As a classical music aficionado based in the United States, I’m always on the lookout for captivating performances and lesser-known gems. This week, I had the pleasure of experiencing two remarkable productions: Giuseppe Gazzaniga’s Don Giovanni Tenorio at the Royal College of Music’s Britten Theatre and George Frideric Handel’s Ariodante at the Royal Academy of Music.
Don Giovanni Tenorio: A Tale of Dissolute Desires and Moral Reckoning
Stepping into the Britten Theatre, I was immediately transported to the world of 18th-century Naples, where Gazzaniga’s Don Giovanni Tenorio unfolded before my eyes. This lesser-known opera, composed just months before Mozart’s iconic Don Giovanni, explores the same themes of seduction, betrayal, and moral retribution.
The production captivated me with its vibrant energy and engaging performances. The two duetting sopranos, spitting at each other like cats, added a touch of humor and lightheartedness to the otherwise dark narrative. The staging was minimal yet effective, allowing the music and drama to take center stage.
Ariodante: A Baroque Masterpiece of Love, Betrayal, and Redemption
At the Royal Academy of Music, Handel’s Ariodante transported me to the realm of Baroque opera, where love, betrayal, and redemption intertwine in a captivating tale. Olivia Fuchs’s direction and David Bates’s keyboard conducting brought Handel’s exquisite score to life, showcasing the talents of the Royal Academy of Music’s elite postgraduate opera school.
The monochrome, gender-fluid costumes and minimal stage design created a timeless aesthetic, allowing the focus to remain on the powerful emotions and intricate vocal lines. The cast delivered strong performances, particularly in the taxing fast-note runs and ornaments that characterize Baroque opera.
A Celebration of Musical Diversity
Both Don Giovanni Tenorio and Ariodante showcased the breadth and depth of classical music, offering a glimpse into two distinct yet equally captivating operatic worlds. Gazzaniga’s lesser-known gem provided a refreshing alternative to Mozart’s familiar masterpiece, while Handel’s Baroque masterpiece reminded me of the enduring power of this genre.
As I reflected on these two remarkable productions, I was struck by the resilience and versatility of classical music. Its ability to transcend time and culture, speaking to audiences across centuries and continents, is a testament to its enduring appeal. I encourage fellow classical music enthusiasts to seek out these hidden gems and discover the beauty and richness that classical music has to offer.