Financial Times

Financial Times 20 September 2004

It has a bigger cast, a quarter of the humour and a tiny fraction of the inspiration. Throughout Gazzaniga's Don Giovanni you cannot help making comparisons with another opera of the same name, written in the same year. And of course Mozart wins hands-down. The only possible point in Gazzaniga's favour is the way he pours a near-identical plot into a smaller pot and even then, his one-acter feels longer than Mozart. None of this has deterred Bampton Classical Opera from disinterring Gazzaniga's dramma giocoso. The Oxfordshire company visited London last week to show off its summer staging.

Giuseppe Gazzaniga (1743-1818) is the poor man's classicist. Educated in Venice and Naples, he followed all the rules of late eighteenth century buffa style, without the heart of Paisiello or the wit of Cimarosa. the only value in hearing his work is to remind ourselves just how huge the gap is between Mozart and his contemporaries. In Gazzaniga's version, Donna Anna barely registers, Don Ottavio is a blank sheet and you end up wishing more had been made of minor characters like Donna Ximena, ignored by Da Ponte and Mozart but treated here to some winsome music.

The one blot on Bampton's English language production was its decision to preface each half with instrumental music by Gluck: it may have helped pass off Don Giovanni as an evening-filling work, but it's dishonest to do so. Jeremy Gray's modern dress staging was tight but effortful, profiling the seducer (Daniel Norman) as a shaven-headed clubber. Rebecca Bottone's Maturina caught the ear, Cheryl Enever's Ximena the eye, but the most polished performance came from the orchestra.

Andrew Clark