Originally a 1991 Opera Australia production directed by the late Goran Jarvefelt, the WA Opera (with the WA Opera Chorus and WA Symphony Orchestra) have produced a slick, likeable and polished production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni. Brian Castles-Onion superbly conducts the ever excellent orchestra, whilst the leads (a mix of WA regulars and international stars) are all first-rate.
Don Giovanni is the ultimate “Casanova”, seducing women throughout Europe in the 1700’s (interestingly he doesn’t succeed at all throughout the opera). Mozart collaborated with his regular librettist Lorenzo da Ponte to create the two act opera – part comic and part tragic. It has a number of excellent leading male roles and in this production, they take centre stage.
Teddy Tahu Rhodes is easily the sexiest opera singer I’ve come across. His first appearance caused a few audience members to gasp as he wears nothing but tiny leather boxers, boots, cloak and mask. The talented New Zealander thrills, teases and taunts as Giovanni and at times it’s hard not to be seduced by the character (despicable acts not withstanding) especially when it’s performed by the striking Tahu Rhodes.
His singing is powerful and emotive, even if the clarity in the faster arias wasn’t fantastic. His version of 'Fin ch' han dal vino' (The Champagne Aria) was impressive, as was his final descent into hell.
James Clayton as the awkward servant Leporello was outstanding, not only in singing but his characterisation. Although it was easy to be overshadowed (literally) by Tahu Rhodes’ Giovanni, Clayton easily held his own and was, for me, one of the standouts.
As Masetto, WA Opera newcomer Luke Stoker was capable as the jealous young lover, portraying a range of emotions in a short amount of time. Henry Choo (as Don Ottavio) unfortunately paled in comparison to the other male leads – although his singing was accomplished, he lacked voice projection and stage presence next to the others.
As the large windows and columns tumble down during the final dramatic scene, the statue of Il Commendatore (Jud Arthur) cut an imposing figure. “Don Giovanni. . . You invited me to dinner,” sang Arthur and it sent chills up my spine. This intense scene was performed brilliantly by the two men.
Three strong female singers round out the leads; Nicole Car (Donna Anna), Katja Webb (Donna Elvira) and Sara Macliver (Zerlina). As the heartbroken, devastated Donna Anna, Car was the standout for her crisp, clear voice.
Surtitles have always been an issue for me, particularly as the audience are at the whim of their creator. This production used the Opera Australia surtitles, and they were disappointingly sparse. It was frustrating to see three performers on stage, and only have titles for two of them, or for phrases to be repeated on stage, but not in the titles (I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who couldn’t remember what it meant 5 minutes ago). They were the biggest disappointment of the evening.
Don Giovanni is a classic opera, and this WA Opera production is fresh, powerful and well worth a look.
West Australian Opera presents
by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Director Göran Järvefelt
Venue: His Majesty's Theatre, Perth
Dates: July 16 – 27, 2013