Review: A Flesh Eating Don Giovanni, Leeds Youth Opera, Carriageworks, Leeds, Thursday 6th February 2020

A VIRUS has struck the community and zombies walk the stage of the Carriageworks in Leeds Youth Opera’s cool new version of Mozart’s darkest opera. Production director Austin Gunn has been inspired by George A Romero’s 1968 low budget horror flick, Night of the Living Dead. In LYO’s production, Giovanni murders Commendatore Don Pedro, calmly removes his innards and begins to feast on the gruesome remains.

The predominantly black staging with shadowy lighting, augmented by piercingly bright hand held torches sustains a spooky cinematic quality.

Mozart and his librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte will be rising from the grave to tear into this audacious and hugely entertaining production with their bare hands. I could scarcely take my eyes off the stage.

Mozart’s dramatic musical score blends romance and tenderness with a hint of the supernatural and it is, of course, zombie-proof. A talented company of thirty 12 to 25 year-olds admirably rise to the challenges of the extremely demanding arias, ensembles and recitative. Charles Murray as the predatory Don Giovanni, Adam Brown as his servant Leporello, James Wood (Masetto) and James Bridgewood (Otavio) create sympathetic characterisations. Elle Beach (Donna Anna), Emma Kennedy (Elvira) and Meiling Daniell-Greenhalgh (Zerlina) all scale the vocal heights as three of Giovanni’s (literally thousands) of conquests.

The orchestra plays with tremendous panache under the baton of John Lyon, LYO’s recently announced musical director. What is unquestionably Mozart’s greatest operatic score is especially remarkable for the profusion of woodwind chorales and serenades. These were sculpted with loving care by Lyon whose impeccable judgement of tempo maintained the pace and flow of the production.

Pandemonium breaks out when Saul Rothwell’s now zombified Commendatore takes Don Giovanni in his icy grip. But everything is happily resolved in one of Mozart’s greatest ensemble scenes. Leeds Youth Opera’s Don Giovanni continues at the Carriageworks until Saturday.

Geoffrey Mogridge