Soho theatre, London
Mozart's dark comedy is regularly staged, and versions bringing its dramatic context up to date and closer to home are nothing new. What is exceptional about Robin Norton-Hale's Soho theatre staging for OperaUpClose is the level of imaginative skill with which the transfer is managed.
Giovanni here becomes the womanising city trader Johnny, with his unwilling intern Alexander ? Leporello in Mozart's original ? careering along in the wake of his driven sexual excess. Cherry Truluck's designs provide contemporary metropolitan settings ? the middle-class barrister's dining table where Johnny makes his initial pass at Anna before raping her; a bar; a funeral parlour; a low-lit restaurant ? that could all be found within a few yards of the venue. Elements of the classic text are judiciously re-angled to fit the modern ambience, though Norton-Hale and her fine cast hold fast to its spirit, and it's the truth of the acting within a clearly defined context that makes the production special.
All of the performers in the first of three alternating casts convince. Marc Callahan is suavely arrogant as Mozart's antisocial hero/villain, dragging Tom Stoddart's hapless Alexander behind him. Anthony Flaum's thoughtful, decent Octavius is Johnny's moral opposite. Fleur Bray's distraught Anna, Rosalind Coad's angry Elvira and Emily-Jane Thomas's compliant Zerlina are all beautifully drawn. Marcin Gesla gives Zerlina's boyfriend, Nathaniel (Mozart's Masetto), unusual prominence, and Gerard Delrez as Anna's barrister father oozes gravitas. Vocal standards are consistently presentable and often far more.
The score suffers some cuts, most of them bearable ? though it's a pity to lose so much of the thrilling first-act finale. But music director Emily Leather realises Mozart's orchestra eloquently on the piano, aided by some eerie live electronic interventions from composer Harry Blake, who riffs cleverly on the original.