Don Giovanni

Published August 23, 2011

Just when you thought bankers could not get a worse reputation, along comes OperaUpClose to re-style Don Giovanni as a modern money-monger.

At Soho theatre, Mozart’s legendary lothario has very little charm. Instead, he seduces the ladies with his bulging wallet and the way he uses it. Marc Callahan in the lead role – renamed Jonny in the English translation – is the type of Wall Street city boy who makes you want to have a shower after just watching his conquests.

Somehow he still has friendships – what mighty power that wallet must wield – yet tries his best to wreck them with a spot of casual rape and murder. It’s safe to say that the audience’s sympathy towards him, even when his actions begin to catch up with him, is inversely proportional to the size of his bank balance.

It is his sidekick Alexander, given a devilishly dry wit by Tom Stoddart, who receives a little of the audience’s emotion. Yet even he is more than a little on the slippery side, always aiding and abetting while protesting that he’d really rather not.

OperaUpClose shot to fame last year with its Olivier Award-winning small scale production of La Bohème. Don Giovanni similarly gets a good scaling back. Gone are the full orchestras of other operas – except a recording or two – replaced with a single piano and some electronic wizardry. This paring back makes the production eminently accessible, but, somewhat obviously, at the expense of gravitas and richness of sound.

Director Robin Norton-Hale has given Don Giovanni a turn of the century reboot, which brings with it a smattering of dance beats, some snappy suits and a few lovely touches and references. Audiences enjoying a drink in the interval should also pay attention, as a certain writer – who may or may not be me – almost missed out on a little half time entertainment by being too deep in extremely intellectual conversation.

Though OperaUpClose’s offering may not be for purists, what it lacks in grandiosity, it makes up for in intimacy, inclusivity and all the charm that its leading character lacks.

MA

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