Saturday, 26 April 1997

Don Giovanni by Mozart, April 26, 1997

 Opera Australia
State Theatre, late April to May, 9, 1997
Reviewed by Kate Hebert around 25 April, 1997

Mozart's Don Giovanni is an odd blend of the comic and tragic - but then so was Wolfgang himself.

Stephen Bennett, in the role of the grand seducer, relishes every sexy moment. It falls to the lot of Don Giovanni (you may know him as Don Juan) to ravish every single woman on the planet.

According to his servant Leporello's (John Pringle) little black book of names, the naughty Don is up to 1,800 seductions, 1,003 of who are in his native Spain. Chances of his running into "a woman scorned" at the milk bar are pretty high and, as we see from Donna Elvira's (Maria Pollicina) actions, hell really doth have no fury like...etc.

Revenge really is a dish best eaten cold, even if Elvira has second thoughts about him on the way to his come-uppance. He's a right bastard and he deserves every thing he gets in the line of Hell-fire.

Lindy Hume's production, based on that of Carl Friedrich Oberle, is staged quite traditionally on a single (economical?) set of a stony palazzo. But there is nothing plain about the leads' voices. Bennett's wonderfully rich baritone supports his rakish swagger throughout and particularly in "La ci darem la mano".

Pollicina's soprano has both sweetness and strength. As the nearly-violated Donna Anna, Rosamund Illing displays exceptional control and subtlety in her aria "or sai chi l'onore".

Tenor Yu Jixing as her fiance Don Ottavio has impeccable phrasing and a clear tone while Arend Baumann as the murdered father of Anna was suitably forbidding. Pringle's Leporello was a warm and light presence that might have gone further with the comic characterisation.

The sextets, typical of Mozart, were beautifully balanced with a fine interplay of voices and the orchestra, conducted by Roderick Brydon, was in excellent form. This is a delightful production of the Don.

By Kate Herbert

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