And Not A Fat Lady In Sight

Mid Wales Opera
Don Giovanni
Theatre Severn
31/10/12

It’s a certainty that the man watching the pennies at Theatre Severn will be delighted with the heaving auditorium for tonight’s performance of Don Giovanni. Our own local major Opera company, The Mid Wales Opera were in town.

Blowing the dust of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s old score the MWO had given it a new lick of paint and brought it garishly into the 21st Century. Garish? Well to a certain extent yes. The set was stunning a brilliantly clever idea. It was a simple brick wall that conceal behind it three spaces. Each space became visible as required. This happens with the turning of blinds in the actual panel of the wall revealing a chamber behind. This gave scope for scenes to be set in darkness whilst the audience was watching another space in another section of the wall. The device was employed intelligently and consequently the action took place in different locations just by the turning of blinds. They had a bar room, a bed room, a police station and oddly enough a room that looked like a shop window full of mannequins. It could be considered garish, because the wall was covered in modern day graffiti; some of it quite rude. Good job there were no families there. Why whenever drama wants to contemporize they tragically turn to covering things in graffiti? It’s an obscene art form and the audience had to sit staring at an open stage with this wall covered in graffiti waiting for the show to commence.

Then as the show progressed it became apparent that the graffiti had nothing to with the plot it was merely a clumsy convention to represent the modernising of the script. It is also a passé device rather like when you see an awkward man around young adults , constantly making the wrong references to sound cool with the kids, and they all look at him like he was so yesterday! Don’t modernise with something that isn’t really that modern any more.

The story of Don Giovanni is one of Spanish rake, the eponymous Don Giovanni who simply philanders his way around his village much to the annoyance of his servant who stands by him. It is questionable if he would however, as he even covered for his boss when he murders one of his paramour’s unfortunate Father. He is a bad sort heading for a fall as his ex-lovers want to bring him to an end.Probably slight hyperbole was used in describing his conquests in his little black book suggesting there was 1,003 women in one town. it's fairly certain with odds like that, in one area, our errant lover would have caught more than a cold. One wonders if in Italian the lyrics match the occasion and deliver more cutting and more desperate pleas than the English have come up with?

It was initially translated from the 1797 Italian script by Amanda Holden (Don’t think so, best not ask, she would have doing X-Factor at the time!) and further adapted by Martin Lloyd-Evans, who directed the piece. But there were gaps. Why say something once when saying it forty times will take longer and fill to the end of the music? I am sure a generation of nuances were lost in translation. Every time they sang with repetition until the music ended it was like looking at a renovated house, it was possible to see the new stuff, and feel a sorrow for the old stuff that you never even knew. It just works that way! However it was a welcome surprise for some attendees to find it would be sung in English. The one obvious advantage is it opens the art form up to a whole new and more widely diversified audience. Good for them.

The voices in opera can challenge a virgin ear and the vocals in this performance ran true to form. There is something sopranos do to their voice which gives it strength and depth at the expense of clarity. A lot of the text was lost that way. However, the harmonies and the working of the voices together blending with the live orchestra all led to a great show. Amadeus has been dead a long time now and still no suitors come near for his crown, and that is not a bad thing.

 

This was a brilliant devised, conceived and performed show. MWO are a safe pair of hands to be handling jewels like Handel, Puccini, Wagner and Mozart. It 's wonderful to see great art coming out of our neighbouring county over the border. This could be seen up there with the greats and for that we can all feel slightly proud.

This  is a four star review'

Owen Lewis

 

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Owen Lewis Owen Lewis

Owen Lewis was born fifty something years ago in the land of the black puddings. For the geographically challenged that is in Lancashire. Moving to Shropshire From 1970 Owen was brought up in Church Stretton. His first real job was in radio. After starting on BBC Radio Shropshire he became known on Marcher Sound, broadcasting throughout the North West for several years. After a university degree course in Theatre, Owen became an actor and went on to play "Pirate Bill" in The Alton Towers Hotel. He also made several television appearances. Returning to university he took his PGCE enabling him to teach. That saw him on the Essex coast as a drama teacher and latterly as a Creative Educational Liaison Officer making films and creating new teaching methods to employ on children in need of more help in their fundamental learning skills. Published playwright Owen ultimately wants a house boat in Amsterdam to focus on his work as Playwright and Poet.

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