The West

Review: Don Giovanni
Review: Don Giovanni

Don Giovanni
West Australian Opera with the WA Symphony Orchestra

In more than half a century of attending productions of Mozart's masterpiece, I cannot readily recall a more entirely persuasive Don Giovanni - in both vocal and dramatic terms - than Teddy Tahu Rhodes, who brings the Don brilliantly to life and comes across most emphatically as a Mozart stylist of distinction.

Like a tomcat on heat, constantly on the prowl - and utterly indifferent to the havoc and heartbreak he causes - Rhodes moves across the stage as if it is his natural milieu. With his faultless diction, he is undoubtedly the star of the evening.

Leporello, the Don's long-suffering sidekick, is brought, often hilariously, to life by James Clayton, who has a fine feel for what works in comic terms. He is no less convincing, vocally, than Rhodes.

Nicole Car, too, is perfectly cast as Donna Anna, another of the Don's callously cast-aside conquests whose father, the Commendatore, is killed by the Don in a sword fight.

Jud Arthur is beyond reproach both as the Commendatore and in the last act, as his statue-come-to-life who wreaks horrific vengeance against the Don. At the opera's shattering climax, the Don is taken down to a fiery hell, pursued and beaten by demons. In visual terms, this is a spectacular moment.

Sara Macliver is a consistently delightful, pert Zerlina, the peasant girl, and Henry Choo brings a splendidly mellow vocal tone and fine stage presence to the role of Don Ottavio. Katja Webb, too, is entirely persuasive as Donna Elvira.

Burhan Guner has done wonders with the opera chorus, who sing beautifully - and the choristers' dancing is a bucolic delight. Throughout, helpful English surtitles are flashed on to screens on either side of the stage. Nigel Levings' lighting design does wonders, too, in establishing and enhancing mood, with the action playing out against Carl Oberle's cleverly designed, all-purpose set.

Brian Castles-Onion, that veteran of innumerable operas, presides over events from the pit, invariably, and crucially, securing sensible, workable tempos from the WA Symphony Orchestra which, for much of the evening, gives point and meaning to the score.

If, after attending a performance of Don Giovanni, you come to the view that it is the greatest opera ever written, you're in very good company. Rossini, Gounod and Wagner all thought so, too. If you've not already booked to see this production, hasten to do so. This Don Giovanni is simply too good to miss.

The West Australian

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