It is rarely a good sign when one spends the overture at the opera trying to work out what on earth is going on on stage, and Rufus Norris's ENO Don Giovanni is no exception. We had what looked to me like two pieces of London Underground track with which various fluorescent jacketed men were fiddling (they may, or may not at this point have been wearing masks). Eventually, these (the girders not the men) rose upwards and a girl in a green dress wandered on. She was stopped (well I say stopped but this is one of the production's many unconvincing moments of movement) by these men, stripped of her dress which the Don then donned and off he went to rape Donna Anna.
This, believe it or not, is at the coherent end of the production's spectrum and from then on it goes steadily downhill. The root cause of this can be traced right back to the opening sexual act. If you decide that Donna Anna is to be raped before the intervention of the Commendatore, then you are also deciding that she is lying to Don Ottavio when she describes the scene later and you have to work out what her inner motivations are and how you are going to convey them. But this is just the very thing that Norris seems to have been completely incapable of doing. Instead, he has directed a series of individual numbers (and frankly there seems to have been little direction to most of those except that the protagonists should stand around dithering) which show a complete failure to think through what happens before and after. He has also taken the typical route of the director who is frightened by the music and filled up as many moments as possible with pointless business, balloons rise up and do a little dance in the scene between Elvira and the Don in Act One, the set whizzes around with pointless rapidity guided by an ensemble of demonic types who look as if they have got lost from the recent Faust, and the Act Two sextet is reduced to complete idiocy with Don Ottavio inexplicably undressing and Donna Anna doing some kind of crazed solo line dance. When we finally reach the lead-up to the descent into hell, Norris plays half-heartedly and ineffectively around with whether or not the Commendatore is visible to everybody, and has Iain Paterson writhing feebly and unconvincingly on the edge of a hole below which presumably is hell, before finally electrocuting him with a couple of feeble flashes from the gantry which turns out to have been hovering above the protagonists for this very purpose. Frightening it is not.