Posts Tagged ‘Mozart’
COSI FAN TUTTE
Opera in 2 Acts by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Libretto by Lorenzo da Ponte
Performance by Opera Australia on Saturday, 17th March 2012 in the Opera Theatre of the Sydney Opera House.
Conductor Benjamin Northey
Director Jim Sharman
Scenery Designer Ralph Myers
Costume Designer Gabriela Tylesova
Lighting Designer Damien Cooper
Choreography Joshua Consandine
Assistant Director Kip Williams
Fortepiano continuo Kate Golla
Ferrando Stephen Smith
Guglielmo Samuel Dundas
Don Alfonso Richard Anderson
Fiordiligi Sharon Prero
Dorabella Sian Pendry
Despina Lorina Gore
After a three year rest, the Jim Sharman production of Mozart and da Pontes’ third and final opera returned to the Opera Theatre of the Sydney Opera House to conclude the Summer Season works. It suffers from being the last of three Mozart productions (2 of them modern updatings with the same set designer) in this season, and audience fatigue of Mozart was evident. The upper loges were empty and a substantial number of premium seats in the stalls were also empty. Again the opera was sung in English.
The Sharman production frames the production within a modern wedding celebration, where the marrying couple, an Australian man and a Japanese bride seat themselves on the sides of the stage projecting around the orchestra pit and watch, and occasionally involve themselves in the unfolding shenanigans of some of their wedding guests – the unmarried couples of the opera.
The production is framed in a solitary white set with a rolling a high flowing ramp descending from the back of the stage reminiscent perhaps of the sand descending to the water at Bondi Beach (a frequent haunt for Japanese weddings) and angled side walls leaning to the right hand side of the stage. After a while the effect of the slightly leaning walls produces an illusion of the stage being tilted to the side which I found unsettling. Opening with the trio of men concluding their workout in a gym while dressing in the change room and discussing the love life of Ferrando and Guglielmo works well, as did the following scene with their lovers in swim wear. The men march of to war in army camouflage fatigues, later they are resuscitated by Despina with a device resembling a dildo, stylised period costumes are used for the chorus in the garden scene and the wedding banquet table is a long platform flown in from the fly tower on which Despina does a sassy strip and fan dance for her Act II aria, “Una Donna”. Thankfully, the restudied production omitted much of the previously intrusive use of a cameraman on stage filming the action. Much of the stage action was very active, physically demanding, and at times almost busy, producing a fast paced and extremely comedic production. There were some memorable stage pictures, particularly for the chorus for the Act II evening garden scene.
Musically the performances were in the more than competent hands of the young Australia conductor, Benjamin Northey who delivered a sparkling account of the score. Sian Pendry was the only original member of the cast. She has grown considerably in this role, and also in size of her voice since the productions last outing. Lorina Gore, an experienced member of the company, made a delightfully sung and acted Despina. Somehow the complete package of vivacity, manipulation of events and humour was unfortunately not as well delineated in the production – though no fault of Ms Gore. The rest of the cast consisted of young and less experienced singers who did an absolutely sterling job both vocally and dramatically, only lacking more experience, further development, and a better production to be entirely successful. Ensembles were all well sung pattering along with excellent precision and colour amidst the fast paced and extremely physical action.
Richard Anderson surprised as a resonant and well sing and acted Don Alfonso. This singer now seems to be finally making his mark in the company after an excellent performance of Tereus in Richard Mill’s opera THE LOVE OF THE NIGHTINGALE in 2011, and now Don Alfonso. Similarly Sam Dundas as Guglielmo. Previous roles though well sung, have been wooden. Not so in this role which was sung and performed with verve. Indeed he has even deserved a rating on the barihunks site ( http://barihunks.blogspot.com.au/2012/03/shirtless-samuel-dundas-heats-up-cosi.html ) !
Stephen Smith also continues to improve in this, his largest main stage role to date. His well sung Ferrando, particularly in the ensembles, was matched by an ease of acting. His upper range needs a little more work for his aria “Un aura amorosa” which required some effort and loss of the liquid tone required above the stave in this difficult number.
In the vocally demanding role of Fiordiligi, Sharon Prero sang with precision but the voice initially was marred by a steely tone. She settled in time delivering a well sung “Come scoglio”, albeit lacking the fine tonal quality present in some of the best exponents of the role seen on this stage over the years, such as Joan Carden, Yvonne Kenny and Amanda Thane. The production was well supported by a small chorus and the excellent of the Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra.
Although containing some entertaining scenes and some fine singing, this production is the least successful of the three Mozart operas presented in this Summer Season. Despite the valiant attempts of the experienced and ingenious director Jim Sharman (surely a living National treasure), and a young, vibrant group of promising singers this seemed a long evening in the theatre. Unfortunately the singing and staging never realised the lofty heights that this Mozart work surely requires. The casting would be quite acceptable for a regional opera company, but not for our National company. The administration of Opera Australia has not only let the singers down by not supporting them with more experienced singers mixed into the cast for this opera, and also the new MAGIC FLUTE, but more importantly they have let their audience down. Opera Australia cannot expect it’s audience to grow when they deliver works not cast to knock the socks of the audience. A shame that there were more vacant seats after the interval.
THE MARRIAGE OF FIGARO
Opera in 2 Acts by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Libretto by Lorenzo da Ponte
Performance by Opera Australia on Saturday, 18th February 2012 in the Opera Theatre of the Sydney Opera House.
Conductor Simon Hewitt
Director Benedict Andrews
Scenery Designer Ralph Myers
Costume Designer Alice Babidge
Lighting Designer Nick Schlieper
Choreography Lucy Guerin
Assistant Conductor Anthony Legge
Assistant Director Tama Matheson
Susanna Taryn Fiebig
Figaro Joshua Bloom
Marcellina Jacqueline Dark
Dr Bartolo Conal Coad
Cherubino Dominica Matthews
Count Almaviva Michael Lewis
Don Basilio Kanen Breen
Countess Almaviva Elvira Fatykhova
Antonio Clifford Plumpton
Don Curzio Graeme Macfarlane
Barbarina Jessica Dean
Bridesmaid Sharon Olde
Bridesmaid Vanessa Lewis
I must admit considerable worries and trepidation when Opera Australia announced a few years ago, a new, updated production by Benedict Andrews to be set in a modern day, gated community. Oh, here we go again I thought, thinking back to the disastrous Tim Albery production and the surprisingly flawed Neil Armfield production in recent years. Fortunately - or unfortunately the sublime John Copley production that I grew up with still haunts my subconscious. Without a doubt the Copley production was one of the best, if not the best production ever staged by the National company. High praise indeed, and I am sure I am not the only one to think this.
The feeling was similar to going to see the replacement LA BOHEME for the much loved Tom Lingwood designed production dating from 1970, that had been treasured and loved for over 20 years. How could they ! What – a new BOHEME to be directed by an unheard of team straight out of NIDA ? The anger oozed from my pores entering the Opera Theatre that night – to be transformed to gulping tears at the end of the first act in the new Baz Luhrman BOHEME. So it was to be with this MARRIAGE OF FIGARO – the fear and trepidation of some regietheatre miss-mash made way for admiration, love, laughs and tears in this fantastic new production.
Andrews partners in theatre magic were his designers, Ralph Myers and Alice Babidge. The sets consisted of a series of blank white rooms of normal ceiling height, using less than half the proscenium height, and with minimal furnishings. This focused attention clearly on the action and characters. Side walls slid sideways across the stage from right to left revealing each new room – a delicious device I have not seen before. During the overture, a not inconsiderable number of house maids arrived in street wear and proceeded to chat, undress and get into their uniforms a delightful egg shell blue.
Figaro is dressed in the same security guard uniform as the other guards who man the doors to the rooms, the Count in dark suit with crisp, white shirt, Rosina Bartolo and Basilio in casual dress. Bartolo hilariously enters pushing a wheeled walker fitted with an oxygen tank and wearing an oxygen mask from which he gasps air during his aria ‘La vendetta’ ! Cherubino hides in a cleaning trolley rather than behind a chair, and the Count hides by diving into a Whirlpool washing machine ! The second act revealed a stunning white bedroom for the Countess with a picture window with sheer, white curtains consuming the entire back wall and a view inside the nefarious closet and an anteroom on each side of the stage. The Countess was gowned in an exquisite white dress. The Count returned at the end of the second act in hunting gear and attendants dragged in a full deer body with which Basilio ‘wrestled’ during the finale. All fantastically funny stuff.But the pathos and tender moments were there too. Act three was set in the ubiquitous white room – clearly a function room with dressed tables, champagne flutes and balloons on the tables ready for the wedding reception. The final act set in the garden consisted of a bare stage raining large, multi coloured confetti during the entire act representing the storm – a homage to the Benedict trademark signature.
Benedict produced a lively romp thoroughly faithful to the libretto and the intentions of da Ponte and Mozart. All the gags, tender moments, moments of introspection and pathos were all there and fitted so easily into this modern take of this masterpiece. Some comments have been made by audience members concerning the flagrant allusions to sex in the staging. In the 18th Century this opera was modern, cutting edge, biting and highly sexual for it’s day. Benedict has faithfully added this edge again to the work that has been lost during the work’s history. To those audience members who have criticised the sexiness I have only one word (coined by my grandfather in an editorial he wrote for The Truth over 100 years ago) – Wowsers !
Opera Australia has mounted a tremendous cast for this work. Michael Lewis was a controversial choice because of his age. The count is usually played by a younger man, but in this production he is so right with the notion of a slightly older businessman with the younger wife. It works well, and when has anyone heard the role so beautifully sung with a voice usually singing Verdi baritone roles ! Similarly one would go a LONG way to hear the Countess so delectably sung as it was by Elvira Fatykhova. With rich honeyed tone, evenly produced through her entire range, looking ravishing and acting the role with aplomb, she was Mozart’s Countess. My memory is emblazoned with the original Countess (Rosemary Gordon) in the Copley production entering the act three hall in a glorious gold, bejewelled Mantua gown bathed in the golden light of dusk to sing ‘I remember’ (Dove sono). This memory is now supplanted with the Benedict/Myers production and Fatykhova’s glorious singing of this aria. This is yet another great success for her to add to her Manon and Violetta for Opera Australia and Lucia for Opera Queensland.
Joshua Bloom was a very handsome Figaro who sang the role beautifully. Although the role was extremely well characterised, his Figaro was more of a slightly awkward schemer than the wily plotter and manipulator typical of THE BARBER OF SEVILLE and usually FIGARO. The Countess and Susannah were more obviously the arch manipulators in this production.
Taryn Fiebig and Domenica Matthews were both stunning vocally and dramatically as Susannah and Cherubino. Even more so than in the Armfeld production.
Conal Coad, Jacqueline Dark and Kanen Breen would successfully grace any stage in the World in their character roles – all beautifully sung, and deliciously naughty. Ms Dark now rates with Rosina Raisbeck and Heather Begg as a great interpreter of Marcellina (no small feat). Kanen Breen would have been superb for the occasionally performed ’Asses coat’ aria in the fourth act, but it’s inclusion would have wrecked the dramatic continuity in this production. I have not seen a FIGARO where the fourth act was so well paced and didn’t appear to be drawn out. All of the smaller roles were well cast and sung, and also well characterised. The small and expert chorus contributed considerably to the occasion.
The opera was sung in English. A controversial decision. The hoary old argument for opera in English is as old as the argument over the importance of words or music. There will never be any winners for either. I cut my operatic teeth listening to the old Copley production in English (no one complained then) and got to know every twist and nuance in the libretto, as current audiences will. The modernity of this production (and trends to attracting new and younger audiences) makes the performance in English a good choice, and I have no doubt it WILL attract new opera goers who make the effort to go and see it. However, THE MARRIAGE OF FIGARO was never written to be performed in the vernacular. It was written by a German speaking Austrian Composer specifically in Italian, which was the current operatic fad. The music is intrinsically linked to Italian vowels and phrasing and can never be beaten in Italian. The recitatives, and patter arias in particularly roll out and trip off the tongue so delectably, it is a shame not to experience them. Perhaps the answer is get them hooked on the work in English first, and perform the work in the original Italian at subsequent outings.
In the pit, the opera was in the very safe and expert hands of young Australian conductor, Simon Hewitt, in a brightly paced rendition with true Mozartian style. His mood was obviously infectious spreading to the cast and also the ever reliable Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra which played the score vividly and with suitable refinement.
I still love the Copley production, but this MARRIAGE OF FIGARO is a perfect example of what great and modern productions of opera are all about, and can proudly stand up in comparison. No dusty traditionalism or regietheatre here, just superb opera, superb music and superb theatre. Don’t miss it, but leave your wowser maiden aunt at home – she won’t get it.
THE MAGIC FLUTE
Opera in 2 Acts by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Libretto by Emanuel Schikaneder
Performance on Saturday, 14th January 2012 in the Opera Theatre of the Sydney Opera House.
Conductor Jonathan Darlington
Director Matthew Barclay, based on the original production by Julie Taymor
Scenery Designer George Tsypin
Associate Scenery Designer Tijana Bjelajac
Costume Designer Julie Taymor
Puppetry designers Julie Taymor, Michael Curry
Lighting Designer Gary Marder, based on the original design by Donald Holder
Choreography Matthew Barclay, based on the original choreography by Mark Dendy
Tamino Andrew Brunsdon
First Lady Jane Parkin
Second Lady Sian Pendry
Third Lady Tania Ferris
Papageno Andrew Jones
Queen of the Night Suzanne Shakespeare
Pamina Nicole Car
Monostatos Kanen Breen
First Spirit William McDermott
Second Spirit Matthew Phillips
Third Spirit Jusi Jenssen
The Speaker Stephen Bennett
Sarastro David Parkin
First Priest Malcolm Ede
Second Priest Samuel Dundas
Papagena Kiandra Howarth
Armoured Men Sam Roberts-Smith and Clifford Plumpton
Opera Australia is now taking a new approach to the Summer Season in Sydney, presenting a summery festival of operatic treats aimed squarely at tourists, the Sydney Festival crowd and a younger audience still revelling in the final weeks of school and university holidays. What better work to commence this journey than with a new production of THE MAGIC FLUTE. Opera Australia impresario, Lyndon Terracini has scored quite a coup in obtaining the rights to mount a second production of the Julie Taymor MAGIC FLUTE, first staged at the Metropolitan Opera, New York in 2004. To the horror of the now legendary but imagined ‘audience club’, the production has numerous musical numbers cut and is sung in English (Oh Horror!), to present a friendly and easily consumed staging for children and those new to opera – operas future audience.
Mozart’s arguably last or penultimate opera was devised by Mozart and Schikaneder as a singspiel for performance for the everyday person in a Public theatre rather than a commissioned work for a royal court theatre. I suspect he would have thoroughly approved of any minor tampering to ensure the work remained relevant to it’s audience and continued to entertain. But the number of cuts is beyond the realm of minor tampering. It is hard to accept that new, young audience members would have disapproved of hearing the overture played by an orchestra in the theatre for the first time.
Musical numbers jettisoned from the work to reduce the playing time and progress the action include the overture, Pamina’s suicide aria, the Pamina/Papageno duet, a few second verses and the canon-like duet for the two Armoured Men. As much as I love some of these pieces, the cuts worked in delivering a coherent and fluid telling of the story with little injury to the piece. I must admit to often feeling that I too as an audience member was participating in one of the trials of the work during the performance of the second act, which often seems interminable in performance. Not so in this production where the cuts during the second act worked wonders in pacing the action. No doubt performances of the FLUTE in future years in some other production will see these numbers re-instated for the purists, but to my mind the purists should be happy to have such a thoughtful and delightful production to attract new opera lovers to the art form they hold so dear.
The production delivers a truly magical MAGIC FLUTE with bucket loads of humour, colour, glorious costumes and shimmering sets transporting the audience to another world. A 10 metre long serpent running along a catwalk in front of the orchestra pit, women with removable heads, a giant goose flying over the stage transporting the three spirits, puppet birds and polar bears add treat after visual treat. No less the extremely different, novel and fresh conception of the costumes, makeup and scenery. A large, central cube of shiny steel and perspex continually rotated, evolved and transformed into scenic wonder after another every few minutes for the different scenes, while Egyptian characters and hieroglyphs adorned numerous act cloths added additional splendour. The staging told the story well with delightful and additional, very broad, ocker humour, yet allowed for most of the messages of the masonic scenes to ring true. The only failings of the production were an overproduced ending to the first scene when stillness during the sublime quintet that ends this scene may have been more appropriate, an ill-conceived Queen of the Night who was plainly dressed, lacked any real terror and whose musical numbers were hampered by fussy movement of triangular wings on her costume, and a most unimaginative staging of the trials of fire and water.
Musically the production was in the expert hands of Jonathan Darlington from the Vancouver Opera, a frequent visitors to these shores, and a superb cast.
The performance was so uniformly well cast it is difficult to single out any standout singers. Andrew Brunsdon so often either mis-cast or unable to realise his full potential, was on this occasion vocally and dramatically a shoe-in as the heroic prince Tamino. Singing with freedom, a beautiful vocal timbre and fine line throughout his entire vocal range he was the best Tamino I have heard in a long while. He cut a fine heroic figure on stage, and was thoroughly convincing. Andrew Jones added yet another exquisitely sung and dramatically convincing role to his repertoire. His resonant voice, athleticism and dramatic gifts were well displayed. His characterisation of Papageno however lacked some of the humour innate in the roll. Another singer with amazing vocal gifts is Nicole Car (Pamina) – such a pity that her suicide aria and duet with Papageno (probably the dramatic heart of the opera) were cut. David Parker’s Sarastro, tall, majestic, authoritative and vocally resplendent, was the best Sarastro we have seen since the late Donald Shanks. Again such a shame the second verse of his aria ”In diesen heil’gen Hallen” was cut.
Although Suzanne Shakespeare easily had all the notes and was vocally accurate for the two fearful arias of the Queen of the Night, she was dramatically hampered by a lack of drama for her two entrances, an overly fussy costume, and a voice too light and lacking drama for the role. The role of Monostasos dressed in a repugnant fat suit was hilariously performed and suavely sung by Kanen Breen. Jane Parkin, Sian Pendry and Tania Ferris gave us one of the finest trios of Three Ladies ever to tackle a serpent and seduce a Prince.
No praise too high can be given to the three boys/spirits assembled for this production. William McDermott, Matthew Phillips and Jusi Jenssen were vocally accurate, extremely personable, great little actors and each had beautiful and strong voices. They were truly a delight.
Stephen Bennett in the smaller role of the Speaker was opulent casting. Kiandra Howarth as Papagena acted delightfully but was less successful vocally in a gift role. Smaller roles of the 2 Priests and 2 Armoured Men (with little left to sing) were all well cast.
The Opera Australia Chorus was stunningly costumed, and equally stunning vocally, delivering sublime singing for the magnificent choruses of the work.
Although the proposition of presenting a cut MAGIC FLUTE is controversial – it works ! It is superbly staged and sung and 10 out of 10 to the OA for having the guts to present it in English.
Infusing this joyous opera with the distinctive sound and beat of South African instrumentation, the world-famous Isango Ensemble have breathed new life into Mozart’s timeless opera.
This earthy, arresting adaptation has earned huge critical acclaim worldwide, garnering the Globe de Cristal award for Best Opera in Paris at the Théâtre de Châtelet, and an Olivier Award and a Theatre Goers’ Choice Award in London.
Audiences have been exhilarated by this celebratory and uplifting work of the spirit – one that which speaks directly out of the townships, and yet still bursts with the truth, immediacy and lyrical essence of Mozart’s masterpiece.
Isango Ensemble’s playful musical flourishes abound: Papagano’s flute is instead a jazzy trumpet while marimbas and other traditional African instruments send liquid tremors through the score, creating a vibrant, enchanting and deeply percussive musical theatre.
Jubilantly theatrical and gloriously energetic, this unforgettable production perfectly captures the joy and exuberance of Mozart’s extraordinary work.
Bringing this joyous interpretation of Mozart’s penultimate opera to Melbourne is the Melbourne Festival Director, Brett Sheehy. The production is supported by ABC Classic FM.
Tueday 11th – Saurday 15th October at 7.30 pm
Saturday 15th & Sunday 16th October at 1.30 pm
Performances are at the State Theatre of The Victorian Arts Centre.
|A Reserve Full||$129.90|
|A Reserve Group (8+)||$116.90|
|A Reserve Concession||$97.40|
|B Reserve Full||$114.90|
|B Reserve Concession||$86.15|
|B Reserve Student||$25.00|
|C Reserve Full||$99.90|
|C Reserve Concession||$74.90|
|C Reserve Student||$25.00|
Opera in 2 Acts by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Libretto by Lorenzo da Ponte
Performance on Saturday, 1st October in the Opera Theatre of the Sydney Opera House.
Conductor Mark Wigglesworth
Director Goran Jarvefelt
Rehearsed by Matthew Barclay
Designer Carl Friedrich Oberle
Lighting Nigel Levings
Leporello Conal Coad
Don Giovanni Teddy Tahu Rhodes
Donna Anna Rachelle Durkin
The Commendatore Daniel Sumegi
Don Ottavio Henry Choo
Donna Elvira Jacqueline Dark
Zerlina Taryn Fiebig
Masetto Andrew Jones
Don Giovanni, the second of the da Ponte operas, premiered at the Teatro di Praga (which is now called the Estate Theatre) in Prague on an overcast night on October 29th 1787 in unusual circumstances. Mozart arrived in Prague 10 days before the planned premiere originally scheduled for October 14th. He had significant sections of the score still to compose including the overture, the entrance of Zerlina and Massetto, together with the chorus and Massetto’s aria, the opening duet between Don Giovanni and Leporello, Don Giovanni’s serenade, the graveyard scene and the whole of the finale! He probably wanted to work with his very young cast of singers (Luigi Bassi – the worlds first Don Giovanni was only 21 at the time) so that any changes they demanded could be taken on board. There were only 10 days left to go before opening night, in which a new opera of unusual complexity had to be completed, learnt and rehearsed. It was a wildly optimistic deadline. In one of his few letters concerning events at this time, Mozart tells us of his frustration:
Everything dawdles along here because the singers, who are lazy, refuse to rehearse on opera days and the manager, who is anxious and timid, will not force them.
Even da Ponte’s friend, Giacomo Casanova helped him revamp the libretto (probably with some first hand experience). After several postponements of the opening night, the music was finished (the overture was completed either the day before opening or the night before) and only 16 days of rehearsal, one of the greatest operas in the repertoire had it’s hair raising premiere amidst much tumult in the theatre. Mozart was at the peak of his popularity at the time. The overture was sight read by the orchestra, and the cast responding to Mozart’s demands for liveliness and freedom in the supper scene by failing to keep time, cracking jokes (different ones each night), virtually speaking everything and improvising.
Well the Opera Australia production certainly was not born amongst this chaos ! With 6 weeks of rehearsal under director Matthew Barclay and the musical direction of Mark Wigglesworth, Benjamin Northey, and team a breathtakingly stunning series of performances have been realised. Although based on Goran Jarvefelt’s original conception based on Age of Enlightenment principles, Barclay has restaged the opera in a new and highly dramatic way. Characters, their relationships and events are very clearly delineated and all the action is finely rehearsed to a tee.
The title role requires a singing actor of great acting abilities and a fine voice to be believable. Teddy Tahu Rhodes delivers that in bucket loads. With a rich, dark and sonorous bass baritone voice he sailed through the vocal demands of the opera with great ease and musicianship. In a highly physical performance, Rhodes has lithe good looks, great presence on stage as the Don, and agility exudes sexiness. Not only is he highly believable as Don Giovanni – but in this production, he IS Don Giovanni. His performance easily surpasses that of a young James Morris in the George Ogilvie production almost thirty years ago. The champagne aria and serenade were beautifully sung. His voice seems to have grown in size over the last 3 years since I last heard him, and I suspect he has the potential for much larger voice roles such as Verdi or even Wagner in the future. His side-kick in his sexual misdemeanours, Leporello was sung by Conal Coad, now a veteran of buffo roles who delivered as fine as a Leperello as you will hear or see.
Despite some reservations I had concerning her singing Donna Anna – as it is usually sung by a more dramatic voice, Rachellel Durkin sang and acted an excellent performance of a very demanding role. Her vengeance duet at the end of the first scene (Ah, vendicar, se il puoi, giura quel sangue ognor!), the Act I aria (Or sai chi l’onore) and her contribution to the trio of the masks (Proteggra il giusto cielo) were all stunningly sung. Less so, her fiendishly difficult Act II aria (Non mi dir). None the less this was an extraordinary performance from a rising star.
Further revaltions of the performance were the performances of Henry Choo (Don Ottavio), Jacqueline Dark (Donna Elvira), Taryn Fiebig (Zerlina) and Andrew Jones (Masetto).
Henry Choo delivered a superb performance both vocally and dramatically. Don Ottavio so often appears as a wimpy minor character that it is hard to believe that Donna Anna would be attracted to him, or rely on for help and support. Not so in Henry’s hands. His was a character with purpose and strength – the kind of person with whom one could believe that Donna Anna would fall in love, have faith in helping her extract vengeance for her father’s murder, could deliver the goods and on whom she could rely emotionally. Vocally we have come to expect beautiful singing from Henry, but this performance is a watershed for him. The gorgeous tone of his lyrical tenor voice never sounded so good. His Act I aria (Dalla sua pace) was delivered with suave Mozartian finesse, a beautiful legato line, musical phrasing and colouring of dynamics. The audience didn’t breathe during the pianissimo repeat ! The rest of his performance was also vocal gold.
No doubt a few heads turned with the surprise casting of Jacqueline Dark as Donna Elvira. If this was her first attempt at what is usually a soprano role, you would not have known it. She revealed an upper register of power and beauty. In fact I like the tonal quality of her upper register even more than the lower register we are accustomed to when she is singing mezzo roles. In a recent interview she states she is sticking to mezzo and not considering changing to a dramatic soprano, but I hope she keeps this option open. Her music was sung with great style and flare. Her Act I aria (Ah, chi mi dice mai) and the included Act II aria (Non mi dir) were highlights. Her character too was something of a revelation. Elvira is often portrayed as a rebuffed, neurotic, stalking shrew, but in this production Dark gives us a heroic, heart-broken full-blooded woman, who accidentally stumbles on Giovanni rather than stalks him, and cares for him and his hopeless existence, taking the role to a much higher plain.
It was opulent casting with Taryn Fiebig and Andrew Jones as the peasant couple, Zerlina and Masetto. Both delivered very touching performances of their roles. Both also proved yet again they can do no wrong vocally.
Again it was opulent casting with the return of Daniel Sumegi to sing the pivotal role of the Commendatore. His sonorous bass (though almost rivalled by Rhodes), was impressive in the opening scene and as the stone guest. In the final scene he breaks down the walls of Don Giovanni’s palace, in response to the Don’s sarcastic dinner invitation and literally drags him down through the floor to hell while demons spin around the room singing a final chorus. The final epilogue omitted for the Elke Neidhardt production of Don Giovanni 2 years ago, was performed in this production – a vital piece of the Age of Enlightenment theme.
The performance was conducted by the extraordinary British conductor Mark Wigglesworth with dramatic pace. The Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra showed yet again why they are a National treasure with beautiful, accurate and responsive playing.
After the curtain calls were over, I just sat there wanting to see it all over again, but alas that wasn’t going to happen.
This was a truly amazing and spell binding performance of Don Giovanni. Musically phenomenal and the best performance of Don Giovanni I have seen in 41 years of opera going in 4 unique productions. Don’t miss it !
Making her role and house debut at the Royal Opera, Covent Garden, Jessica Pratt has scored considerable success. reviews are now starting to filter through.
George Hall writing in STAGE REVIEWS, comments she “supplies physical authority and all the money notes”.
Michael Church reports in THE INDEPENDENT, ”Jessica Pratt sails effortlessly through the Queen of the Night coloratura”
and in OPERA TODAY Clair Seymour comments “As the Queen of the Night, Jessica Pratt, making her role and house debut, had all the notes, and hit them cleanly. While her top notes were warm and true, without a hint of stridency or loss of power, her lower register projected less well”.
Despite a few quibbles by Ms Seymour, Jessica has accomplished an auspicious debut in one of the great opera houses of the world. Next LINDA DI CHAMOUNIX for Opera de Toulon, Elvira in I PURITANI at Teatro Verdi di Salerno, and Lucia at La Fenice, Venice.