It’s a wonderful season for Irish fans of Mozart and his operatic masterpiece Don Giovanni in particular with productions both north and south of the border. Opera Theatre Company premiered their very well received production with a new translation by Roddy Doyle at the Gaiety Theatre as part of the Dublin Theatre Festival earlier this month to packed houses before moving on to Cork Opera House and Northern Ireland Opera will be presenting their production at the Grand Opera House Belfast from Friday 18th November. The Belfast production is tinged with a touch of sadness as it is the final work produced for the company by Oliver Mears who was so instrumental in the creation of Northern Ireland Opera in 2010 and its achievements and successes since.
Anyone who has been to one of Mears productions will appreciate his vision, creativity and directorial skills, skills which he is now taking to London as the newly appointed Director of Opera at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.
I’m always very interested in ways to attract younger people to the wonders and beauty of opera whether it be the outreach and schools programmes of opera companies or the comic strips of operas published by the now unfortunately defunct Sinfinimusic, so having attended Don Giovanni in Dublin and as usual having come away from the theatre inspired by the experience and humming the tunes I was keen to let my 13 year old son experience something of the opera. After attempting to help him with his algebra homework I started doing a bit of digging online and stumbled across ‘Don Giovanni Unmasked’. This is a film interpretation of the opera directed by Barbara Willis Sweete who directs many of the Metropolitan Opera Live productions and features the amazing Russian Baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky as both Don Giovanni himself and his trusty servant Leporello. (Hvorostovsky is recovering from a brain tumor he suffered last year and best wishes to him for a speedy recovery. In bocca al lupo Dmitri!).
This ingenious retelling of the story is perfect for younger people. It is a shortened version of the opera coming in at less than an hour and though sung in the original Italian the subtitles are short and succinct and make the story perfectly clear. Hvorostovsky as Leporello and the cast of the opera are in a 1930’s cinema and watch themselves perform Don Giovanni on screen as Giovanni’s dalliances eventually result in his downfall and damnation. The way the story unfolds is ingenious and entertaining and the singing is quite spectacular. I certainly recommend this film as a primer for Don Giovanni for newer and more seasoned opera fans alike and it is worth watching for Hvorostovsky’s singing alone which is intense, dramatic and simply spectacular.
My son sat through it, understood it and by all accounts enjoyed it. I call that a result!
Don Giovanni Unmasked is available from Amazon here
Tickets for Northern Ireland Opera’s production of Don Giovanni can be booked here