Last week the Manoel Theatre hosted four performances of a modernized adaptation of Mozart’s Don Giovanni, under the direction of Jack Furness and accompanied by the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Philip Walsh. This melodrama deviated from traditions and conservativism, yet not completely. Aspects of modernization appeared in the costumes, setting, and behaviour of pivotal characters such as Don Giovanni.
Maltese tenor Cliff Zammit Stevens, who played the role of Don Ottavio, commented on how the modernization of opera is spreading, and how it is one of the major ways in which opera is kept alive and appealing in today’s dynamic society. Although some audiences, such as older generations, might find it difficult to open up to and accept these changes, it creates space for exploring and experimenting with the different aspects which an opera encases. However, Don Ottavio was one of the characters which least departed from the traditional form, and was one of the elements which kept the opera tied to its roots.
Nicola Said (Zerlina) and Christian Bowers (Don Giovanni) both mentioned the “Me Too” movement and its relevance to this production. This movement aims to raise awareness and empower women who have been victims of sexual assault and harassment, while also determining the best ways to hold perpetrators responsible. What this production examined was the modern day questions dealing with what consent is and where boundaries are formed. Said spoke about how her character was usually portrayed as one-sided one who is easily seduced, yet this time she thinks she is control yet she is fooled nonetheless. Zerlina was used in this performance as a spokesperson for those who are tricked into these situations of vulnerability and subordination. Said described her experience of depicting a character with so much depth as “fascinating”. Bowers described this as a “very gratifying experience” which created an interesting space to work with modern topics and ideas expressed through non-conventional ways while still upholding the principles of opera.
As someone very new to the opera world I was truly impressed by this production. Having researched about it beforehand I was aware of the plot and traditional depiction, however, I was pleasantly surprised when the plot was developed with a modern mind-set. The merging of ideas of different eras and the way it was done left me with an interest for future productions of the same kind.
Maria Agius Muscat, St Aloysius College Sixth Form