Opera Theatre Company made their debut at the Gaiety with a curious production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni as part of the Dublin Theatre Festival. Using a new translation by Roddy Doyle, director Gavin Quinn relocates the historic tale of the legendary seducer to contemporary Dublin.
It’s an unsavoury world of retro gyms and sleazy nightclubs where the denizens are “sculling pints and making babies”. A portrait à la Francis Bacon and a backdrop screen with a collage of erotic images adds to the dystopian mood.
Doyle’s language is mundane with a smattering of contemporary slang and a token swear word. My impression was that laughs came at the bizarreness of the repetition of pedestrian lines sung in a grand operatic style rather than the text itself.
There were strong performances across the board from the largely Irish cast with international guests. Opera Theatre Company regular John Molloy shone as Don Giovanni’s fixer Leporello, blending his natural comic flair with a powerful delivery and imposing presence.
‘Reading’ the catalogue song from a tablet, he drew one of the loudest chuckles at the replacement of Spain with Ireland, with a tally of “1003 conquests in the land of saints and scholars”. The intensity of Máire Flavin’s performance in the role of Dona Ana emphasised the element of pathos as the grieving daughter. Cork man Brendan Collins was a plucky Masetto. Welsh baritone David Kempster, while vocally sound, struggled to project a scintilla of charm without the sheen of Italian to mask Don Giovanni’s brutish nature. In the final scene he invites the commendatore to dine on takeaway chicken and stout before the tables are literally turned in his demise.
It’s not the most convincing coup de théâtre and failed to make me shiver. In a nice touch, a backdrop of mirrors intermittently reflected the beautiful period details of the house and allowed us a glimpse into the pit of conductor Fergus Sheil directing the RTÉ Concert Orchestra.
For this first outing of OTC to the Gaiety, I couldn’t help but hanker for something a little more traditional in this grand Victorian setting. Perhaps the more modern surrounds of Cork Opera House will suit it better.
Don Giovanni is at Cork Opera House tonight and Friday