Hannah Playhouse, Cnr Courtenay Place & Cambridge Terrace, Wellington

20/08/2016 - 27/08/2016

Production Details

The impulsive and charismatic Don Giovanni travels through 18th century Spain seducing women, accompanied by his long-suffering servant Leporello. But when Don Giovanni commits murder, he unleashes a dark power beyond his control.

Don Giovanni continues to seduce and betray with his usual rapacity. Haunted by the ghost of the murdered man, he decides to invite him to dinner. The ghost urges him to repent – but Don Giovanni will not.

Mozart’s classic opera Don Giovanni – first staged in 1787 – offers boundless scope for directors. Well known New Zealand film director Alex Galvin’s first opera is rich in both colourful comedy and exhilarating drama.

At the heart of the production are the beauty and invention of Mozart’s dazzling score, which ranges from gorgeous arias and dramatic duets to the brilliant layering of dance melodies that bring Act I to a virtuoso close.

Sung in English with an esteemed chamber orchestra, this production of Don Giovanni will be like no other seen in New Zealand.

Sat 20 – Sat 27 August 2016
7.30pm except Tuesday, 6pm
(No shows Sunday, Monday or Friday)
BOOK here

1st Cast: August 20, 23, 25, 27 / 2nd Cast: August 24
Don Giovanni… Mark Bobb / Orene Tiai
Commendatore… Roger Wilson / Derek Miller
Don Ottavio… Jamie Young / Chris Berentson
Donna Anna… Barbara Paterson / Amanda Barclay
Donna Elvira… Kate Lineham / Hannah Jones
Leporello… Jamie Henare / Nino Raphael
Masetto… Laurence Walls / Charles Wilson
Zerlina… Emily Mwila

Chorus & Dancers( All Nights):
Taryn Baxter
Sarah Munn
Minto Fung
India Rose Skilton Loveday
Jessica Short

Assistant Director - Ivana Palezevic
Choreographer - Taryn Baxter
Stunt Co-coordinator - Benjamin Fransham
Stage Manager - Hugh Philip
Costume HOD - Sylvia Gilbert-Potts
Hair Design - Allie Rutherford
Make Up HOD - Bethany Sturt
Art Department - Frankie Allard
Lighting Design - Anna Robinson
Lighting Operator - Michelle Mae Cameron
Stills/ Photographer - Ash Rockett

Concertmaster Douglas Beilman
Violin Anna van der Zee
Viola Victoria Jänecke
Cello Inbal Megiddo
Double Bass Victoria Jones
Flute Timothy Jenkin
Oboe Merrran Cooke
Clarinet Moira Hurst, Mark Cookson
Bassoon Leni Mäckle, Peter Lamb
Horn Edward Allen
Flamenco and Spanish Guitars Christopher Hill 

Theatre , Opera ,

Wonderfully engrossing

Review by Pepe Becker 22nd Aug 2016

In a world where performances all too often use spectacular staging or clever re-contextualising in order to keep an audience’s attention, it’s a joy to behold this superbly honest production of Mozart’s well-known and well-loved tragi-comic Don Giovanni. Set in its original time and place (the late 1780s in Spain) and sung in English, it is presented in such a way that the work can speak to us now as it would have to listeners in its own time: as a chamber opera which explores timeless themes against the backdrop of morals and beliefs of a specific era.

Minimal yet highly effective staging (constructed by Darren Ward and others), wonderful costumes (by Sylvia Gilbert-Potts and others) and lighting (designed by Anna Robinson), period-appropriate dances (choreographed by Taryn Baxter) and combat scenes (devised by Ben Fransham and others), beautifully clear playing from the excellent chamber orchestra (un-pitted and in full view, so we have the added delight of seeing the interactions cast members have with instrumentalists and conductor, Simon Romanos) – all these aspects help draw us intimately into the drama as it unfolds. 

Don Giovanni, a despicable womaniser, uses his nobility to ‘pluck any flower’ he chooses. Early on in the opera, we are witness to his being ‘caught in the act’ with Donna Anna, who is horrified yet strangely intrigued by him. When her father, the Commendatore discovers them, a fight ensues and Don Giovanni kills him. Anna’s fiancé, Don Ottavio consoles her, agrees to avenge her father’s death then seizes the opportunity to suggest they might like to bring their marriage forward apace …

When Donna Elvira, Giovanni’s previous lover, learns of his exploits, she is devastated and bitter, yet somehow still can’t let him go from her heart. Later, as peasants celebrate the wedding of the coquettish young Zerlina to Masetto, Giovanni goes for her too. He’s incorrigible! As several of his wronged lovers set about to bring him to justice, he is haunted by the ghost-statue of the Commendatore, and we see him gradually unravel, refusing to repent, yet eventually succumbing to inevitable damnation …

Giovanni’s servant, Leporello, both enables and despises his master’s endless pursuit of women, which is wonderfully summed up in the famous ‘catalogue aria’ where he lists the Don’s hundreds of conquests. Jamie Henare is brilliant as the Don’s loyal yet long-suffering lackey: from his first comical moments of declaring he’d rather be the master, to his desperation and frustration as events become more and more twisted and complicated, he has us in the palm of his hand. Vocally and dramatically, he is totally convincing in his role, as are most of the main characters. 

Oddly, the least convincing vocally is Mark Bobb, in the title role. His diction is good, though the singing voice itself lacks enough projection to fully bloom in the space. But he certainly embraces his character fully, and is utterly enthralling and engaging in all aspects of Giovanni’s dramatic journey as he transforms from suave seducer to bestial brute. Plus, his roguish charm even has us sometimes liking him (just a bit), despite our better judgement!

Roger Wilson is commanding in stature and voice as the Commendatore and makes good use of every formidable moment on stage. His singing is robust, authoritative and strong in his initial short scene, and even more so ‘post-mortem’ when he reappears as the stony spectre.

Barbara Paterson, as his daughter Donna Anna, is also very well-cast. With steely voice, flexible coloratura and expressive movements – sometimes perhaps a little overdone though not entirely out of place, as this is a bit of a melodrama, let’s face it! – she owns the stage with her passionate delivery. 

Jamie Young plays Don Ottavio, the persistent yet patient lover of Anna, with great stamina and consistently well-supported tone. This role demands a lot of the tenor voice, and he tackles it, particularly in his solo arias, with aplomb and great dignity. 

Kate Lineham, as Donna Elvira, uses her beautifully rounded yet clear voice to full advantage in portraying her character’s inner conflicts. She is particularly lovely in her warm lower register, consistently expressive throughout her range, and her ability to draw us in to the emotions is very moving. 

Emily Mwhila possesses a radiantly bright yet velvety tone in her singing, and is a delightfully convincing mix of naivety and manipulative flirtatiousness in her portrayal of Zerlina. Laurence Walls is also excellent as Masetto, the long-suffering groom of this easily-led-astray maid, his voice sure and true, well-modulated to alternately show his devotion to, and his mistrust of, her. 

A particular highlight for me is hearing these wonderful individual voices combined in the moral summing up of Don Giovanni’s demise, in the melodically rich and complex sextet near the end of Act 2. It’s a fine thing to behold a group of soloists who are also great at blending. 

Mozart’s score is intricate, dramatic, elegant and virtuosic, and it makes total sense to have a reduced orchestra (one instrument to a part mostly) in this venue, so the singers are well supported yet never overpowered, and individual lines can be clearly heard.

Special mentions must be made of the concertmaster, Douglas Beilman, who leads the ensemble with finesse and sensitivity, and the guitarist, Christopher Hill, who provides excellently-timed continuo in the recitatives and adds Flamencan flair to the Don’s serenading. Although there are a few moments where singers and conductor are not quite in sync, the instrumental playing is superb throughout.

The well-balanced and vibrant singing of the chorus is also a thrill to hear, and it’s worth noting that several of them – Nino Raphael, Orene Tiai, Amanda Barclay, Derek Miller, Chris Berentson, Hannah Catrin Jones and Charles Wilson – will be taking a turn at the main roles for a mid-week performance. Every one of these singers is very capable as a soloist, and this shows in the fine, musical quality of their ensemble singing.  

Director Alex Galvin’s background in film is a true asset here: his attention to detail and integrity with regard to the dramatic and comical elements shows through in the very convincing acting from all the cast, who have clearly given much thought to character development within the opera’s plot. The show is wonderfully engrossing and we really do feel involved in it.

Alex Galvin, and the whole cast and crew should be hugely proud of this achievement, the first production of Eternity Opera Company, whose aim is to stage shows that are “exciting and accessible to anyone”.

May it be the first of many, and may the company have the longevity its name implies! Viva a liberta! 


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