Thank goodness for the Bollinger Bar. By the time we’d sat through half of ENO’s Don Giovanni, we were desperate for it. The production left me depressed for days. It wasn’t simply the idiocy of the interpretation, which set the Don in a post-Freudian world in which everybody copulates like rabbits and the figures of moral justice are lampooned, destroying the dramatic tension; or the 1950s sets, seemingly inspired by Hancock’s Half Hour.
It was the assumption that the audience couldn’t concentrate for more than a nanosecond, without needing visual distraction. Every aria had to have a gimmick, or people bustling in the background. Don’t ask me about the translation. When Don Giovanni invites the forces of retribution to his party, Da Ponte has them all sing ‘Viva la Libertà’. What a rich irony.
Liberty to the good guys means a contract with reason, under which your womenfolk and Commendatores are safe from bullying rapists; to the Don, it means the freedom to behave like an animal if he wants. Remember, the French Revolution is just around the corner. At ENO, they warble on about the party being heaven. But then this production cuts one of the greatest of all tenor arias, Il mio tesoro. Perhaps just as well. Don Ottavio would have been in his underpants at the time. I might have burst.