Don Giovanni review: Roddy Doyle’s translation is sharp, singable and to the point

Dublin Theatre Festival: Opera Theatre Company shifts the action from 16th-century Spain to Dublin now, and the audience engagement is palpable

Don Giovanni ★★★★
Gaiety Theatre

Roddy Doyle's new translation of Mozart's Don Giovanni for Opera Theatre Company, his first full foray into the world of opera, shifts the action from 16th-century Spain to contemporary Dublin. In the process it puts words in the characters' mouths that The Irish Times normally prints only with asterisks. On opening night, the sense of extra engagement from the audience is palpable.

A lot of the new text is sharp, singable and to the point. There are stilted moments, partly a matter of misplaced stress, partly to do with the difficulties of drawing distinctions between the posh people and the louts.

The unexpected words have the downside of occasioning some laughter purely because of their incongruity in an 18th-century opera, though Mozart himself was quite free in his correspondence with the kind of scatalogical and sexual humour people don’t usually associate with composers.


The star on the stage is one of the louts, John Molloy’s Leporello, who commands attention both musical and dramatic at all times – sharp in comic timing and as full-voiced as I have heard him. In fact, he out-sings and out-acts his boss, David Kempster’s Don Giovanni, whose effortful manner and sometimes off-centre intonation is more suggestive of a declining roué than a dashing lover.

There was no doubting the appeal of Máire Flavin’s Donna Anna and Tara Erraught’s Donna Elvira, singers who flourish in the Mozartean balances and textures that conductor Fergus Sheil secures from the RTÉ Concert Orchestra. It is to be hoped that Sheil finds the flexibility to keep more fully in step with his singers as the run progresses.

Designer Bruno Schwengl's updating is sharp, and while director Gavin Quinn keeps things moving, the production does rather shirk the full darkness of the Don's demise.  Until Oct 2. Cork Opera House, Oct 5 and 7
Michael Dervan