The concept behind Jonathan Kent's production of Don Giovanni for Glyndebourne 2010 is somewhat tenuous in how its 1950s' setting relates to the pre-Enlightenment years of the opera's original period, but it proves to be not entirely without merit. It's not that Don Giovanni doesn't bear up well to modern interpretations - it's perhaps the Mozart opera most apt and subject to contemporary reworking - it's just that, even with the free-love of the 1960s just around the corner, the production's supposed "Fellini-esque vision of post-war life" doesn't succeed in grasping the spirit of the period or present all that convincing a parallel to the Age of Enlightenment.
The production at least starts off like it intends to make something of the risqué premise of Mozart's opera, with a quite brutal enactment of the rape and murder scene, but thereafter, it settles down to a rather non-committal blandness. The 1950s' setting doesn't really suit the wider European expansive viewpoint of the continental philanderer, but rather closes it down without seeming to bring any exciting or meaningful new ideas to the table in its place. The drabness and unimaginativeness of the setting (although technically impressive) is unfortunately reflected in the performances, which rather lack commitment. Everyone, but everyone - particularly Anna Samuil's Donna Anna - seems to walk around in a trance, scarcely showing any feeling or expression of the predilections and predicaments of their characters. The singing is generally fine throughout, with a delicate touch - the same can be said about the orchestration by the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment on period instruments under the direction of Vladimir Jurowski - all very nicely and smoothly played, but much too nicely, with no passion, no torment, no raging desire and no agony of betrayal.
It's only towards the end of Act 1 that the purpose of the setting and the Fellini-esque elements come into play, with a wonderfully hedonistic party straight out of La Dolce Vita. For all the lack of fire elsewhere, the close to the first Act quite literally sets the stage alight, as the Don Giovanni's ambitions are unmasked at the party by his guests, their accusations directed forcefully against the libertine, and with it a condemnation that prefigures of the damnation of the nobleman for his crimes against humanity. With his Polaroids of the Don's conquests, Luca Pisaroni's Leporello here then is the Paparazzo to the Gerald Finley's Marcello, the two of them on a search for the ultimate high in the swinging lifestyle of the rich and famous. Like Marcello, Don Giovanni has pushed his hedonistic excesses to their limit, losing his humanity in the process, and his only recourse is towards the spiritual or the supernatural. Don Giovanni's downfall here then lies not so much in any kind of divine or infernal retribution as much as the inevitable result of his hubris for believing himself above mere mortals and worthy of consorting with those on an unearthly plane.
The concept behind the staging comes briefly through at this point, but although it provides one or two other fine moments (a tender scene between Zerlina and Masetto and a blood-spurting finale that is more Night of the Living Dead than La Dolce Vita), the remainder of the production unfortunately seems to rather go through the motions of delivering the story and its moral without adding anything new or challenging to the conventional line. The singers likewise seem to concentrate on delivering their lines and on hitting all the right notes at the right points, but without any real fire or ambition. All in all, it's a fine production that keeps the story accessible and meaningful, but there's not much here that can be said to be truly memorable.