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Your reaction: Don Giovanni

What did you think of Kasper Holten's production of Mozart's classic opera?

By Chris Shipman (Head of Brand Engagement and Social Media)

1 February 2014 at 10.55pm | 39 Comments

Press reviews:

Telegraph ★★★★
Independent ★★★★
What's On Stage ★★★★
Evening Standard ★★★★
Times ★★★
Guardian ★★★
The Stage (Positive)

What did you think of Don Giovanni?

Don Giovanni runs until 24 February 2014. A small number of tickets are still available. The production will be broadcast live around the world on 12 February. Find your nearest cinema.

By Chris Shipman (Head of Brand Engagement and Social Media)

1 February 2014 at 10.55pm

This article has been categorised Opera and tagged by Kasper Holten, don giovanni, Production, review, your reaction

This article has 39 comments

  1. Ian Munro responded on 2 February 2014 at 1:00am Reply

    This is an interesting production. The rotating cube reminded me if the recent Glyndebourne production.

    The end however, was far too bland! The cube revolved and the projection flickered and flashed all evening. Alas, there were no flames for Don Giovanni as he meets his end. (The Commendatore asks the Don for his hand, but they are not, physically, on the same level, so this is absurd.)

    A few silly boos at he end, otherwise the reaction was very positive.

  2. papacostas responded on 2 February 2014 at 8:38am Reply

    Excellente performance. I have enjoyed Die Zauberflöte, by William Kentridge. This production is far better. Thank you.

  3. bill worley responded on 2 February 2014 at 12:57pm Reply

    Yes another dreadful production. Perhaps Mr Holten should read the libretto before he starts directing another production. I am dreading "Ormindo".

    • I so agree with you! I was all the time wondering, did he read the script? What cartoon like production, on a beautiful scenery and beautiful costumes, but absolutely dreadful from the dramatic point of view. I found the male singers very good vocally, but I was very disappointed with the females, not to mention the acting and the faces, they make singing! Particularly Donna Ana. It only made me desire to have the chance some day to direct an Opera.

  4. Stephen Cutler responded on 2 February 2014 at 3:46pm Reply

    I haven't seen this yet, but looking at the photo above, it seems the ROH could have saved some money by re-using the set from Don Pasquale. I hope this is more visible from the sides of the House than the Don Pasquale was.

  5. Roy Hiscock responded on 2 February 2014 at 4:56pm Reply

    On the whole, a very enjoyable evening - a very good cast (in one case, much better than expected - but I'll leave it at that) and a production which at least allowed the opera to proceed quickly, uninterruptedly and (in the main) logically: those of us who remember the Zeffirelli production from the '60s (heavy sets, gaps between scenes seemingly as long as the scenes themselves, costumes from at least three different centuries!) will always be grateful for these attributes. I was unhappy about the gimmickry (starting with the overture after the minor first section - why this crude anticipation of the catalogue aria?) and some details seemed wrong (eg Masetto slapping Zerlina - it conflicts with the irony of "Batti, batti") or were offensive (eg Zerlina crying "rape" and then tearing her own clothing - "No" means "No" Mr Holten). And did I fall asleep for a couple of minutes, or was there a cut at the end (if the latter, why)? The finale to each act was weak, but there were also many fine details (Elvira's ambivalence toward the Don) and generally the action moved quickly.

  6. Catherine responded on 2 February 2014 at 6:43pm Reply

    Amazing production of the most powerful opera of Mozart with incredible performance of Don Giovanni. One of the best Opera for years !

  7. Kevin Grainger responded on 2 February 2014 at 9:12pm Reply

    Great vocal team and committed performances but...poor production, cramped and claustophobic - has Kasper Holten got an aversion to ever using the back of the stage? (cf. Eugene Onegin) Video projection became increasingly wearisome. Giovanni/Leporello double act strangely reminded me of Russel Brand/Alexi Sayle. HORRIBLE continuo playing - attempting toe-curling jokeiness. Damp squib ending and shocking musical cut in last scene.

  8. Angela Cunningham responded on 2 February 2014 at 9:25pm Reply

    The projections and lighting provided a total distraction from the music and libretto which should be the centrepiece of the opera not a crutch for someone's over active imagination. Perhaps there should have been forewarning of the flashing lights swirling images as some people can be affected by these effects. I hope there are no plans to murder any future productions in this way.

  9. Tony Boyd-Williams responded on 3 February 2014 at 5:06pm Reply

    A fantastic (and I am sure well deserved ) review in The Independent certainly whets the appetite for the live screening on 12th February.

  10. Cecilia Libretto responded on 4 February 2014 at 8:37am Reply

    Excellent performances - Mariusz Kwiecien was fantastically seductive and evil, not to mention fabulously enjoyable to watch.
    The set was distracting, although it solved the solution of the changing scenery, with such a cumbersome set, there was much pacing back and forth in front of it. Well done though to the performers to find their way around this labyrinth as it rotated into different scenes.

  11. Hanna responded on 4 February 2014 at 12:46pm Reply

    loved the setting, the performance was fantastic, the cast was really excellent most voices I enjoyed, especially Don giovanni and of course Malin and Veronique very classy and powerful

  12. Tony Boyd-Williams responded on 5 February 2014 at 5:00pm Reply

    Another marvellous review from

  13. Susan Grapey responded on 5 February 2014 at 5:42pm Reply

    Most thought-provoking performance of Don Giovanni I have ever seen. Donna Anna's storyline got a fascinating interpretation, I am truly impressed both with the idea and the performance. I can only speak of Don Giovanni in superlatives.
    Some singers were a bit weak but Don Ottavio, a voice and character I generally dislike was wonderful beyond words.

    The staging and setting was fantastic, really great ideas, added a lot to an already fantastic opera. Not a dull moment. Perhaps some of the characters' storyline was less developed however the rest made up for it. Overall GENIUS direction.

  14. K Cook responded on 11 February 2014 at 9:11am Reply

    We greatly enjoyed this production in spite of our normal preference being for more traditionally staged opera. The singing was mostly stunning and the video effects entertaining and ingenious. It was a thoughtful and thought-provoking production which definitely deserved better reviews in the press.

  15. Brian Jacobs responded on 12 February 2014 at 11:47pm Reply

    We have just seen this in the cinema. It was one, if not the best production of Don Giovanni we have seen. he characterisation was highly effective as was the singing. It was thought provoking, drew many nuances out with a very powerful ending. The use of the set and projection was very effective. My only irritation was that I found the use of projection during the overture too fussy and very distracting from the music; I shut my eyes. I have seen projection being very effective during the overture in other operas, so it can be done. Anyway, thank you all very much.

  16. Frederick responded on 13 February 2014 at 12:41am Reply

    First class singing and acting. Great musical direction. Now the production... I am no old hat and praised Donna del Lago or Onegin... but this was awful! Even more so since the existing production was so good. First the rotating cube: what! rotating for more than three hours!!! Very annoying, very distracting, and eventually very repetitive in spite of the Escher inspired staircases. Then the multitude of doors for hiding, exiting, reappearing: OK for a Marx brothers film, but not for the whole of Don Giovanni. Finally: the video projections. Occasionnally very clever and to great effect, but again, using them all the time is overkill! An epileptic nightmare if you ask me. And the final scene: the spectre is far from frightening, looked like a botched up Harlequin, and the death grip without an actual grip, with two floors between Don Giovanni and the ghost of Donna Elvira's father, well that did not work at all... in spite of great acting from Don Giovanni. Also a bit disturbing to see Don Giovanni's last dinner: as a last effort to embrace life and to face imminent death, the storyline has him indulging in a great meal, as a failed attempt to flout death and to exorcise his fears: hear he drinks from a bottle, grabs food with his hands, all a very miserable affair: I feared a burger might be served to him at any time! I felt it missed the point completely.
    To conclude: doing new things for the sake of being new and in order to tempt younger audiences (yes, I admit the 30 to 40 crowd brings the new purchasing power) should not ignore the good things the ROH already has in store nor should the ROH try to shock more conventional tastes (which, I dare say) by turning its back to the libretto.
    The explanation that the rotating house shows us the inner mind of Don Giovanni might be true occasionnally, but after seeing the production it sounds like a poor excuse to justify a "modern" approach: his mind might be spinning, he might be lost and going nowhere, he might be feeling blue, or in a black mood etc... but at the end it is boring, exasperating and unnecessary. So it is thumbs down for the set. And a great thumbs up for the cast.

    • Lien Guidon responded on 26 February 2014 at 10:46am

      I saw DG on screen, and did not see the end because of the storm, but I completely agree with your comment.

  17. Jean TROUCHAUD responded on 13 February 2014 at 12:42am Reply

    Fantastic : Zerlina, Donna Elvira
    Perfect : Orchestra, Don Giovanni, Leporello (but in the catalogue),
    Good : Ottavio, Mazetto, Commandatore
    Not so good : Donna Anna
    Completely missed : last scene (but the air Viva el vino)

  18. stephen ratcliffe responded on 13 February 2014 at 9:54am Reply

    I hated this production, especially Act 2. Ending was a complete flop. Anyone attending the opera for the first time would have had real difficulty understanding what on earth was going on. Singing was so so, conducting terrible. Did enjoy Don Anna rather more than others and thought Don Ottavio very promising but not yet a finished artist.

  19. Peter Erdos responded on 13 February 2014 at 10:32am Reply

    I completely agree both with Frederick and Stephen Ratcliffe. What I dislike most is musical butchery. Kasper Holten was trying to excuse his treatment of the finale saying that Mozart himself added the sextet afterwards.
    BUT he added it!!!
    The horror of the dinner scene was completely ruined, the cemetery scene ridiculous with Anna holding her father's bust under her arm, also Leporello reading the inscription on the same bust.
    The ghost was looking more like Banquo in the Macbeth's dinner party.
    Unfortunately it is not Mozart/Da Ponte, it is Holten's fixation of psychological presentation of opera , just like his Eugen Onegin.

  20. Elena responded on 13 February 2014 at 5:07pm Reply

    After a total disgrace of producion of L'elisir d'amore last year, I would not even go (never miss operas generally). All these, so to speak, "new visions" almost never work out. Opera's production should support the time and style of music with period costumes and design. I don't know how much is this production, but it does look cheap.

  21. Jenny responded on 13 February 2014 at 6:33pm Reply

    I thought the production was terrible - one idea replayed endlessly missing most of the significant elements of the opera. The female singing, except for Zerlina - shrill, loud and not bel canto. Makes the previous fairly dire production look reasonable. All in all a waste of an evening. From now on no more Giovanni at ROH until a new production comes. And any production by Kaspar Holten to be avoided

  22. Jane Kidd responded on 13 February 2014 at 6:47pm Reply

    Wonderful cast and at the cinema the scenery was not overpowering them or being a distraction that I understand it was in the theatre. The centrality of focusing on the cast meant their acting could be appreciated. I do hope that future operas will not use scenery that becomes the feature.

  23. Wirz responded on 13 February 2014 at 9:25pm Reply

    It might be one of those performances and staging that splits the audience. Some people love it, over hate it. My mother and I just LOVED IT. It was her 70th birthday present, and she just today told me again, that this performance will stay in her memory as one of the most interesting and nicest one she had seen.

    We both saw it several times and found also the second time the signing, and staging just amazing.
    The interpretation and the setup, made it more stimulating, entertaining, thought provoking and with the exceptional cast just an incredible evening. Unfortunately I do not live in United Kingdom, otherwise I just would try to see it again.

    I definitely liked the interpretation of Don Giovanni finding his own, inner hell. Him going mad and falling in isolation without that he can accept it. Both of us (so two generations of opera lovers), liked it much better than a traditional stating - with flames and smokes - and Kwiecine’s performance and voice made it believable and especially the last act just mesmerizing.

    The slow rotating cube to change the set, the altering interior and walls, the video projections with shifting patterns, coloring and different parts that were like hidden pictures appearing or disappearing were giving an additional layer, the reflection of the inner working of the people. A deeper meaning that left it open for the personal interpretation, and with this more entertaining and thought provoking as many other performances.

    And with an exceptional cast – an incredible nice and memorable evening. THANKS to all ROH staff and the artists who participated to make it happen (behind and on stage)!

  24. Eric Smedley responded on 13 February 2014 at 11:49pm Reply

    I thought the singing was excellent, but the staging was very distracting. What was the point ? Undoubtedly the worst production of this opera I have seen.

  25. Rosie Phipps responded on 14 February 2014 at 10:56am Reply

    I loved it - every moment - I saw the filmed production and the staging was wonderful. Singing outstanding. Thank you. The interpretation worked for me and will remain with me.

  26. Alison Evans responded on 14 February 2014 at 11:57am Reply

    We found production very stimulating and really enjoyed the singing, though I found the continuo rather unfamiliar.We have been trying to unravel the rich seam of ideas about characters' motives and actions ever since and this is a good source of debate on Valentines Day! We saw it at the Chelsea Curzon and enjoyed the Caspar Holten talk and question session. One of us wanted to ask ' Did Kasper Holten think that Don Giovanni was a murderer and if so does that matter' but the session ran out of time.
    Unfortunately during the interval it was impossible to hear what Bryn Terfel and Kaspar Holten were saying possibly because of their poor use of the microphone. Consequently the audience started chatting and that was the end of us hearing any more. Maybe in the future it would be a good idea to have text on the screen during these discussions (if practicable). We have never found a similar problem with the opera transmissions from the Met.

  27. Maria Grazia responded on 14 February 2014 at 9:00pm Reply

    Here in Parma (Italy) the reception was perfect ,better than some places in England! I have loved the show, the singing was first rate, the art direction clever (maybe even too much) and refreshing. Every artist/director gives this opera a different twist, a unique perspective and that is what makes it so special. I an not completely convinced about the end, we are too sophisticated now for devils and flames "old style" but it did lack the cathartic moment. Still, an interesting take.
    To the next one!

  28. Robert Ramage responded on 15 February 2014 at 8:52am Reply

    I am an unashamed traditionalist - why do I have to suffer productions being messed about as in the latest Don Giovanni ?What do producers of these new fangled productions have to prove ?

    Please, please don't modernise Lohengrin when & if it comes back. Robert Ramage

  29. Penny Jewkes responded on 17 February 2014 at 8:44am Reply

    The music was excellent but the stage set and the lighting distracting and gimmicky .Saw the Met version a while ago in which a similar (but non revolving )set added to the business rather than detract .I thought the final scene however was sensitive .and thought provoking .More of that next time and less unnecessary special effects

  30. Derekl Woodrow responded on 18 February 2014 at 12:13pm Reply

    Really enjoyed the production. Cast were excellent and the video projection added some very stimulating moments. I liked the sense made of Danna Anna with her 'infatuation' with Giovanni which added meaning to her later rejection of Ottavio. Didn't appreciate the significance of the ending until later and that left me slightly unsatified - needed something to 'close' the opera better

  31. Jane Scott responded on 18 February 2014 at 10:04pm Reply

    After my huge disappointment with the recent Eugene Onegin, I was so pleased to have mostly enjoyed this. I thought the singing was wonderful, especially Doña Anna and the commendatore. The projections and graphics grew on me during the performance and I thought the ending. Don Giovanni alone in his own private hell, whilst it lost the catharsis of the traditional, was quite powerful. I thought Masetto's behaviour towards Zerlina fairly nonsensical to the plot and libretto.i was also disappointed that as with his Eugene Onegin I found the conducting less than engaging

  32. Janet Lyon responded on 23 February 2014 at 10:41am Reply

    I loved it was taken by a friend never had such a good seat row D not a criticism but noticed D.G. Kept putting his hands in his pockets as did Lensky in Onegin (same director )

  33. Amanda Lunt responded on 23 February 2014 at 12:57pm Reply

    I enjoyed much of this production, my first
    experience of this opera in a theatre.
    The set mainly worked very well, with
    people able to eavesdrop on each other
    and move quickly between the rooms,
    though it was a little hard to tell exactly where
    we were always supposed to be. The projection was imaginative, especially the use of colour and all the female names scrawled over the set, but I felt was over-used and at times distracting and we could have done without those flapping 'Hitchcock' birds during Elvira's final aria. Stunning costumes for the ladies, and I loved the pace of this production, of which I think Mozart would have approved, while the singing was mostly superb, in particular Donna Anna, though I'd agree that Ottavio seemed vocally immature. As for the Don, the long hair and the louche, nonchalant attitude made him, for me and a female companion, irresistibly attractive, an essential ingredient for the scenario, and I loved the comic byplay between him and Leporello. The end didn't work for me, as I believe that the Don just has to take the Commendatore's
    hand, and there has to be some kind of
    dramatic conclusion on stage to match the music. I was puzzled by the final sextet, and realise why, now that I understand it had been
    moved, and this just added to the sense
    of anti-climax. Musically, however, for me it was pretty faultless and this is in the end what
    really matters.

  34. Alexander Hope responded on 24 February 2014 at 1:32pm Reply

    I'm very sad that Kasper Holten seems to have such a different view of the director's role than mine. He treats Mozart and Da Ponte as merely the imprimatura on which he creates his own painting; I believe they created a painting that it is his task to frame.
    I would perhaps mind less were his vision more sympathetic to the score and libretto. Unfortunately it isn't. It is, to be fair an extremely interesting and academically brilliant vision, it just doesn't quite fit with Da Ponte's admittedly challenging libretto. Square peg, round hole.

    It is often visually spectacular, but all too routinely at the expense of the opera and the audience (an example being the champagne aria, which was a stunning image, but left me dizzy and very slightly nauseous). Sometimes, however, it fails that: the denouement is anticlimactic, the score, libretto and cast sacrificed to squeeze everything awkwardly into the psychoanalytical concept. Cutting the sextet seemed to me an extraordinary imposition, and placing the singers in the orchestra pit caused what was left to be muffled and obscure. Poor Marius Kwiecien struggled to maintain a relevance on stage that would have taxed an oscar-winning actor and Alex Esposito's face seemed to convey a range of emotions that had a lot more to do with his personal feelings about the direction than Leporello's own terror and relief (but perhaps I infer too much).

    Es Devlin's Escher-inspired box was another perhaps brilliant idea taken too far: it imposed itself too strongly, leaving the chartacters feeling like marionettes. Maybe that was intentional, I don't know, but either way its physical bulk interrupted the emotional interaction of the singers, which in turn left me feeling disconnected from them. Even though I disagree with the analysis, surely if one does want to interpret the ending as Don Giovannni's isolation it is even more crucial beforehand to build those relationships (such as they are)?

    As with his Eugene Onegin, Kasper Holten's vision is presented as the main star of the evening at the cost of the opera itself. Well, one might argue, fair enough. Perhaps. But to justify that substitution it has to succeed brilliantly, triumphantly. The two elements should feel irresistibly inseparable, like gin and vermouth in a martini. Here, sadly, I have a glass of the director's vermouth and no taste of gin, the whole thing displaced by the set designer's oversized olive.

  35. Ruth Rothenberg responded on 25 February 2014 at 4:16pm Reply

    I felt that with all the overdone and often distracting video projection - though some of it was very effective - the director missed a trick. With the physical impossibility of Don Giovanni grasping the Commendatore's outstretched hand, this was the perfect opportunity to show the crucial defiant gesture in a powerful parallel shadow-world. It could have been a rare moment of raw suspense. And it wasn't taken. I was just left with a feeling of "Why bother?" And that despite some superb singing and characterisation.

  36. Kathleen Berman responded on 27 March 2014 at 9:39pm Reply

    I found all the graphics highly distracting. At times I shut my eyes because it made me dizzy. Why? Why do it? And the women's costumes with the writing or the ink blots? Why? The woman seated next to me thought is was a rorschach test. (I told her no--it was supposed to be art.) The singing/voices and music was excellent. Again, another theater goer mentioned to me Malin Bystrom's mouth and thought that perhaps she had Bell's Palsey. I said I did not know anything about her, but it was distracting also because it pulled up on one side all the time. I am not sure about the end. She had a lovely voice so really no complaints. I think perhaps the hellfire and brimstone is more suitable...the hell of solitude for this evil man is not not enough recompense for his actions.

  37. Stephen Lowe responded on 5 August 2015 at 10:05pm Reply

    Watched the TV recording for a second time and confirmed my great admiration for this staging. What most of the comments here seem not to grasp is the fact that this is a problem opera. I have seen and heard several productions and they just haven't ever worked. Holten quite clearly HAS read the libretto and the score together and has for me interpreted the genius of the combination of Mozart and da Ponte. It's a comedy, but not a comedy buffo and it has numerous twists. Nothing is as it seems. Humans are complex creatures and society manners conceal their complexity. In DG, this comes over even more clearly than in Figaro. The acting of the cast is superb- they have been very well directed for camera. This production allows one to claim that DG has it all- the finest opera ever written and one of the greatest of all artistic achievements. Its genius has been its nemesis, but despite some obvious dramatic problems howeld at by some of the comments so far, there hasn't been a more satisfying production in my experience.

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