In what seems to have been a bumper year for Don Giovanni this year, the Glyndebourne Tour opted to revive Jonathan Kent’s 2010 production for the festival to run alongside Madama Butterfly. The centrepiece is a revolving cube that offers alternatively such locations as the corner of a building, the inside of Don Giovanni’s palazzo and the graveyard where the Commendatore lies in the process of being buried (presumably the gravediggers have also succumbed to Italian strike action). It’s a nifty enough way of doing things that allows for convenient and convincing scene changes, but it’s too small and consequently there’s a feeling in most of the first act that much of the stage is just unused.

Duncan Rock (Don Giovanni) and Ana Maria Labin (Donna Anna) © Tristram Kenton
Duncan Rock (Don Giovanni) and Ana Maria Labin (Donna Anna)
© Tristram Kenton
Detail and a sense of human interaction seems to be avoided in general: there’s little done to establish any kind of relationship between Donna Anna and Don Ottavio, and that curious bromantic bond between Don Giovanni and Leporello was lifeless. It’s a shame that an operatic dish with so much vivacity and humour to it is given such a bland and colourless plating. I did like the use of the Commendatore’s  actual corpse – the initial reaction to the dinner invitation being a seemingly natural slump forward of the head – and in many respects having the dinner on top of the grave was a nice dramatic touch, and got round the knotty continuity issue of Giovanni’s home being torched at the end of the act, though the corpse springing up from under the table causes its own problems, given that Anna and Leporello are supposed to catch sight of it before it actually arrives.

Duncan Rock, strolling around in a smart white dinner jacket, gave a commendable vocal performance as the dodgy don, oozing warmth and seduction with a honied baritone that, until the damnation scene, seemed happily unhurried, embodied in a fine “Deh, vieni alla finestra”, where he reined in the voice to a tender pianissimo, perfectly audible thanks to excellent projection. If only he’d been given more opportunities to develop the character, this could have been an excellent night for him. His Leporello, Brandon Cedel, had decent articulation, but his Catalogue Aria suffered from difficulties with the patter singing and the lack of character made this an unusually charmless Leporello. Magdalena Molendowska, by the sheer force of her voice, imposed some character and genuine emotion onto Donna Elvira, showing off a full voice which rang at the top and an unusually subtle colour in the lower register. Sensitive, mournful phrasing and a generous stage performance made her entirely credible.

Božidar Smiljanić (Masetto) and Louise Alder (Zerlina) © Tristram Kenton
Božidar Smiljanić (Masetto) and Louise Alder (Zerlina)
© Tristram Kenton

I was happily surprised to find a meatily sung Masetto from Božidar Smiljanić, whose even timbre and natural heft meant that for once the character was not a minor plot point, but actually a centre of attention. His relationship with Zerlina was the only one that had any chemistry and Louise Alder’s energetic assumption of the role did much to contribute to this. Her chirpy soprano was silkily deployed for a no holds barred seduction in “Batti, Batti”; her Zerlina knew exactly what she wanted and how to get it. Having seen Ana Maria Labin sing Donna Anna before, I was surprised by the occasional lack of security at the top of the voice and a sense of lacklustre in her approach. Her Don Ottavio, Anthony Gregory, while smoothly sung, also lacked a spark of inspiration. The omission of “Il mio tesoro” denied him the opportunity to provide some much needed character definition. Andrii Goniukov revelled in his zombie Commendatore incarnation: delightfully hellish and sung with an earthy texture to his bass.

Duncan Rock (Don Giovanni) and Andrii Goniukov (The Commendatore) © Tristram Kenton
Duncan Rock (Don Giovanni) and Andrii Goniukov (The Commendatore)
© Tristram Kenton

Pablo González and the Glyndebourne Tour Orchestra started with a lethargic overture and were beset by a lack of dynamism, but the playing was of generally acceptable standard, excluding the odd fluff of brass.