REVIEW: Don Giovanni – Sir David McVicar Production Revival – Opera Australia

1 year ago
Declan Dowling

“Don Giovanni, a cenar teco m’invitasti e son venuto!”

Have ever more recognizable and hauntingly powerful words been sung in the opera world than that from the disgruntled Ghost of the father of Donna Anna, the rape victim of Don Giovanni, come to drag you to hell along with all your former victims? I think not.

However, this dramatic and devastatingly powerful entrance in Opera Australia’s Revival of their Sir David McVicar directed production of the Mozart operatic staple Don Giovanni, fell flat on it’s face. This was unsurprising to the audience as the whole show was well beyond falling on its face and had tumbled so far into the realms of god awful boring that Mozart’s rather cluttered and self-indulgent score rather reflected the directorial style of McVicar to a tea – – that is to say cluttered and self indulgent.

Between the rather tortured ‘Heaven & Hell’ visuals and actors darting across the stage with seemingly no motivation or sometimes not moving at all in effort to hold a rather dull visual together… over… and… over again, the Scottish opera director Sir David McVicar has shown no indication he is anything special in this instance despite his world-wide acclaim. From a rather cold ‘stop-start’ feeling in the opening of the production which seems to raise the house curtain extraordinarily prematurely to leave the audience staring at a stair case descending from the ceiling in what looks like a pre-set requirement not occurring before the house went live rather than a dramatic moment. To clunky transitions and movements that had me checking my watch praying for the end of this 3 and a half hour monster.

Robert Jones presents a rather underwhelming set that seems to be no more than a direct copy of every production of ‘Man of La Mancha’ ever staged. Not only that but it looked in some moments to be only half finished. Marbling that appeared to have not been completed properly, a Cyclorama backdrop, plywood windows that seemed to ring out ‘Amateur…‘ in an echo across the auditorium as they came sliding into one another during set changes. The only exciting set change during this production was due to poor management and co-ordination seeing a cluster of props crushed by a moving set piece with a deafening crunch. On the other hand Jones’ costumes are a triumph and paint a monochromatic picture of decadence, radiance and pure theatrical magic that I will not soon forget.

The cast it seemed could sense the rather ordinary nature of the direction and phoned it in all the way home. That is of course with the exception of Luca Micheletti’s Don Giovanni who managed to steal the night and my heart with his dazzling charm, mesmerizing vocals and breath-taking style as he filled the stage with his energy, passion and larger than life presence. I imagine he will need a back brace after the run because he is undeniably carrying the whole show – and a hefty load indeed.

I searched scathingly for a Sound Designer in the program to mention here, only to realize that the lack of sound designer is the very reason I am scathing — The production in true operatic style was devoid of microphones and I couldn’t hear a damnable thing! A slight exaggeration to prove a point on my behalf there, but the evening was bafflingly quiet in the normally acoustically beautiful Joan Sutherland Theatre, and I was in the dress circle. And of all operatic productions needing to make an impact with dramatic musical moments; Don Giovanni is the one — shame I couldn’t hear it properly.

Opera Australia have fallen short of the mark and have lowered their usually wonderful standard to revive this tortured mess of a production. Here’s hoping they return to the marvelous creative path they were exploring with Madama Butterfly in 2019 and spare any more revivals like this one.

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