Left – Teddy Tahu Rhodes and Emma Matthews. Cover – Teddy Tahu Rhodes, Taryn Fiebig, Richard Anderson & Shane Lowrencev. Photos – Jeff Busby.
Mozart’s infamous Don Giovanni and considered by many to be the greatest opera ever written, is based on the legendary fictional lover Don Juan, not easily resisted by any woman, no matter her social status or nationality, and whom they loved and despised in the same breath.
Opera Australia’s highly anticipated Don Giovanni, directed by David McVicar, focuses on the dark side of the sex addicted nobleman, who cannot control his appetite for conquering every and any woman who crosses his path, regardless of her age or shape.
Much like some present day players, Don Giovanni, keeps a tally of his trophies, with numbers in the thousands, from all over Europe and Asia Minor, and with numbers so impressive, he could easily be dubbed the Wilt Chamberlain of the 18th century.
Teddy Tahu Rhodes in the role of Don Giovanni embodies the personality of the Don so well, from the self-confident swagger to his sexy, perhaps even somewhat slimy, seductive moves. Rhodes’ deep baritone allows Don Giovanni to come off as seductive, intimidating and all-powerful at the same time.
Shane Lowrencev delivers a great performance as well, but he absolutely shines as the stumbling, bumbling man servant Leporello, who delivers great comic relief, in the otherwise heavy opera full of murder, adultery and demons.
Among Don Giovanni’s three female obsessions are: Zerlina, played by soprano Taryn Fiebig who looks and sounds especially lovely and innocent in her duet Là ci darem la mano with Rhodes, Donna Anna the sympathetic heroine, played by soprano Emma Matthews, who was wonderful throughout the opera, but particularly moving in the act two aria Non mi dir, and Donna Elvira the obsessed ex lover, played by soprano Jane Ede, a constant reminder to Don Giovanni of his true self and how he wronged her, supported by the act two aria Mi tradì quell’alma ingrata.
The stage is engulfed in a constant hue of dark blue/gray light, allowing for a somber depressed feeling to radiate throughout the opera, foretelling the Don’s destiny. Bold colours are used sporadically and sparingly, only to help focus on specific points, like Zerlina, who is dressed in white the entire time, helping to distinguish her from the rest of the dark surroundings and costumes.
Robert Jones’ catacomb-like set design, has been inspired by the underbelly of an ancient Viennese church where over 4,000 bodies lie, depicts Don Giovanni’s world of decay and decadence gone awry, and what dire destiny still awaits him.
Don Giovanni was and continues to be a great cautionary tale of a many possessed with the insatiable desire for carnal satisfaction, who ultimately pays for his sins by being dragged into the underworld, never repenting for his sins. However, it also is a great example of others’ self-righteous and better than thou attitude, which the survivors of this particular opera demonstrate in the end. They may not have over-indulged to the extreme of Don Giovanni, but they are certainly not without fault.
I found McVicar’s dramatical interpretation of Don Giovanni, overall, visually striking, quite dramatic and truly awe inspiring.
Opera Australia presents
Director David McVicar
Venue: Arts Centre Melbourne, State Theatre
Dates: May 11 – 30, 2015