A taciturn Glaswegian and an unlikely knight of the realm, David McVicar has directed several of Opera Australia’s most admired productions – The Marriage of Figaro and Faust being two of them. Currently the company is reviving McVicar’s production of Don Giovanni (until 27 February). First performed in 2014 with designs by Robert Jones, it is unlikely that these performances will eclipse memories of the 1991 production conceived by Göran Järvefelt, designed by Carl Friedrich Oberle. That 1991 production, revived many times in the following years, not only captured the elusive lightness in Mozart’s work, it was beautiful to look at and the arrival of the marble statue was truly startling.
Mozart and his librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte premiered Giovanni in Prague in 1787. They had successfully collaborated the previous year on The Marriage of Figaro and would again on Cosi fan tutti. Many serious people regard Giovanni as Mozart’s greatest opera. I don’t share that view. It’s not that sensitive #MeToo people may find the sexual predator all too much or that words sung by the survivors in the finale make Israel Folau seem tame; all that is to be expected in a story based on Don Juan or Casanova. I just don’t relate readily to the other characters; even the all-round good guy, Don Ottavio is a bit of a pain except when performed by David Hobson. Giovanni needs impeccable conducting and several stylish performers with sex appeal as well as great voices.
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