Don Giovanni - Heaven, 16 April 2012
We’ve had pub opera – now what about club opera? The doors of Heaven opened last night for Don Giovanni The Opera (presumably so titled to avoid confusing regular customers of ‘The World’s Most Famous Gay Nightclub’).
You couldn’t get a more appropriate setting - in this new, trimmed-down version set in 1987, the title character is gay nightclub owner Don. All the other characters switch genders. Don has disgruntled female PA Leo at his side. He first kills Alan’s mother Petra then hits on young Zac, while his yuppie ex Eddie chases him fruitlessly. For Mozart diehards it may be as unsatisfactory as any movie-of-the-book is to a reader, but taken on its own terms it works well and generally meshes with the music.
Ranjit Bolt’s delightfully filthy new English text (penis/heinous=genius!) omits the Giovanni/Leporello mistaken identity episode and shrinks the rest to a bare functional minimum of about two hours. The action zips along as singers move from scantily-furnished podiums in the middle of the dance floor up to the balconies and back. Theoretically, the audience can follow them around; in practice, it was a bit of a squeeze with several hundred spectators, a small stage and a ten piece orchestra all packed on to the dance floor.
The 80s atmosphere is economically evoked in the horror-fashion of the period. Don sports an Armani-style suit with massive shoulders and pleated pants, Marina (Masetto) an early Madonna look and Olivia (Ottavio) a prissy Lady Di outfit. And when Eddie, Zac and Marina sneak into Don’s club, they’re disguised as the Village People.The minuet which closes the first act in Don’s club submits to an ingenious electro rework by 80s icon Vince Clarke. Even the burger bar where Don first eyes Zac is a Wimpy. Both I and the opera could have done without the opening and closing Maggie Thatcher speeches though.
Musical values are extraordinarily high by pub opera standards. Beefcake bass-barihunk Duncan Rock is a serious talent who could play Don Giovanni just about anywhere. The rest of the cast are all excellent actors whose exemplary diction allows every word of the precious text to be heard. Some weren’t always loud enough to be heard over the music and the hum of background chat, but I’d rather that than amplification. Very little of Mozart’s detail was lost with the reduced arrangement, and it was only at the climactic appearance of the ghost that more orchestral weight might have been welcome.