In The Arts Desk’s latest classical and opera reviews, the BBC Proms continue to dominate, with everything from playground Handel to Hollywood musicals.
But first, ASH Smyth headed to the Soho Theatre, London for an unusual opera experience. More than just a new production of Mozart’s 18th century grand opera, Robin Norton-Hale’s -Don Giovanni’ with Opera Close Up is a new re-wiring altogether, transplanting the dark story of rape and murder to a City setting, and recasting the lead character as a louche trader named Johnny Sterling. Whether it can still be classed as Mozart’s opera is debatable seeing as Da Ponte’s libretto is gone and much of the music is either absent or reworked as electronica flecked with R&B and dubstep, but still, the production is clever and inventive, and Smyth thought that, for the most part, it worked. The company and indeed some of the singing voices – though talented and full of promise – were a little light for this opera, and the acting a little shy, but Norton-Hale’s take captures the spirit of the piece, reminding us, for all its laughs, of what a nasty story it is.
Glyndebourne Festival Opera was also embracing the spirit of reinvention, bringing Handel’s opera -Rinaldo’ to the BBC Proms in the form of a schoolboy’s puerile fantasy. Director Robert Carsen made the most of the near-silly libretto by playing out its holy war in the playground with hockey sticks, which the audience lapped up. Igor Toronyi-Lalic from The Arts Desk liked the idea but found too many dud comedy moments, and noted that the music has so much more profundity to it than this concept allows for. The arias explore deep emotion and the singers did at least do them justice, with Sonia Prina making a captivating boyish Rinaldo and mastering the singing with ease. The reviewer’s main objection was reserved for conductor Ottavio Dantone, whom he felt tampered unadvisedly with the tempi and textures in a parody of period-style playing.