Don Giovanni

May 14 2017 | By More

★★★☆☆    Well-performed but jumbled

Broughton St Mary’s: Fri 12 – Sun 14 May 2017
Review by Dylan Taylor

VoiceArc’s sci-fi reworking of Don Giovanni, at Broughton St Mary’s Church to Sunday, lifts itself on the voices of its talented performers despite some questionable set design.

With music by Mozart and a libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte, the opera tells of a libertine nobleman based on the legendary Don Juan. The twist here is that the action takes place on a spaceship.

Don Giovanni promotion image. Pic VoiceArc

Soon after strutting into view, the Don (Robert Hardiment) makes his first onstage romantic conquest, attempting to seduce Donna Anna (Anastasia Nikolova) in the house of her father, the Commendatore (Leslie Moffat), as his assistant Leporello (Zorbey Turkalp) acts as lookout. The scene serves as an introduction to the amorous mishaps that are to follow.

Much of the drama surrounds Donna Elvira (Jemma Brown), one of Giovanni’s many ex-lovers. After a confrontation with the Don, Elvira is told of Giovanni’s extensive list of past paramours. Brown’s robust range brings a sharpness to Donna Elvira’s fiery barbs as she raises her voice against the man who has so carelessly used her.

The soon-to-be-wed Masetto and Zerlina (Geoff Leay and Rosie Simpson) are torn apart, too, by Giovanni’s devil-may-care scheming, and by the end of the opera, Giovanni has been plotted against by almost everyone around him. While dining in a climactic and well-staged final scene, the Don finally faces his past demons, both literally and figuratively.

Don Giovanni remains one of the most performed operas within the repertoire, and therefore it is understandable that in staging their version of it, VoiceArc has opted to add some modern elements of their own to bring some originality to their performance.


The modern elements they bring, however, feel anachronistic, embodying a vision of space travel that hearkens back to the pulp fiction of the twentieth century. This adds an unnecessarily camp quality to Dr Nell Drew’s production.

The original sword battle between Giovanni and the Commendatore becomes instead a lightsaber battle, utilising cheap store-bought toys. A picture of a brain projected on a screen throughout the opera’s duration brings out, too, the low-budget look of the set.

Other elements are puzzling or merely out-of-place. Masetto wears work trousers, and Ottavio is clothed in a strange mixture of apparel which includes both a dress and tie. With his ponytailed wig and face paint, he gives the appearance of one who is transitioning into drag. Several of the other costumes seem more gothic than space-like. Donna Elvira – pale, caped, and with vertical streaks of red eye makeup – is a particularly jarring example of this.

In a similar attempt at modernizing the production, the libretto is tweaked to include slang terms and profanity, which feels inessential and gaudy. Due to the strength of some of the other aesthetics on display here – most notably the suits and the black circles painted on the white faces of the backing chorus – it feels that an opportunity to construct a more engaging and professional mise-en-scène is wasted.

It is in the singing, however, that the production most succeeds. Like Brown in her role, Nikolova excels as Donna Anna. Her eloquent voice powerfully articulates all the high notes as she plots against Giovanni.


All three of the major male singers are first-rate. Turkalp has a couple of commanding solo performances as Leporello, and the leading Dons, Michael Doroszenko’s Ottavio and Hardiment’s Giovanni, are consistently excellent. Doroszenko, in particular, has a polished fluidness to his timbre which brings an added professionalism to his role.

Accompanist Michal Gajzler and Conductor Ondrej Soukup are able to make much of their dialled-back musical arrangement. The solo piano is admirably played and the absence of an orchestra is soon forgotten. There are a few timing issues and a couple of moments in which the singers’ pace does not align properly with the speed of the music, but things for the most part run smoothly.

The church typically projects the sounds well, and serves as an agreeable space to stage an opera. The elegant stairs which descend from the pulpit add some fitting scenery to the background, and give the singers some interesting spaces to move around in.

Some of the actors’ voices can be a bit quiet at times, most notably those of Leay and Simpson. Brown, on the other hand, has a great deal of power to her voice, which cuts through the space with vigour and finesse.

In spite of the inconsistent effects, Don Giovanni manages to take its staging seriously enough, as demonstrated by the expressive ways in which the actors move and situate themselves on the stage. This saves the production from falling into amateurism. There is little to question about VoiceArc’s pool of talent. Therefore, it would be more satisfying if the aesthetic worked with the skills of the singers. As it is, VoiceArc’s admirable recognition of what is most important – the voices – allows the production to become something greater than the sum of its disparate parts.

Running time: Three hours (including one interval).
Broughton St Mary’s Church, 12 Bellevue Crescent, EH3 6NE.
Friday 12 – Sunday 14 May 2017
Evenings: 7pm.

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  1. Maciek says:

    Yes, the best performer of them all was undoubtedly – Michał Gajzler.