Ewan Thomas-Colquhoun muses on BOpS' modernised production of Mozart's famous opera, Don Giovanni.
BOpS’ most recent production, Don Giovanni, is an impressive testament to the society’s ever-present passion for their art. To put on a full-length interpretation of Mozart’s famous opera, with a large cast and live orchestra made up of full time students is a feat in itself.
More than this though, the team is able to create a piece that was genuinely engaging for an audience of students; with moments of humour balanced evenly with moments of very real emotion all telling a very fresh, original story, which interprets the themes of the original for the modern day.
A real credit to the acting talents of David Jones, his character is perhaps the perfect embodiment of toxic masculinity, with a disregard for the lives of others
The production opens with the lawyer’s ball, which sees Mozart’s characters reimagined as high-flying city lawyers- a profession that sits neatly with the hubris and entitlement of the titular character.
Whilst perhaps not intended solely as such, [Giovanni] serves as powerful warning to a society still feeling the after-shocks of the scandals which culminated in the #MeToo campaign.
Indeed, it is the toe curling figure of Don Giovanni, strutting through the throngs on stage in an expensive suit, who grabs the attention in these opening scenes. A real credit to the acting talents of David Jones, his character is perhaps the perfect embodiment of toxic masculinity, with a disregard for the lives of others and a permanent affected snarl which succeeds in truly making the skin crawl.
This production sees him become more than the arrogant anti-hero however, with his every philandering moment, this modern Giovanni becomes more and more a mirror to our society, in which sexual violence is bred by the unbalanced breed of very destructive masculinity which his character personifies. Whilst perhaps not intended solely as such, his character serves as powerful warning to a society still feeling the after-shocks of the scandals which culminated in the #MeToo campaign.
The transition between the boisterous sections ... and the lighter pieces... indicate a group of musicians at the top of their game
This masculinity is juxtaposed with a cast of strong female characters, most notably the couple Octavia and Anna (Maya Colwell and Jen Statham), who’s eventual victory is borne out of affection and mutual support- a productive femininity to counter the destructive power of Giovanni’s masculinity.
Whilst this layer of narrative added to the original is a welcome change adding more intrigue, more could have been done musically to support the casting, as the simple transposition of the tenor role left the music feeling a little thin, especially during duets between Octavia and Anna. It must be said however, that both had amazing voices.
the cast and crew can be proud of a very accomplished performance.
As well as the strong performances of the cast, the orchestra under the clearly diligent direction of Jack Kelly strongly deserve plaudits. The transition between the boisterous sections, such as the finale, and the lighter pieces, mostly notably that featuring extended moments of pizzicato, indicate a group of musicians at the top of their game, capable of capturing the nuances in the music of one of the world’s greatest composers.
All in all, the cast and crew can be proud of a very accomplished performance. Whilst at times more could been done to improve staging, and to balance the male and female voices, it remains a testament to the accomplishment of BOpS. More importantly, the light it throws on contemporary society was well measured and timely, well deserving of the hashtag #ModerniseOpera. I look forward to see what a forward thinking operatic society can come up with next.
Featured image artwork courtesy of Helena Napier
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