Opera Hunter, at Lake Macquarie Performing Arts Centre
Ends June 25
MOZART’S opera has the subtitle The Rake Punished, so it’s not surprising that the notorious womaniser gets more than he bargained for at the end of a day when he’s moving from one female conquest to another and trying to avoid the wrath of them and the men in their lives. But as this colourful and laugh-raising production shows, there is a lot of humour to the relationships as well as a dark side.
Opera Hunter is staging the first Australian production of a new English translation by Britain’s Jeremy Sams, with laughs especially being raised by the exchanges between the title character and his much put-upon manservant, Leporello, who makes sharp comments such as “Who’s dead? You or the old bloke?” when the Don returns from a duel with the father of one of the women he has captivated.
Director Michael Blaxland keeps the elegantly dressed cast briskly on the move, with bright musical accompaniment by the Christopher Bearman-conducted orchestra. Don Giovanni is a dashing figure in the words and movements of the two actors, Sepehr Irandoost and Alex Sefton, who alternate in the role, with women quickly being entranced by his smooth words. Tristan Entwhistle amusingly brings out Leporello’s frustrations, at one point asking the Don if he is “laying off the women”, only to receive the assertive response “Never! I like to share the passion inside me”. And there is a very funny scene where Leporello is forced by his master to disguise himself as the Don and serenade a reappeared former lover beneath her window.
The women in the Don’s life are understandably irate when he deserts them after a sexual encounter. Donna Anna (Pamela Andrews, Georgia Hall) makes her initially reluctant fiancee, Don Ottavio (Joshua Oxley), promise to avenge a brutal act by Giovanni; peasant Zerlina (Samanta Lestavel, Ashlee Woodgate) finds herself comforting her soon-to-be-husband, Masetto (Vincent Farrell), when he is thrashed by the Don after being tricked into surrendering a weapon; and Donna Elvira (Livia Brash), who has become a nun since being deserted by Giovanni, finds herself again being attracted to him. There are also darkly amusing sequences in which the spirit of Donna Anna’s deceased father, the Commendatore (Michael Saunders), shows his determination to make the Don pay for his womanising.
The delivery of the lyrics, by the principals and the ensemble, in scenes including a lavish party, are a credit to musical director Susan Hart, as well as the performers, and there are amusing sequences in which orchestra members join with their instruments in on-stage serenades by male characters.