Tuesday, October 23, 2018

DON GIOVANNI, Sydney Conservatorium Opera School, October 18

Reviewed by Tony Magee
From the program cover - image by Isabella Andronos

Sydney Conservatorium of Music Opera School – Con Opera for short – presented an excellent and engaging production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni.

Classified by Mozart in his own catalogue as an Opera Buffa, the work blends comedy and melodrama with some serious action and even supernatural elements. 

Director Matthew Barclay has updated the setting into modern times, this light-hearted romp being set amongst a backdrop of film sets, Hollywood glamour, deceit, ribald sexual flings, news, television crews and gossip columnists. There is much for the youthful cast to get their teeth into and have a great deal of fun with.

Sung in Italian with sur-titles, the entire cast sang extremely well.

Jeremy Dube gives an excellent and sustained performance with fine comic acting and excellent singing in the role of Leporello. Nik Roglich’s entrance and rich baritone voice as The Commendatore was most engaging, albeit short, as he was murdered within the first five minutes by the Don, only to return mysteriously in Act II in a different guise.

As Don Giovanni, Haotian Qi gives a suitably enigmatic performance, very much in the style of Alfie in the film of the same name. Dressed in a white suit, he pulled off the dashing but shallow play-boy convincingly.

Henry Wright as Masetto and Josi Ann Ellman as Zerlina both gave excellent performances, vocally and in character, particularly in their long and involved dressing room scene in Act I.

A major highlight in the production which involves the entire cast – soloists and chorus – is the masked ball, which includes an hilarious line-dancing segment, choreographed to Mozart’s original score.

Throughout the performance the orchestra under the direction of Dr Stephen Mould played superbly. Beautifully in tune they were perfectly balanced with the singers, playing a stylish and professional accompaniment.

My only slight criticism is that for the most part, the soloists all sound pretty much the same tonally. No-one really stands out with a seriously unique voice. I hope the students will be and can be encouraged to explore and develop special unique sounds and qualities to their voices, which can carry them further into professional roles and where they can maximize their chances of all being in demand.

With this standard of singing and performance prevalent at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, the future certainly looks bright for the continuation of excellent international opera standards in this country.