Wednesday, January 29, 2020

DON GIOVANNI - Opera Australia

Luca Michelletti (Don Giovani) - Anna Dowsley (Zerlina) 

 Directed by Sir David McVicar.  Revival directed by Matthew Barclay
Conducted by Xu Zhong.  Set and Costumes designed by Robert Jones
Lighting designed by David Finn. Choreographed by Andrew George

Joan Sutherland Theatre, Sydney Opera House until 27th February, 2020

Reviewed by Bill Stephens

Mozart described this opera as a “playful drama”.  David McVicar’s  epic production, stylishly realised for this production by Matthew Barclay, incorporates moments of comedy, high drama, even playfulness, but it’s the inevitable sense of tragedy, in its sweeping expose of the profligate adventures of its seventeenth century Harvey Weinstein, that dominates the evening.

Shane Lowrencev (Leperello) and Company 

The dark, decaying setting by Robert Jones, with its tantalising perspectives, dominated by a huge staircase, and huge, movable masonry walls, with piles of detritus containing rotting skulls, visible on either side, compliments that feeling. From time to time the staircase rises to become a ceiling, tables rise out of, or sink into, the floor, adding to the feeling of unease, until finally, hideous creatures emerge from the depths to deliver Don Giovanni his come-uppance.

Jones has also used a subdued palette for his attractive costumes. For the wedding banquet, most are in sombre shades of grey, replaced for a later orgy by lavish black costumes richly embroidered in silver. Particularly striking is the extraordinarily low level of David Finn lighting design, which, far from being oppressive, achieves an unusual authenticity for the many night-time scenes.

Shane Lowrevcev (Leporello) - Luca Micheletti ( Don Giovanni) 

Heading a superb cast of singers, making his role debut, as well as his Opera Australia debut, as the, debauched, pleasure-seeking libertine, Don Giovanni, convinced that to be constant to one woman is to be unkind to the others, charismatic Italian baritone, Luca Micheletti, quickly won the audience, with his strong, confident singing and nuanced acting. However, it was his tender rendition of “Oh, Come to the Window”, that got them cheering.

Eleanor Lyons (Donna Anna) - Jane Ede (Donna Elvira) 

Also making her Opera Australia debut in the role of the grieving Donna Anna, determined to avenge the death of her father, murdered by Don Giovanni while escaping from his unsuccessful attempt to seduce her, returning Australian soprano, Eleanor Lyons, also impressed with her impeccably judged performance.
Shane Lowrencev not only sang superbly, but captured every laugh, as Don Giovanni’s fall-guy, Leporello, while Jane Ede gave an arresting performance as the abandoned Donna Elvira, desperately trying to rekindle her three-day fling with Don Giovanni. She was given excellent support by Juan de Dios Mateos, as her protector, Don Ottavio, who impressed with his striking, clarion clear tenor voice.

Anna Dowsley (Zerlina) - Richard Anderson (Masetto)  and company. 

Anna Dowsley was captivating as the young bride, Zerlina, providing a highlight with her singing of “You are jealous. You are Cruel”, as she tried to persuade her young husband, Masetto, (Richard Anderson) to take her back after she had fended off the unwanted attentions of Don Giovanni, while the haunting bass voice and commanding presence  of  Gennadi Dubinsky, as the Commendatore, sent shivers up the spine. 

Rounding out a night of firsts, internationally renowned Chinese conductor, Xu Zhong made an impressive Opera Australia debut with his command of the excellent Opera Australia orchestra and chorus.

At three-and-a- half hours, including one interval, this production of one of Mozart’s finest creations, never seems to drag. The potent combination of complex libretto, coupled with the heady mix of superlative music, glorious singing, striking visuals and thrilling performances, provides as satisfying and memorable night of opera as one could possibly wish.   

                                                 Photos by Keith Saunders

     This review also appears in Australian Arts Review.