Don Giovanni Scottish Opera Festival Theatre

The set perfectly evokes the atmosphere of 18th century Venice - the dark and narrow alleyways, nooks and crannies, palazzos and balconies, all steeped in history and character and it even has the gondolas and canals. It creates a mood of intimacy and intrigue, and provides a perfect backdrop for this story of deceit, deception and divine retribution. Don Giovanni is a thoroughly bad lot – guilty of rape, seduction and murder, he should be a repulsive creature to us but we always like a baddie and he is played with a sexy swagger by Jacques Imbraglio. He is incorrigible, unrepentant and literally hell bent on adding to his list of sexual conquests – Leporello, his manservant, (Peter Kalman) tells us there are over 1800 names on the list, women of all shapes and sizes, age and social class, and from various countries including 1003 from Spain. But, this time, he has gone a step too far and has met his match in the spurned Donna Elvira and in the pure Donna Anna, whose father he has murdered after raping her. Don Giovanni is offered a chance of redemption first by Donna Elvira and finally by the ghost of the father, the Commandatore, but he refuses to renounce his ways and is defiantly dragged off to Hell in the dramatic final moments by a host of ghoulish creatures.

The character of Don Giovanni was inspired by the life of Casanova, the infamous Italian serial seducer and I was fascinated to read in the programme that it is very likely that Casanova himself attended the premiere of the opera in Prague in 1787.

This is a relatively long opera with only two Acts but not a minute is wasted by Director Sir Thomas Allen. The action is continuous with a great mix of drama and also comedy, in the asides of the Don and his servant and in the artful ways of Zerlina who shows us that girls can be every bit as naughty as boys.

The singing is sublime and is never overwhelmed by the orchestra, conducted by glamorous Italian conductor Speranza Scappucci in her Louboutin heels. There isn’t a flaw, it all fits perfectly – the lighting, the costumes, the Commedia Dell’Arte sceneshifters, the ghostly nuns and masqueraders. I’ve seen a few versions of Don Giovanni over the years but I think this is the best so far. (It helped that I had visited Venice for the first time this year and was captivated by the city and at long last my years of studying Italian are starting to pay off as I could understand most of the libretto without recourse to the surtitles!)

Despite some recent problems which include losing their new musical director after only a couple of months, the Scottish Opera Chairman is insistent that the company is in good shape and points to the success of this production which has seen record advance ticket sales. It all augurs well for the rest of the 50th anniversary programme, I can’t wait.

Irene Brownlee