Opera House, Wellington

17/04/2021 - 24/04/2021

Production Details

Wellington Opera will take audiences on a journey of musical and theatrical discovery, launching with Mozart’s masterpiece Don Giovanni at the Wellington Opera House April 2021. 

Wellington audiences are in for a real treat, with a dynamic New Zealand cast featuring many principals back in New Zealand on pause from their careers around the world. They include Christian Thurston (Don Giovanni) from Minnesota Opera, James Ioelu (Leporello) from London, Oliver Sewell (Don Ottavio) from New York, Natasha Wilson (Zerlina) back from Pittsburg Opera, and Paul Whelan (Commendatore) also from New York. Joel Amosa (Massetto) is a recent Lexus Song Quest winner, Amelia Berry (Donna Anna), one of our finest resident sopranos and the outstanding Amanda Atlas (Donna Elvira) with a string of international successes behind her.

The production of Don Giovanni is directed by Sara Brodie, with designer Meg Rollandi, and Matthew Ross as Music Director, with the Wellington Opera Chorus and Orchestra Wellington.

This is a bold yet timeless production offering food for thought for our times whilst embracing the theatricality of old.

Sung in Italian with English surtitles.

Opera House, Wellington
Saturday 17 April, 7:30pm
Tuesday 20th April, 6:30pm
Thursday 22nd April, 7:30pm
Saturday 24th April, 7:30pm

Theatre , Opera ,

3 hrs incl. interval. Sat, Tue, Thur, Sat.

A wonderfully enjoyable and provoking night out

Review by Michael Gilchrist 22nd Apr 2021

I know we shouldn’t be surprised by how fresh so much of Mozart’s operatic work always seems – but, in expert hands, somehow the trick always astonishes.  This is true particularly of The Marriage of Figaro and Don Giovanni.

These operas explore the intersection of patriarchy, power and the sex-gender system with an inimitable sense of humour and optimism that does nothing to obscure the force of their critique. That critique is famous for its efficacy in the case of The Marriage of Figaro in the lead up to the French Revolution. But in this smart, contemporary and carefully judged production, Don Giovanni feels equally salient.

Sara Brodie has already directed this opera for Opera New Zealand (in 2016, I think) and that experience seems to contribute to a very assured display in this production. With significantly fewer material resources, Brodie and her designers deftly employ a post-modern approach that is perfectly suited both to today’s gender sensibilities and the need for a deconstructed set and modest production values.

No-one can doubt the effectiveness of many of the tropes deployed by Brodie: the overwhelming List of Names; the rotating set that reveals a surprisingly fragile substructure behind the façade; the use of costumes for their signifying rather than historical accuracy; the deliberately absurd ploys of concealment and disclosure; the dramatic space allowed for the ‘grain of the voice’ to be heard; the huge, climactic ‘hollow man’. All of these serve to bring the hetero-normative nightmare of the drama and the monstrous embodiment of the Don vividly to life for a contemporary audience.

In terms of the orchestra and the cast we are also privileged to have uniformly fine performances. Publicity for the show makes much of the fact that by an accident of the COVID pandemic we have a collection of talent that would normally be much harder to assemble from the New Zealand opera diaspora. They are all in superb voice, with apparently faultless technique. This allows the director to provide space for their individuality. That, in turn, allows the audience to tune into the emotional content of each aria and register its subtleties, when we are more accustomed to the much more accessible demonstrations romantic opera. The result is aria after aria of gorgeous singing and unhindered enjoyment.

Each of the cast brings a unique superpower, contrasting wonderfully among the three sopranos: the purity and beauty of tone of Natasha Wilson’s Zerlina; the commanding strength and accuracy of Amelia Berry’s Donna Anna; the power and dramatic colouring Amanda Atlas brings to Donna Elvira. Then there is the rich, seductive baritone of Christian Thurston as Don Giovanni; the faultless bass and marvellously sustained comic invention and timing of James Ioelu as Leporello. Plus Oliver Sewell’s acting and passionate tenor voice as Don Ottavio; Joel Amosa’s marvellous physical and vocal presence as Masetto – and Paul Whelan bringing the appropriate authority and stentorian tones as Il Commendatore Don Pedro. The chorus are exemplary, with many future cast members in evidence, while Orchestra Wellington performed with its usual professionalism and admirable stamina.

This is an auspicious debut indeed for Opera Wellington and we are so fortunate to have a company emerge with such significant support from both public and private sources. Tribute must be paid also to Eternity Opera for pioneering the concept of a local opera company performing the essentials to an international standard (along with a love of Mozart). We are privileged in every way to have the opportunity to enjoy opera like this being produced in Wellington. Don’t miss a wonderfully enjoyable and provoking night out.


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A personal opinion from Stephen Gibbs

Review by Stephen Gibbs 20th Apr 2021

This Don Giovanni was outstanding.  
It humbled me: the richness of talent that New Zealand / Aotearoa possesses in all areas.  
The music was excellently performed by the orchestra and the singers.  
The lead singers / actors were superb and well cast.

The star was Oliver Sewell as Don Ottavio – a beautiful voice.
The highlight of the opera was undoubtedly the direction from Sara Brodie – creative, innovative, and subtle.
And the ultimate demise of Don Giovanni will live with me for a long time! [More


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Brings the #metoo movement to the stage

Review by Ines Maria Almeida 20th Apr 2021

Did you know the greatest and most influential composer in the history of Western music also had a sense of humour and a potty mouth to match? I didn’t either, but I do now.

Cue Don Giovanni, Mozart’s outrageous comedy that tells a tale based on notorious scoundrel, lothario extraordinaire, Don Juan. Don Juan was written in 1787 by Spanish writer Tirso de Molina, a Roman Catholic Monk.

These days the ladies would call Don Giovanni (Christian Thurston) a jerk or perhaps a sexual predator, rather than an irresistible, irresponsible yet lovable cad, but hey! This is how things rolled in the 17th century. [More]
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Raising the curtain on Wellington Opera

Review by Elizabeth Kerr 20th Apr 2021

An expectant buzz from the large opening night audience quietened as house lights dimmed and the familiar Overture for Mozart’s opera Don Giovanni began. Unusually the curtain was already raised on a minimal set – the facade of house, a single chandelier behind and a ladder. Do we recognise the nobleman climbing that ladder to an upstairs bedroom while his servant keeps nervous watch? And who is that beautiful young woman in the window above?

Then, unexpectedly, the curtain fell while the overture continued. A new opera company had begun its premiere production with a teasing glimpse of three principal characters and a hint of a evening that might contain some surprises.

The biggest surprise may be that Matthew Ross, Artistic Director of Wellington Opera, and his team of creative artists, funders and supporters have chosen to launch a new opera company into a world where curtains began coming down on the performing arts worldwide over a year ago. But perhaps the times have facilitated this audacious decision? New Zealand audiences seem eager for live events, many talented young singers came here as overseas opportunities dried up and Wellingtonians’ hunger for opera is not currently fully satisfied by our national company.

Don Giovanni is also a considered choice. Mozart’s operas are beloved in the popular repertoire and the #metoo movement offers contemporary relevance to this tale of a heartless libertine pursuing sexual gratification without care for those he hurts. [More


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