It may sound like faint praise to say so, but Roland Schwab’s production of Don Giovanni at the Deutsche Oper Berlin is not as terrible as some other recent Dons (I’m thinking specifically of the infamous Calixto Bieito production at ENO), though it bears a resemblance to many of them. Following an understated beginning, where the main dramaturgical idea seemed to be a silent chorus of men who pantomime the Don and Leporello’s actions, the stage is swept up in a gruesome and confusing bacchanal for the Act I finale that features bare flesh, acrobatics and what appears to be a pubescent somnambulist.
Despite the production’s frequent excesses, what set it apart from so many Dons is that, it makes for undeniably exciting theater; the stagecraft is well harnessed in the telling of the story. This is nowhere more the case than in the descent to hell, where amid much stage-wizardry and fog, the set for the Don’s act one party – a rotating inferno of debauchery – comes once more into focus. This was arguably the production’s best idea; the Don is swallowed by a hell of his own making.