Glyndebourne’s 2014 production of Mozart’s masterpiece shifted the time frame to a mid twentieth century Italy as perhaps depicted by de Chirico and populated by Fellini. A heady mix of classicism and decay, sexuality and oppression. Unlike the current Madama Butterfly this conceit works brilliantly, the dark tale, peppered of course with moments of real humour, is a disturbing moral story of greed, misogyny and unbridled lust and it sits well in the era, post war, post Mussolini and portrayed as a time of moral collapse.
Paul Brown’s magnificent set is a fine example of modern stage craft at its very best. Not dependent of technical wizardry but on fine ideas beautifully executed. His costumes are equally well thought out and stylishly delivered, down to Leporello donning a period frock-coat to serve that final meal. Duncan Rock is stunning as the Don, his fine voice has real command and Brandon Cedel is a perfect match as his manservant. Anthony Gregory is very fine too as Don Ottavio adding a sweetness to the darkness of the whole. Louise Alder’s first notes at the wedding were a trifle underpowered but she soon found her mark and played Zerlina with real gusto and coquettish charm. Anna Maria Labin and Magdalena Molendowska were equally impressive in both their solo parts and the ensemble pieces and Bozidar Smiljanié makes an excellent Masetto all macho bluster and simplicity. But the key to the productions success is that this is ensemble work at the very highest level, from design, cast, conductor and director to creat a performance that is compelling watching and listening.