Don Giovanni review – Richard Jones takes us far from Mozart with touches of brilliance and BDSM

Coliseum, London

Jones’s new staging for English National Opera delivers clever insights and a shock twist but ducks the opera’s complexities and, at points, flies in the face of the music’s logic

“It’s about sex, sex, sex” is how Christopher Purves describes Don Giovanni ahead of Richard Jones’s new production in which he plays the title role. Actually, it’s about much more than that, examining the relationships between desire, privilege and power, and between existential self-definition, individual integrity and moral absolutes. Jones deals fitfully with its complexities in a staging that doesn’t always cohere.

It’s a chilly, un-erotic interpretation pitched somewhere between a bedroom farce and Spanish surrealism, as if Feydeau has been re-imagined by Buñuel. As so often, Jones has a fine eye for hypocrisies, presenting us with a portrait of a society that seemingly rents by the hour, often secretly, in a labyrinthine hotel-cum-brothel, where we find Purves’s brutal, calculating Giovanni indulging the BDSM fantasies of Caitlin Lynch‘s Anna, while the Commendatore (James Creswell) entertains a prostitute in an adjoining room. The narrative lurches into motion when Creswell is nastily dispatched with a knife Anna likes using in sex-play. We’re already very far from Mozart.

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