Mozart set Don Giovanni in a fantasy Spain that evoked sultry heat and transgressive sensuality. These days, you see productions set almost anywhere, in almost any period. Oliver Platt’s Opera Holland Park production opts for an ocean liner in the Thirties. At first it seems that attention to period detail might override narrative momentum, but eventually Platt fashions an unstable but fitting balance between low comedy and high tragedy.
At Holland Park, productions need to cope with the wide, unusually shallow stage. Neil Irish’s set has a bold solution: a line of cabin doors across the front of the stage makes the acting space narrower still but focuses the action precisely. From time to time, doors open up, creating surprising spaces for key scenes.
Not everything works, but musical values are high. In this of all operas, you need a sense of risk, and in the title role, Ashley Riches delivers. While his baritone isn’t the darkest, he has charm and suave hauteur — it’s easy to believe that Leporello’s lengthy catalogue might be an accurate record of his master’s conquests — but there is a hint of dangerous obsession.
John Savournin’s Leporello makes a good match; tried to the point of exasperation, he can only follow in Giovanni’s slipstream. Victoria Simmonds’s Donna Elvira is a determined avenger, intent on ensuring sure that no other woman has to suffer at Giovanni’s hands, while Lauren Fagan makes Donna Anna something more than a wronged victim. In the pit, Dane Lam conducts firmly rather than elegantly, but the semi-open air acoustic allows occasional intrusions of birdsong — an effect that Mozart himself might have enjoyed.
Until June 22 (0300 999 1000, operahollandpark.com)