The shark-eat-sharkbait world of online dating, a dispiriting universe in which hungry human souls are flicked through in silence like so many playing cards, gives Hampstead Garden Opera’s very modern Don Giovanni his perfect modus operandi. Leporello’s Catalogue aria notes “He’s got thousands of matches on Tinder,” Ok Cupid, Plenty of Fish, and every other shiny new app or website you might care to name which promises love, and facilitates rejection, daily. Benjamin Hamilton’s sharp, witty translation makes Don Giovanni utterly contemporary, even unnervingly realistic: in fact, all too depressingly credible. How much, by using these digital tools, do we unwittingly license men to behave like so many Don Giovannis, giving out the minimum of affection for the maximum sexual return, with no thought for the emotional consequences for either partner?
In the eighteenth century, Don Giovanni’s behaviour was perceived as a social aberration, a moral horror; today, sadly, in the world of lad’s mags and one-night-stands, it is more an accepted norm, though not without its own terrible price for men as well as women, as the tortured life and sad recent diagnosis of Charlie Sheen must forcibly remind us.
Picking up (consciously or unconsciously) from Silent Opera’s fascinating, experimental Giovanni for Vault Festival in February 2015, which also put Don Giovanni and Leporello on Tinder (but also on a lot of cocaine), Genevieve Raghu’s fast-paced production for HGO explores the concept more fully and more faithfully, finding the very darkest edges of Mozart’s black humour in her revisioning.