THERE are many people who would say opera is the purest form of theatre/drama; so it might be considered that the inclusion of an opera in the Dublin Theatre Festival programme is long overdue. And there is a wily flourish worthy of the Don himself in the choice of Mozart's Don Giovanni for Opera Theatre Company's production this year, since it is often considered the greatest opera ever composed, and certainly Mozart's masterpiece.
At the Gaiety, and transferring to the Opera House in Cork, this Don Giovanni is lavish by OTC standards; the emphasis is usually on easily "portable" productions that will adapt to touring smaller venues around the country.
The Austrian designer Bruno Schwengl is responsible for the set and costumes, and has chosen a vaguely industrial/warehouse background with the singers brought up to date as peopling a gangster-style underworld, with the Don as a Mafia boss. The visual theme is strong, but does seem rather uneasily detached from the music, and the costumes do no favours to Tara Erraught's vocally erotic Donna Elvira. The Welsh baritone David Kempster makes an impressive Don Giovanni; nonetheless he is almost dwarfed by John Molloy's truly magnificent Leporello, his vocal achievement aided by a good acting performance (sadly unique in this production, in which director Gavin Quinn seems totally to have lost his way, with the artists strung across the stage for much of the time, without emotional contact or even physical interaction).
Maire Flavin sings the vengeful Donna Anna, seeking the destruction of her father's murderer and her own seducer, and Daire Halpin is Zerlina, the Don's further prey, with Alexander Prague as the faithful Don Ottavio and Brendan Collins slightly weak in the role of the cuckolded Masetto. Jonathan May is the Commendatore, coming splendidly into his own as he comes back to life to drag the great seducer down to hell.
Talking point for the new production is Roddy Doyle's libretto which succeeds admirably most of the time; cheekily slangy and far racier than even an 18th century librettist would have got away with, it moulds itself well to the score although does occasionally lapse into more traditional language which breaks the continuity.
Fergus Shiels, the OTC artistic director, conducts the RTE Concert Orchestra which responds with real Mozartean flourish to his baton.
It's likely that this Don Giovanni will have been the first opera experience for many in the audience, since theatre and opera audiences don't necessarily overlap: and it should prove an enticing introduction.