Don Giovanni Festival 2010

Your reviews of the 2010 Festival production

Well contrary to the critics in the Guardian and FT, I thought the opening night was brimming over with energy from both Orchestra and Cast. Thoroughly enjoyed it.

Design Initiative Ltd 6th July 2010

I don’t approve about the treatment of the part of the Commendatore. That said however I thoroughly enjoyed both the study program and the performance. The set was tremendous, and Leporello was excellent.

John Williams 6th July 2010

Don Giovanni – world class! During the scene where Mr Giovanni is being beseached to repent, there is a very bright spot light from the back of the scenery which shines directly into the eyes of the audience (as you face stage, audience to the left) and needs to be extinguised. I thought the scenery was a complex affair – how many times have they bumped their heads! Steven Clarke

Steven Clarke 6ty July 2010

Unfortunately, I found the concept of a singularly nasty, driven Don Giovanni extremely monochromatic and devoid of the essential sensuality. This Don was no seducer, as the pale La Chi Darem la Mano showed. Musically quite the same, little let-up for breath and contrast. The doubtless expensive stage machinery seemed often to get in the way. Such a pity, for there obviously was an enormous amount of talent focused on the production.

Raymond Steckel 9th July 2010

I laughed, I cried, I loved it. The Crits have missed the point. Mozart and Da Ponte meant it to be sinister, brash, hedonistically raw, perhaps a parody of Da Ponte’s own life and loves. The contemporary setting evoked Commendatore Al Pacino in the final episode of The Godfather who found the temple crashing down about him. The period somewhere between the 1930s and the 1970s was pefect in its brutality, but the action could easily have been in the period of Marcus Licinius Crassus, or the Borghias. The set thrust the action forward at breakneck speed even though movement was complicated. The whole effect was appropriately brutal, and ended in appropriately brutal self-destruction. Don Giovanni is definitely not a pussycat, nor is he Casanova. There is not anything refined about the seduction routines. That’s why it worked well. Canning et al should ponder why The Godfather series has been the most successful box-office draw of all time.

Nicholas Heesom 12th July 2010

The pretentious unsympathetic staging diminishes the singers and inhibits the impact of the opera. Like Raymond Steckel I found La ci darem la mano lacking in warmth- so disappointing. I sat next to two regular visitors from Paris who did not give the performance good marks. I notice that you omitted to publish on your web site the critical reviews from The Times and The Guardian. Arthur Hollman

A Hollman 15th July 2010

The singing was great, particularly Donna Elvira and Donna Anna, but I really couldn’t see that anything was gained by the 1950s setting. It’s one thing for Don Giovanni to kill the Commendatore in a sword fight, but to beat him to death and smash his head with a stone is something else entirely and hardly the act of a gentleman, even a brutal one! A modern production just makes the words & actions anachronistic. Disappointing.

Elizabeth Moore 21st July 2010

We were four, and we were gripped every second of the production. The amazing staging, nods to cinema and all; the wonderful singers; the conducting and orchestra. We felt the brutality of Don Giovanni got the tone just right, and Donna Elvira and Donna Anna acquired a depth they normally don’t have. Don Ottavio was not the fop he usually is, and Leporello was simply perfect! Bravo!

Z Draxler-Morsy 21st July 2010

Don G is always tremendously enjoyable and this production was no exception. Gerard Finlay was indisposed the night I saw it which was a pity. Otherwise the singing was almost uniformly excellent. Setting it in modern times was irritating as was the monolithic set, turning, turning, and the version used brought in some pointless stuff and omitted some glorious work. I must be alone in prefering the previous production.

Geoffrey W King 26th July 2010

We thought Don Giovanni was awful..very disappointing. hated the set design and 1950 costumes. just ruined my favourite opera. have been coming to glyndebourne for over 40 years ..this was a perfect night but one of the worst of my glyndebourne years. what do they gain by updating it? I will avoid this director and designer in the future. the singing and orchestra were fine but had to close my eyes. very very disappointed. Connie Lynn july 20th

C R Lynn 26th July 2010

Our Glyndebourne visits are the highlight of our opera season so it was deeply disappointing on our visit on July 20 to be advised minutes before the performance that an understudy was to sing the principal part. His lower register was inaudible and he struggled with timing. The whole opera was affected by his poor performance and his oversized white dinner jacket was ludicrous with sleeves that hung below the tips of his fingers. Who dressed this understudy? He was clearly instructed to put his hands in his trouser pockets in some vain attempt at disguising the effect. We do not attend Glyndebourne for heroics but instead for its ultimate professionalism and internationally high performance. I have no sympathy for understudy poor performance at today’s prices. This denigrates Glyndebourne.

James Sancroft 26th July 2010

Really enjoyed this production, dark, brooding, as it should be, with a properly pathological Don! Wonderful singing all round and a spectacular close to Act 1. But the set after the interval was too complex – why not stay with the cube idea? The comendatore under the table didn’t work for me. David Robson

David Robson 27th July 2010

Unfortunately I saw the understudy playing the Don and I thought the performance generally was disappointing and he was rather weak. I did not like the modern look or the rather weird sets which did nothing but distract from the music and the action. The women were all excellent as was Don Ottavio but I cannot forgive the understudy for murdering the serenade – one of my favourite pieces of music.

William Kennett 27th July 2010

We did not like the production – we thought the scenery was over dominating which at times made it difficult to see the performers who were from time to time tucked away very much in the corner. In making this comment, I am not referring to when they were trying to hide themselves. Sitting as we were in Row C of the Circle, it was at times and indeed too often, difficult to see what was happening.

The music and singing was excellent and we have no criticism here but merely praise.

Michael and Jenny Nathan 27th July 2010

I have seen Despina disport herself in a diner beneath a motorway flyover, I have watched Figaro meet Almaviva riding a Harley Davidson, I have watched a superbly proportioned Constanze appear stark naked and then dress herself in front of the audience etc. On each occasion I have asked myself precisely what it “did” for the opera, my conclusion was at best nothing at worst to ruin it! I watched Glynebourne’s 2010 Don with very mixed feelings.

The revolving box set in the first act was brilliant! The stage action showed a strange predilection for collapsing and lying prone, they also struggled it seemed to me to project their character despite tawdry costumes sometime verging on the ridiculous! A statue has a presence but Wurzel Gummidge? Musically, Mr; Jurowovsy, normally one of my preferred conductors further hampered the cast by setting a dirge like tempo. Donna Elvira’s “ought to be impassioned” aria would have been more at home in a Requiem Mass!

As I have already said the costumes were ridiculous and brought nothing to the opera except perhaps, a cost saving? I can understand the desire to stage a performance that is not just another performance of whatever opera, but stuffing an opera that should be temporally situated 2 or 3 centuries ago into a semi 21st century context is laughable, especially in the case of the Don which is irrevocably in the past. Seek excellence otherwise than sartorial quirks!

Richard Chandless 27th July 2010

Well, the voices were, for the most part, superb; the OAE were, of course, their usual excellent selves and, personally, I thought the revolving set ingenious and flexible but as for the rest… We got off to a bad start when the Commendatore had to come back from the dead briefly to remove the rock which had first killed him and then stuck to his head! And no one has yet convinced me why an opera (or anything else) which is set in a particular period, ought to be played in any costume other than that which is appropriate to its time. (We’d have avoided the necessity for the recalcitrant rock too.) The acting was generally limited (the excellent Leparello excepted). In particular, the party scene at the Don’s house seemed to be played by badly operated marionettes. And as for the Don’s banishment to hell… Here we have some of the most wonderful dramatic writing in all of opera; those magnificent, hair raising, chords revealing Giovanni’s awful fate and what are we given? “Well, if you’ll just step down through this trapdoor Don Giovanni sir, mind yourself on that top step, its a bit slippery…” It’s difficult to imagine how the magnificent music and drama of that scene could be castrated but this production team managed it! Glyndebourne has been on a superb roll… Falstaff, Guilio, Poppeia, Macbeth (caravans an’ all), Tristan of course, Rusalka and, this year, Cosi and Budd to name a few, have all been wonderful. Oh well, all good things come to an end… I see that this DG is on next year’s list… Pity.

Eric Duffelen 3rg August 2010

Reading these reviews – and some in the press – reminds me how fixated we have become in recent years on production values at the expense of the music and drama which for me is still what opera is all about. This Don Giovanni (under the baton of Jakob Hrusa) was marked by superlative singing (especially from Gerald Finley, Luca Pisaroni and Kate Royal), terrific orchestral playing (there was a marvellous cello obligato at one point that I’d never heard in previous productions) and great acting. It was also interesting to hear the Vienna version of the opera for once. Altogether there were for me no weak links and as for the staging, one may lament the absence of the sort of glamour we remember in early post-war productions, but this director’s vision was clear, consistent and powerful: and I would have thought fully in tune with to-day’s widespread addiction to violent celebrities.

David Gladstone 5th August 2010

I agree with the comments about the magnificent orchestral playing, although I wish the conductor had not seemed to encourage applause at every opportunity; given that this production very successfully emphasised the driven and driving quality of the piece it was a shame that the momentum was lost by intervals of audience self-expression. Someone even tried to start applauding at the end of the damnation scene! But to be fair the conductor scotched that by moving directly into the finale. I thought the performance of the first act was superb. The combination of the powerfully graphic and seamlessly changing set and the sharp acting and delivery of the sung and spoken words made it thrilling and penetrating: Don Giovanni as psychological thriller. Finley and Pisaroni’s singing was great and all the others at least good. Interestingly, I thought the performance lost its drive and grip in Act 2 – as maybe the opera does? The set became fussy and awkward and the drama flagged. The inclusion of the dire Leporello/Zerlina scene only highlighted this impression. All was recovered by a truly frightening banquet and damnation scene. I liked the corpse under the table; it seemed to fit with the lunatic quality of the banquet. All in all a powerful and enormously skilful production; despite the sag in Act 2.

Alan Green 7th August 2010

We thoroughly enjoyed this production, notwithstanding the absence of the Commendatore in the first Act (stuck in a traffic jam!). My only disappointment was that, after surprising us with the excitement of real flames in the first Act, we were led to expect something rather more spectacular when the Don was taken off to Hell. Even greater use of the flames of Hell would have been wonderful…

9th August 2010