Less than 24 hours after Stravinsky's Rake bounded his way across the stage of the Théâtre de l'Archevêché, it was the turn of Mozart's Don Giovanni (whose complete title is The Rake Punished, or Don Giovanni) to face his comeuppance. Jean-François Sivadier's pulsating new production propels The Don through his lusty adventures at a whirlwind pace, pursued by those he has wronged, seeking vengeance. Behind a bare stage, the word “Liberta” is scrawled in red on a distressed wall, but can Don Giovanni's victims ever be free of him? Sivadier suggests not.

Eleanore Buratto (Donna Anna), Pavol Breslik (Don Ottavio) and David Leigh (The Commendatore)
© Pascal Victor | Artcompress

Right from the overture, pugnaciously dispatched by the excellent Cercle de l'Harmonie under Jérémie Rhorer, Philippe Sly's depraved Don Giovanni eyeballs the audience, hungry for further conquests to add to his tally. Sly's voracious performance is extraordinary, his sexual desire literally illuminating the stage as suspended lightbulbs burst into a spectrum of colour, representing his conquests when Leporello, the jocular Nahuel di Pierro, reels off his Catalogue aria. Sly and di Pierro displayed great comic rapport, Leporello seeking shelter behind his master as a helicopter buzzing overhead briefly held up proceedings. Sly is a Don with a noble bearing who tramples over other people's lives, with plenty of Lord Flashheart-style thrusting and thigh-slapping. “Là ci darem la mano” became a seductive courtly dance, while his Serenade was sung on an intoxicating half-breath. He eyes up Elvira's maid from the start so that it's no surprise at all that she is the physical embodiment of the “feast” in the Supper Scene, giving new meaning to Leporello having his mouth full!

Isabel Leonard (Donna Elvira)
© Pascal Victor | Artcompress

All three women have dark-hued voices. Isabel Leonard's is a world-beating Elvira, her cherry ripe mezzo and supple phrasing perfect for a moving “Mi tradì quell'alma ingrata”, sung as she uncovers a bedsheet to reveal the Don curled up with her maid. Her resigned look at yet another betrayal will haunt me for days. Julie Fuchs sang a beguiling Zerlina, eager to be seduced. Eleanora Buratto's Donna Anna had plenty of power – along with some buttery edges – but displayed a tendency to turn squally under pressure. Don Ottavio was allowed to be far less wimpy than usual, “Dalla sua pace” sung so mellifluously by Pavol Breslik that it's a wonder Donna Anna didn't cave in immediately, although Rhorer – never shy of elastic tempi – hurried on the middle section very quickly. Breslik also sang a terrific “Il mio tesoro”. David Leigh offered rock solid low notes as the Commendatore, while Krzysztof Bączyk's Masetto was amiable, despite a slightly foggy bass.

Eleanora Buratto (Donna Anna), Philippe Sly (Don Giovanni) and Isabel Leonard (Donna Elvira)
© Pascal Victor | Artcompress

Sivadier allows us to see other characters as if off-stage, sitting at tables in quiet reflection, preparing for the party, applying black make-up to mask their eyes. Alexandre de Dardel's simple set shows us stage trappings galore. Foil curtains fly in to allow characters to hide, working especially well as Don Giovanni provides the vocals so Leporello can woo Elvira, allowing him free access to her maid. Philippe Berthomé's lighting designs are very clever, while Virginie Gervaise's costumes are a striking clash of bustles and grunge.

David Leigh (The Commendatore) and Philippe Sly (Don Giovanni)
© Pascal Victor | Artcompress

Before the interval, a workman takes a hammer to the wall as the Don makes his escape, plaster falling from the ceiling. Is his world about to collapse? All becomes clear later as a giant statue of the Commendatore is unveiled, a plaster copy of Anne Chromy's The Cloak of Conscience (or Il commendatore) which stands outside the Estates Theatre in Prague, where Mozart conducted the opera's première in 1787. It symbolizes the precariousness of life, its hooded mantle empty, holding a disembodied soul. Does that void represent Giovanni himself?

Smoke swirls from the Commendatore's cigarette as the Don boldly meets his fate head on. But there's no hellish exit for this libertine. Spotlights close in, pinning him to the centre of the stage. Even during the epilogue, he's still there, stripped to his undies, while those left behind him still feel the gelidity of his hand. A chilling end to a thrilling evening.