Festival Music

Don Giovanni

Festival Theatre, Edinburgh

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Kelvin Holdsworth

four stars

A LINE of stationery figures sit gazing from the stage as you go into the theatre. Taking your seat you become aware that there’s something peculiar going on. The orchestra are all in place but every member is stock still. There’s no tuning, no chatting, no gossiping. All is still until the director, Ivan Fishcher lifts his hand to conduct the doom-laden opening chords. It is an enormously effective beginning to a production which is inventive, interesting and which takes the great seducer far from the beaten path.

The stage is blank but for two rectangular boxes. All the props and the set are made up from the movements of the chorus. They form various tableaux throughout, forming themselves at will into garden seats, tables laden with food and windows for people to gaze through. Oh yes, and they are all done up to look like statues. It is statues that are the big idea here. Don Giovanni murders the Commendatore not with a sword but by pushing a statue over onto him. All this is gloriously ingenious and if anything the big concept gets more interesting as the evening progresses.

This is a strongly sung production. The six principals are perfectly balanced and the ensemble work is exquisite. The stage is busy, with three on-stage bands at one point. Ultimately though, it is the small details that linger in the mind as much as the singing – not least the orchestra stamping ominously in the pit as the Commendatore approaches, intent on revenge from beyond the grave. Giovanni’s death, as the hands of many statues wrap around him is chilling, shocking and brilliant.