The unique blend of the comic, the dramatic and the tragic, the rapidity of the action and music, the sublimeness and variety of that music, allied to the absolute fascination of the protagonist for both men and women, make Don Giovanni perhaps the most perfect of all operas. Certainly, the invention never flags for a second.

The production is by Franco Zeffirelli and is a reoffering of one originally conceived for New Yorks Met in 1990. Visually, it is fairly conventional, but the very beautiful sets shift so constantly and the effects are so striking, the result is most satisfying. Scenes are created by way of painted panels, which change with an extraordinary rapidity against a baroque arrangement of pillars and flat arches. The lights dim for literally a few seconds and then return to show a complete change of scene. Highly ingenious. The luxurious costumes, by Anna Anni, are tastefully restrained, apart from the splendid sequinned outfits sported by Don Giovanni.

The conductor is the Dutchman, Hubert Soudant, who guided the Rome Opera house orchestra through the exhilarating score with great deftness and expertise.

Don Giovanni is the youthful Marco Vinco, not yet thirty; although excellent at conveying athleticism and energy, he somewhat lacks manly body vocally, and, as a consequence, the devastating fascination required for an ideal interpretation. Perhaps a few more years will bring more virile weight to his voice. Alessandro Corbelli, Leporello, an old hand at buffo roles, gives a performance that is comfortingly assured both vocally and histrionically. Raul Gimenes sings Don Ottavios two exquisite arias with exemplary beauty of tone in a performance of real class. The role of Donna Anna, with good reason implacably vengeful, and with implacably vengeful arias, is no longer ideally suited to Mariella Devia, and the voice, although still capable of exquisite vocalizing, can sound slightly strained in high and dramatic passages, of which there are a number. Poor Donna Elvira can never make up her mind exactly what she wants, and Darina Takovas voice, rather unvarying in volume and timbre, is not ideal for conveying all the ever-shifting emotions she is victim to as the drama develops. Laura Cherici makes a most winsome Zerlina, and Gianpiero Ruggeri, Masetto, has a very good stab at his role, as does Alessandro Guerzoni as the Commendatore.

A most enjoyable evening, but perhaps not sufficiently thought-provoking.

Teatro dell Opera di Roma, Piazza Beniamino Gigli 1, Rome, tel. 06 481601 www.opera.roma.it. 8 January 2000, further performances 19, 20, 21, 22, and 24 January 2006

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