereotypes, and the only one I warned to at all was Leporello, played by Ildebrando D’Arcangelo.

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