This ingenious set by Neil Irish, which occasionally opens into the staterooms, addresses the usual Opera Holland Park challenge of working with a very wide and shallow stage, and his elegant costumes make you want to put to sea. Three cheers, then, for baritone Ashley Riches in the title role, who can tie a white tie without a mirror while singing an aria. That's a thoroughbred for you.
But such gentlemanly behaviour does not go far beyond the dressing up box as Don Giovanni cheats his way through three women on board: Donna Anna, whom he assaults, and whose defensive father he murders, Donna Elvira, an old flame, and Zerlina, the young bride in steerage whom he seduces. Here, however, the cruise hits choppy waters: Don Giovanni manipulates women because, in Da Ponte's original libretto, he is lord of the manor, above all jurisdiction. On a boat, however, he has no authority. Surely the sounds of fighting and screaming would bring the crew running?
Nevertheless, Ashley Riches is an elegant Don, with a flair for Basil Fawlty-like floundering when things conspire against him, and his manservant, Leporello, brings back to Opera Holland Park for a third time (he was striking in La Bohème last year), John Savournin. His pleasing voice and comic timing are a pleasure, and his double act with the excellent Riches is so much more plausible than many.
All singers suffered from an over-loud and surprisingly feral City of London Sinfonia, rather loosely conducted by Dane Lam, whose choice of tempi was confusing: funereal in the overture, rushed in the big reveal with the murdered Commendatore (terrific Graeme Broadbent) returned from the dead to seek vengeance. Of those who survived, Lauren Fagan as Donna Anna streaked ahead in her two big numbers, and made her appearance in the leading role of Violetta in next year's OHP La Traviata something to relish.
Elsewhere, intonation problems and the strain of bobbing above the 10-foot waves of the orchestra claimed some vocal victims, but there was lively work from Ellie Laugharne as the wayward Zerlina.
Don Giovanni comes in many colours, none perhaps as dark as last autumn's English National Opera production. Oliver Platt's production for Opera Holland Park, sung in Italian with English surtitles, has the lighter shades of Cole Porter's Anything Goes. And in grim times, that will suit many very nicely, thank you.
|Don Giovanni review, Opera Holland Park
|Opera Holland Park, Stable Yard, Holland Park, London , W8 6LU | MAP
|High Street Kensington (underground)
03 Jun 17 – 24 Jun 17, 10 performances, including 2pm matinee 18 June
|£18 - £77
|Click here for more information and booking