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This 1995 Glyndebourne Festival Opera production uses an orchestra of period instruments but modern costumes. Scenery is virtually nonexistent, lighting is garish, without fine nuances; the title character, excellently portrayed, is an unshaven, disgusting brute. And in spite (or perhaps because?) of all this, the effect is overwhelming. It is a feminist Don Giovanni, calculated to change radically the way people view this, the greatest and most ambiguous of operas.
The visual minimalism, reinforcing Deborah Warner's often brilliant stage direction, focuses on what Don Giovanni is really about: the story of a compulsive serial rapist (also a murderer) who uses his position in the ruling class to deceive and victimize women. The singing is excellent, allowing for one or two small imperfections inevitable in any live performance, but the acting and staging are what make this production very special. Outstanding in the superb cast are Juliane Banse (Zerlina), John Mark Ainsley (Ottavio), and Adrianne Pieczonka (Elvira). --Joe McLellan
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