David McVicar’s third revival of his highly celebrated 2014 Don Giovanni has hit the stage at Sydney Opera House with a dramatically dark and rampantly carnal production. Mozart’s Don Giovanni is an infamous tale of a pleasure-seeker’s demise and is wrought with promiscuity, deceit, murder, revenge, and paranormal intervention.
Mozart and his librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte were masters of exploring the beauty and folly of humanity. McVicar exposes the truly confronting malevolence of Don Giovanni’s anti-hero despite Mozart using the formal framework of an Italian comic opera. Don Giovanni thinks himself a Casanova, but he is nothing more than a sexual megalomaniac. Despite his impressive track record, the pathological liar and libertine runs out of luck after raping Donna Anna and killing her father, deceiving the head-over-heels Donna Elvira and almost seducing lower-class Zerlina on her wedding day. To make matters worse, Don Giovanni hears a voice from beyond the grave warning him of his impending doom for his vile transgressions.
The mood is set with a monumental gothic-inspired stage. Set and costume designer Robert Jones creates a dark and spacious set. The stage is reminiscent of an ornamented cemetery as human remains are piled on either side. An enormous flight of stairs descends from the ceiling, apparitions emerge from beneath the stage, signifying the depths of hell, and masked fornicators thrust away against the crumbling walls. The costumes are monochromatic with period-style embroidery.
Ukrainian baritone Andrei Kymach gave his Australian debut as the shameless aristocrat Don Giovanni. Kymach’s menacing stage presence is felt before he opens his mouth and we are thrust further into his thrall when he starts to sing. His deep, dark, and velvet tone is feverishly seductive and fully developed in his “Deh! vieni alla finestra” serenade. Kymach further proves his vocal prowess in the ‘Champagne aria’ as he masterfully navigates the quick tempo.
Celebrated French-Israeli bass Yuri Kissin also made his Australian debut as Leporello – Don Giovanni’s faithful sidekick. Kissin stole the show and elicited the most laughs with his firm voice and knack for comedic timing. He effortlessly articulates with speed and accuracy and gives a flawless rendition of “Madamina, il catalogo è questo” (‘the Catalogue aria’) listing all his master’s conquests. Kymach and Kissin are the perfect master and servant duo – equally appalling and amusing.
Soprano Cathy-Di Zhang plays the betrothed Zerlina frozen with fear, singing with a lightness and simplicity reminiscent of youth. Soprano Bronwyn Douglass and Opera Australia Young Artist Sophie Salvesani, both making their mainstage debuts, round out the three vengeful heroines as Donna Elvira and Donna Anna, respectively. Douglass captures her character’s conflict as she wavers between a woman hell-bent on revenge but still madly in love with her attacker. However, it is Salvesani who shines with her clarity and tenderness. Salvesani is the believable grieving daughter of her slain father, the vengeful Commendatore, played in life and death by bass David Parkin and is a strong partner to her fiancé Don Ottavio, played by tenor Juan de Dios who sang with earnest precision and depth of tone.
Under the expert baton of Guillaume Tourniaire, the Opera Australia Orchestra is a formidable force bringing colour and virtuosic understanding to the incredible score, which Mozart famously finished on the day of its premier. Honourable mention to Siro Battaglin playing the continuo on fortepiano. The Opera Australia Chorus under Paul Fitzsimon aslo brought a robust energy to the music.
Don Giovanni features an incredible cast in one of Mozart’s most famous operas. It’s a dark tale of promiscuity, deceit, murder, and mystery and is anything but comical – albeit splashed with some humour. It’s a feverishly dark production where a sexual megalomaniac gets exactly the retribution he deserves.
– Antoinette Milienos
Antoinette is a Journalist, Violinist, and chronic suffer of F.O.M.O (fear of missing out).
Don Giovanni runs for approximately 3 hours and 20 minutes, including one interval. The opera plays at The Sydney Opera House through to February 17, 2023. Buy tickets now. The venue is accessible.