What is your pivotal moment in the Don Giovanni score?
Well, the sextet in Act 2 can be the director’s Waterloo. I’m really thrilled with the way it’s gone today. Having Don Giovanni in that scene helps to emphasise the way in which he toys with the other people. What makes it harder dramatically is that it’s so brilliant musically; it’s one of the best numbers in the score (singers often say it’s their favourite to sing), but dramatically, it’s so vague that it’s a bit terrifying. Even the more avant-garde productions struggle with it, but taking it out of realism helps a great deal.
What are you particularly enjoying in rehearsals?
I’ve enjoyed working with the puppets that feature at certain times in the production (but we don’t want to give too much away). Using puppets isn’t realism, but makes it believable; and it will also be very entertaining for the audience. It’s been fun!
I’ve also really enjoyed doing the Act 1 finale, that’s one of my favourite pieces in the opera. It never stands still, with one restless section after the other, and each section reveals itself. It’s a delight – I’ve been dreaming about it for months – I particularly like the way in which the three dances fit together. And now I am very much looking forward to the Act 2 finale (where the statue of the Commendatore comes to dinner); that is one of the most exciting scenes in all of opera!
You were here two years ago, directing The Turn of the Screw. What’s it like returning to Opera North two years on?
It is great coming back the second time round. When you’re doing a first big show – and it was my first big show for one of the major UK companies – it’s slightly intimidating. Even though it was and is a very nurturing environment to be working in, it’s still quite terrifying at times. Fortunately that show went well. To come back is great. Obviously this is a very big and challenging piece, but because the company itself is so nurturing and we have a family feeling here in the rehearsal room, the conditions for working have been absolutely ideal.
Oliver Dunn (Masetto), Christopher Turner (Don Ottavio) and Alessandro Talevi (director) in rehearsals
Don Giovanni opens at Leeds Grand Theatre on Friday 28 September, before touring to The Lowry, Salford Quays, Theatre Royal Newcastle and Theatre Royal Nottingham. For more information, dates and to book tickets, click here.
Interview: Dr Kara McKechnie
Photography: Malcolm Johnson