Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

Anna Bolena in Lisbon

Donizetti’s Anna Bolena, composed in 1830, didn’t make it to Lisbon until 1843 when there were 14 performances at its magnificent Teatro São Carlos (opened 1793), and there were 17 more performances spread over the next two decades. The entire twentieth century saw but three (3) performances in this European capital.

Oh, What a Night in San Jose

It is difficult to know where to begin to praise the stunning achievement of Opera San Jose’s West Coast premiere of Silent Night.

Billy Budd in Madrid

Like Carmen, Billy Budd is an operatic personage of such breadth and depth that he becomes unique to everyone. This signals that there is no Billy Budd (or Carmen) who will satisfy everyone. And like Carmen, Billy Budd may be indestructible because the opera will always mean something to someone.

A riveting Nixon in China at the Concertgebouw

American composer John Adams turns 70 this year. By way of celebration no less than seven concerts in this season’s NTR ZaterdagMatinee series feature works by Adams, including this concert version of his first opera, Nixon in China.

English song: shadows and reflections

Despite the freshness, passion and directness, and occasional wry quirkiness, of many of the works which formed this lunchtime recital at the Wigmore Hall - given by mezzo-soprano Kathryn Rudge, pianist James Baillieu and viola player Guy Pomeroy - a shadow lingered over the quiet nostalgia and pastoral eloquence of the quintessentially ‘English’ works performed.

A charming Pirates of Penzance revival at ENO

'Nobody does Gilbert and Sullivan anymore.’ This was the comment from many of my friends when I mentioned the revival of Mike Leigh's 2015 production of The Pirates of Penzance at English National Opera (ENO). Whilst not completely true (English Touring Opera is doing Patience next month), this reflects the way performances of G&S have rather dropped out of the mainstream. That Leigh's production takes the opera on its own terms and does not try to send it up, made it doubly welcome.

A Relevant Madama Butterfly

On Feb 3, 2017, Arizona Opera presented Giacomo Puccini’s dramatic opera Madama Butterfly. Sandra Lopez was the naive fifteen-year-old who falls hopelessly in love with the American Naval Officer.

Johan Reuter sings Brahms with Wiener Philharmoniker

In the last of my three day adventure, I headed to Vienna for the Wiener Philharmoniker at the Musikverein (my first time!) for Mahler and Brahms.

Gatti and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra Head to Asia

In Amsterdam legend Janine Jansen and the seventh Principal Conductor of the Royal Concertgebouw, Daniele Gatti, came together for their first engagement in a ravishing performance of Berg’s Violin Concerto.

Verdi’s Requiem with the Berliner Philharmoniker

I extravagantly scheduled hearing the Berliner, Concertgebouw Orchestra, and Wiener Philharmoniker, to hear these three top orchestra perform their series programmes opening the New Year.

Jeanne d'Arc au bûcher in Lyon

There is no bigger or more prestigious name in avant-garde French theater than Romeo Castellucci (b. 1960), the Italian metteur en scène of this revival of Arthur Honegger’s mystère lyrique, Joan of Arc at the Stake (1938) at the Opéra Nouvel in Lyon.

A New Look at Mozart’s Abduction from the Seraglio

On January 28, 2017, Los Angeles Opera premiered James Robinson’s nineteen twenties production of Mozart’s The Abduction from the Seraglio, which places the story on the Orient Express. Since Abduction is a work with spoken dialogue like The Magic Flute, the cast sang their music in German and spoke their lines in English.

Giasone in Geneva

Fecund Jason, father of his wife Isifile’s twins and as well father of his seductress Medea’s twins, does indeed have a problem — he prefers to sleep with and wed Medea. In this resurrection of the most famous opera of the seventeenth century he evidently also sleeps with Hercules.

Falstaff in Genoa

A Falstaff that raised-the-bar ever higher, this was a posthumous resurrection of Luca Ronconi’s masterful staging of Verdi’s last opera, the third from last of the 83 operas Ronconi staged during his lifetime (1933-2015). And his third staging of Falstaff following Salzburg in 1993 and Florence in 2006.

Traviata in Seattle

One of Aidan Lang’s first initiatives as artistic director of Seattle Opera was to encourage his board to formulate a “mission statement” for the fifty-year old company. The document produced was clear, simple, and anodyne. Seattle Opera would aim above all to create work appealing both to the emotions and reason of the audience.

Wagner at the Deutsche Oper Berlin Part II: Kasper Holten’s angelic Lohengrin

Contrary to Stolzi’s multidimensional Parsifal, Holten’s simple setting of Lohengrin felt timeless with its focus on the drama between characters. Premiering in 2012, nothing too flashy and with a clever twist,

Wagner at the Deutsche Oper Berlin Part I: Stölzl’s Psychedelic Parsifal

Deutsche Oper Berlin (DOB) consistently serves up superlatively sung Wagner productions. This Fall, its productions of Philipp Stölzl's Parsifal and Kasper Holten's Lohengrin offered intoxicating musical affairs. Annette Dasch, Klaus Florian Vogt, and Peter Seiffert reached for the stars. Even when it comes down to last minute replacements, the casting is topnotch.

Donna abbandonata: Temple Song Series

Donna abbandonata would have been a good title for the first concert of Temple Music’s 2017 Song Series. Indeed, mezzo-soprano Christine Rice seems to be making a habit of playing abandoned women.

Fortepiano Schubert : Wigmore Hall

The Wigmore Hall complete Schubert song series continued with a recital by Georg Nigl and Andreas Staier. Staier's a pioneer, promoting the use of fortepiano in Schubert song. In Schubert's time, modern concert pianos didn't exist. Schubert and his contemporaries would have been familiar with a lighter, brighter sound. Over the last 30 years, we've come to better understand Schubert and his world through the insights Staier has given us. His many performances, frequently with Christoph Prégardien at the Wigmore Hall, have always been highlights.

Baroque at the Edge: London Festival of Baroque Music, 12-20 May 2017

On 9 January 2017 the London Festival of Baroque Music (formerly the Lufthansa Festival of Baroque Music) announced its programme for 2017. The Festival theme for 2017 is Baroque at the Edge. Inspired by the anniversaries of Monteverdi (450th of birth) and Telemann (250th of death) the Festival explores the ways that composers and performers have pushed at the chronological, stylistic, geographical and expressive boundaries of the Baroque era.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

W. A. Mozart: Don Giovanni [Victorian Opera]
15 Mar 2009

Don Giovanni — Victorian Opera

Each Australia state maintains its own opera company. The dominant company is Opera Australia, a permanent ensemble based at the Sydney Opera House but which originated in the Melbourne based National Theatre Opera Company in the 1940s.

W. A. Mozart: Don Giovanni

Michelle Buscemi: Zerlina; Andrew Collis: Leporello; Samuel Dundas: Don Giovanni; James Egglestone: Don Ottavio: Steven Gallop: The Commendatore; Anthony Mackey: Masetto; Tiffany Speight: Donna Elvira; Caroline Wenborne: Donna Anna. Victorian Opera. Richard Gill/Nicholas Carter: Conductors. Jean-Pierre Mignon: Director.

 

Headed by the Melba protégée soprano Gertrude Johnson the company grew in stature and by the 1950s featured expatriate singers such as Marjorie Lawrence (whose centenary passed on 17 February this year) as Amneris in Aida and another Melba protégée John Brownlee as Don Giovanni. The company gave joint seasons in Sydney with the National Opera of New South Wales. The Sydney company recruited many of the singers from Johnson’s company and, in 1956 as part of the larger Australian Elizabethan Theatre Trust founded what is now Opera Australia. As a national company a requirement of Opera Australia’s funding is that it tour but performances outside of Sydney are almost exclusively to Melbourne for seasons between April and June and November and December each year.

Meanwhile companies established in other sates during the 1960s and in 1976 the Victoria State Opera formed and seasons by both companies continued until 1996 when financial difficulties caused the Victorian company to be absorbed by the national company and cease to exist. A decade later Victorian Opera was founded under the artistic direction of former Opera Australia staff conductor Richard Gill. Productions are modest to look at and use emerging singers but the musical preparation is scrupulous and the singers perform the roles rather than learn them as rarely-performing covers as trainees in a larger company would do.

French director Jean Pierre Mignon has long been resident in Australia where he established a theatre company that produced, among other things, Molière’s version of the Don Juan legend. Mignon’s production of the opera is reminiscent of Molière’s farce and the intimacy of the production allows for subtle comedy more than usual in the opera. The Don himself (Samuel Dundas), dressed in a gleaming white costume, the reverse of his true colours, is an arrogant and conceited young pup (that so young-looking a Don has notched up so many conquests beggars’ belief). Although his voice is still young and light toned, he uses it with great skill, projecting the text in very good Italian and giving it shape and nuance. He has a good grasp of the Don’s mercurial character too, physically handsome he also conveys the swaggering, aristocratic arrogance and, above all, the snake-eyed charm. With only two modest arias Don Giovanni’s persona lives through music involving other characters. Dundas savors these moments and is even more impressive in the recititative passages, making them carry the bulk of his characterization. An example is the brief scene with Zerlina (Michelle Buscemi) before their duet “La ci darem la mano” where he seems to taste the honey of his own words. Only the softest parts of the music, the opening phrase of “La ci darem” and the mandolin serenade need the elusive legato.

DonGiovanni_Melbourne2.png

Samuel Dundas (Don Giovanni) and Andrew Collis (Leporello) [Photo by Jeff Busby/Victorian Opera]

Zerlina’s music suits Buscemi’s silvery voice and she conveys Zerlina's gentle eroticism, ecstatically sighing the words “toccami qua” in ‘Vedrai, carino’ with same understanding as Dundas conveying Giovanni’s lust. Tiffany Speight sings regularly with Opera Australia and has established herself in the lighter Mozart roles. A splendid Zerlina she steps up to the dominant female character Donna Elvira. Speights’s radiant soprano easily encompassed the music including the often-difficult lower passages in the epilogue and elsewhere. She is a very subtle comedienne too, doomed by her unshakable obsession with the faithless Don her Elvira flusters like a frustrated schoolmistress. The Prague version of the opera was performed (eliminating Don Ottavio’s “Dalla sua pace” and Elvira’s “Mi tradi”) which is a pity as Speight would have crowned a spectacular performance had she been allowed “Mi Tradi”. As Don Giovanni’s sidekick Andrew Collis is another more experienced singer who creates an oily Leporello, the director relating him back to the character, Sganarelle, in Molière’s play. His ‘catalogue’ aria bubbles with vulgarity and just a hint of admiration for his master’s virility. With no sign of stage nerves, Dundas is a natural clown too and with Speight and Collis made the serenading scene in act two hilarious without undermining the beauty of the music.

Donna Anna’s music presented a challenge to Caroline Wenborne but she managed the difficult fioritura without any compromises. The fearful drama in "Or sai chi l'onore" was less evident but again her performance was musically intelligent. James Egglestone was equally adept at Don Ottavio's 'Il mio tesoro'. Pity his “Dalla su pace” was omitted as it would have suited his well supported and focused tenor voice. The vocal preparation of all of the soloists was obviously thorough and the intimate scale allowed for some dramatic details that would never work in a larger theatre. The Don, for example, gives Zerlina a flower which drops suggestively from her hand at the end of “La ci darem la mano” and is retrieved and re-used, like the Don's come-on lines, until it ends up planted in Elvira's hopeful cleavage.

Richard Roberts’s set is a marvel of economy, transforming from back streets to a Moorish palace and sinister tomb. Steeply raked and angled it suggested the endless corners Don Giovanni backs into and escapes from. Performed in the old National Theatre (named after Johnson’s enterprise and where a portrait of her, knife raised, as the Queen of the Night fearlessly protects what remains of her legacy) which seats 500 has the intimacy to put Mozart’s masterpiece under a microscope. With a small chorus it was played and sung without perhaps the greatest refinement but with undoubted professionalism and a constant feeling for the excitement of the story and the music.

3, 5, 7, 10, 12 & 14 March, followed by a metropolitan and regional Victorian tour between 28 March and 25 April 2009

Michael Magnusson

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):