Don Giovanni: singers shine in Mozart masterpiece

January 27, 2020 by Victor Grynberg
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Don Giovanni is the tale brought to Mozart by his librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte when he was looking for a story to follow his great success with The Marriage Of Figaro writes Victor Grynberg.

The cast in Opera Australia’s production of Don Giovanni.
Photo credit: Keith Saunders

Based on a tale from 1620, it tells of the famed ” libertine” Don Juan.

But libertine is too nice a word for this character. As the opera makes clear, Juan was a serial seducer, liar, strongman and rapist.

A very dark anti-hero.

Therefore this opera should be staged in such a way as to reduce any glamour to the personality and instead emphasize his evil. Much as I admire the work of local directors like Bell, Moshinsky, Murphy, Luhrmann and Edwards, Opera Australia pulled off a masterstroke by commissioning the great Scottish Director Sir David Mc Vicar to do this production. The brilliant, dark, menacing, yet versatile set gives so much to the unfolding plot. OA veteran Matthew Barclay has done an excellent job as the Revival Director.

Many singers are reluctant to expose themselves to Mozart’s operas. As great as the music is, wrong notes and off-timing are not hidden as often as in lush Italian operas.

This very long work spreads the arias and duets among eight singers. Much more of an ensemble piece than we are used to. And any failing by just one can spoil the performance.

Indeed I kept on hearing only great singing. Whether it’s New York, London or Milan, it’s not easy to get this so right.

This is Oscar season and if there was one for Best Performance in an Opera, surely one of the favourites would be local hero Shane Lowrencev, much loved for his work as Schaunard in “La Boheme” amongst other key roles. Here he performs the role of Leporello, Giovanni’s long-suffering servant. His rich baritone accompanies his athletic prowess as he leaps and jumps all over the stage. No “park and bark” for him. The “hit” aria of this opera is called “The Catalogue Song” where Leporello recites the conquests of Giovanni in Italy, Germany Spain and more. Superb.  Bravo.

Giovanni’s role is sung by Italian tenor Luca Micheletti, making his OA debut. A beautiful voice effortlessly holding the right notes while acting his evil and cunning role very well.

Let’s hope we see him again shortly.

Gennadi Dubinsky as The Statue and Luca Micheletti as Don Giovanni in Opera Australia’s production of Don Giovanni.
Photo credit: Keith Saunders

The two Donnas, Anna and Elvira respectively are sung by Australian sopranos Eleanor Lyons and Jane Ede, both of whom maintain the high standard we expect from local sopranos in particular. Again we had the pleasure of hearing clear clean notes sung by singers who also can act.

Anna Dowsley has the role of Zerlina, a peasant who after her marriage to Masetto, the very accomplished bass Richard Anderson excelling once more, is falsely accused by him of being unfaithful and having slept with Giovanni. This is a very demanding and dramatic role.

Though totally innocent she sings the words (translated )

“IF YOU PUT MY EYES OUT, I’LL STILL KISS YOUR HAND”

Words that reflect the male dominance of that era.

The extra applause Ms. Dowsley received was a just reward for her heartbreaking performance.

Juan de Dios Mateos is a very convincing  Don Ottavio, fiancé of Donna Anna whose father was killed in the opening scene, and whose job it becomes to seek revenge for Donna Anna. An important role done very well.

Victor Grynberg

The last of my great eight was Gennadi Dubinsky, always strong in voice and character as The Commendatore, who returns from the dead in the climactic final scene

It’s not often I hear an opera where from the first note all the artists are in good form, and each aspect of the production flows so smoothly.

Xu Zhong, the Chinese Maestro led an excellent OA Orchestra in giving great life to the beautiful Mozart score.

Maybe not for the children (there was one inappropriate moment) but for anyone with an interest in Mozart’s music, Operas in general, and staged dramas, this is a must-see.

5 Stars

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