Young cast bring Don to life

Don Giovanni

Co-Opera Co

Wolverhampton Grand

****

REFERENCES to apps and EastEnders in the libretto of Mozart's great comic opera might not be familiar to traditional opera goers but they all add to the fun of this Co- Opera Co production.

As comedies go Don Giovanni has a less than fun filled start with the hedonistic Don having his wicked way with Donna Anna and when her invalid father , Il Commendatore, appears to avenge her honour, the licentious Don does him in for fun.

Not exactly laugh a minute stuff and somehow you just know we are not going to be cheering for Giovanni come the inevitable sticky end. David Milner-Pearce gives us a laddish, man of the world, nudge-nudge, wink-wink Don, a rake with charm who has had a morality by-pass – and a fine tenor voice which shows much promise for the future.

With a young cast it is not surprising that many of the voices are not yet fully developed but they are getting there with Lisa Wilson as Donna Anna, the ravaged daughter, and  Susanna Fairbairn as Donna Elvira, the lover abandoned by the dastardly Don both having pleasing soprano voices as does Robyn Allegra Parton – who more than looks the part of the sexy, alluring bride Zerlina.

It is no surprise the Don is after her as well which upsets her wimpish husband to be Massetto, sung by Jerome Knox.

It means that the number of Don's enemies is growing with Ann's betrothed Don Ottavio, sung well by David Menezes, vowing to avenge his future father-in-law's death and his fiancee's dishonour. And when the Don invites the statue of the dead Commendatore to supper, the one he murdered remember, and the statue accepts – you know all is not going to end well our Don.

Matthew Tomko, as Il Commendatore is one of the older cast and produces a rich deep bass.

SENSE OF COMEDY

Holding it all together  though is Richard Immergluck as the Don's servant Leporello who manages not only a pleasing baritone but also a fine sense of comedy, with his references to the plot being like  EastEnders and producing not the usual notebook  of the Don's conquests, but  an app on his mobile listing time and date for all his lovers.

The set is minimal although, particularly on the second half, scene changes became disruptive and broke the flow as three large panels and a few stands were moved a few feet to signify a change of venue. We could have lived without that, it slowed the second half considerably which is not a good thing in a show lasting 3hrs 10 mins. Much of the time the set was fine although when the Don gets his comeuppance and is dragged into hell sitting in a display case with people chucking pizza at him is perhaps not quite as Mozart would have seen it.

The voices might have lacked a little power and maturity, that will come with time, but no one could doubt the enthusiasm of the young cast of eight. Their acting was lively and they brought some nice new touches to an old favourite. The duets and trios were a delight with voices blending well and, with a cut down orchestra, there was little strain producing the required volume.

The opera was in modern dress and English, which allowed a few extra jokes to be thrown in, and the words came over clear as a bell - which is a credit to the cast and their enunciation. The hard working orchestra of just 17 under conductor Tim Murray also deserve a mention. The sound invariable was a bit thin but they played with gusto.

There were nice touches such as Anna, Evira and Ottavio disguised in fancy dress. Normally this is restoration costume with Venetian masks,  here it was all street cred Ali G outfits – innit.

FIRST FOOT

All in all this was an enjoyable evening and worthwhile on two counts. First Co-Opera Co gives young opera singers – and musicians – a first foot on the ladder, a chance to appear and gain experience. Among their mumber are stars of the future.

Second, it makes opera accessible. The prices are lower than for a major opera company, the stars younger with perhaps more street cred and the whole production is lighter, less formal and  not as heavy duty as a full blow, traditional established opera with full orchestra and chorus.

Anyone who has never seen opera would hardly be frightened off by what is largely a fun production and would probably be happy to try opera again, and that can't be bad. 17-09-12. Co-Opera Co continues with The Magic Flute on 18-09-12.

Roger Clarke 

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