Operas and orgasms -- did ENO go too far with ‘Don Giovanni’ ad?

An advertisement for the English National Opera's production of Mozart's "Don Giovanni."
(English National Opera)

In 2010, the English National Opera in London generated some debate over its modern staging of Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” that featured a couple of scenes of sexual assault, including one of a gang rape of a woman.

This season, the company is once again causing trouble with “Don Giovanni,” this time with a sexually suggestive advertisement that is featured on its website and that has been reproduced in billboard form in Britain. The ad shows an open condom wrapper next to the words “Don Giovanni. Coming Soon.”

Did you catch the double entendre? The ad campaign has had classical-music fans around the world talking and blogging. The production of “Don Giovanni,” scheduled to open Oct. 17 at the London Coliseum, is a revival of the controversial 2010 staging, directed by Rufus Norris.

ENO has a tradition of producing cutting-edge stagings of classic and contemporary operas. The company has been on a publicity blitz in recent days. Last week, it enlisted the help of Blur musician Damon Albarn and director Terry Gilliam to promote its marketing efforts to younger opera goers.


In “Don Giovanni,” the title character boasts to having had sex with 2,065 women. The serial lothario (some would say serial rapist) gets his comeuppance at the end of the opera when he is sent to hell.

ENO’s video trailer for “Don Giovanni” features a helpful breakdown of the protagonist’s sexual conquests by country.

A recent report in London’s Evening Standard quoted an ENO spokeswoman as saying that “given the subject of the piece, the marketing campaign for Rufus Norris’s production reflects the opera itself.”

Opera fans may remember that in 2008, Durex, one the world’s largest manufacturers of condoms, created a television commercial using music from Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” to help sell its line of pleasure-enhancing gel for women. The musical selection heard in the commercial is from the “Queen of the Night” aria.

Talk about putting the “o” in “opera.”

The ENO trailer:


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