CBS Canterbury Arena, Christchurch

22/08/2013 - 24/08/2013

St James Theatre 2, Wellington

11/10/2014 - 18/10/2014

ASB Theatre, Aotea Centre, Auckland

18/09/2014 - 28/09/2014

Production Details

The thrill of opera returns to Christchurch 

“As with all great pieces, the possibilities for Don Giovanni are endless, which is why it will continue to be performed forever. If Mozart is Shakespeare, then Don Giovanni is his Hamlet – an eternal work which continues to ask questions of performers and audiences.” – Mark Stone, Don Giovanni 

Opera, in all its thrilling glory, returns to Christchurch in August when New Zealand Opera presents Mozart’s masterpiece, Don Giovanni, a work that shows the art form at its very best.

Don Giovanni is one of the greatest and most popular of all operas. With a hedonistic womaniser at its heart who will stop at nothing to exercise his free will and make a conquest (librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte was a friend of Casanova), Don Giovanni remains a very contemporary piece, with its questioning of social convention and the moral code.

Don Giovanni is New Zealand Opera’s first main-stage production in Christchurch since Southern Opera joined the company last year. “Christopher Doig initiated Southern Opera’s move to become part of the national company,” Aidan Lang, General Director of NZ Opera says, “so with Don Giovanni we’re paying special tribute to Chris.”

And Cantabrians will play a big part in the production. “From singers in the Christchurch-based Chapman Tripp Opera Chorus, to musicians in the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra, to the production’s director, Christchurch-born Sara Brodie, we are embracing the wealth of artistic talent in Canterbury,” Lang says.

Working with a grand, visually imposing set, Director Sara Brodie will take a fresh and incisive approach to this enigmatic work.

“Sara also has a reputation for getting great theatrical results from her singers,” Lang says. “So with a cast that includes top New Zealand singing actors Jonathan Lemalu and Anna Leese, along with high-flying British baritone Mark Stone as Don Giovanni, what you see on stage will be thrilling, while Mozart’s dramatic music will sound as sublime as ever under the baton of our effervescent Director of Music, Wyn Davies.”

Don Giovanni is presented by New Zealand Opera in association with the Christchurch Arts Festival. It is sung in Italian with English surtitles.

CBS Canterbury Arena, Christchurch
Wed 21, Thu 22 August – 7:00pm, Sat 24 August – 2:00pm
Single Tickets: $49.50 to $124.50. Concessions available for benefactors, senior citizens, students and group bookings. Service fees apply.
Bookings: NZ Opera Box Office, Tel 0800 NZOPERA/696 737, (09) 379 4068 or (04) 499 8343, or:
Ticketek, Tel 0800 TICKETEK (0800 842 538) or 

2014 seasons

The Ultimate Seduction 

“Here for a good time, not a long time” might well be the motto of Don Giovanni, opera’s greatest anti-hero. A thoroughly hedonistic womaniser, he will stop at nothing – even murder – in the pursuit of pleasure. 

Mozart’s liveliest, most extreme and most romantic music draws the image of a human being who knows that his existence is not infinite, and therefore wants to make the most of his time on earth. 

Sung in Italian with English surtitles.
Duration: Approximately 3 hours including a 20 minute interval.

September 18—28 2014
ASB Theatre, Aotea Centre
Thursday 18, 7:30pm
Saturday 20, 7:30pm
Wednesday 24, 7:30pm
Friday 26, 7:30pm
Sunday 28, 2:30pm 

Pre-show Talks
20, 24, 26 September 6.30pm; 28 September 1.30pm
Air New Zealand foyer, Level 5, Aotea Centre
Opera Exposed & Friends Night
24 September from 6.30pm 

Dinner option Auckland
In Auckland enjoy a superb two course meal and glass of wine at Hotel DeBrett’s award winning Kitchen Restaurant. Pre-Opera dinner packages are available at $45 per person (book now with Hotel DeBrett on 09 969 1545).

Tickets on sale now.
AUCKLAND – Ticketmaster: 0800 111 999
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October 11—18 2014 
St James Theatre
Saturday 11, 7:30PM
Tuesday 14, 6:00PM
Thursday 16, 7:30PM
Saturday 18, 7:30PM

Pre-show Talks
14 October 5pm; 16, 18 October 6.30pm
Hospitality Suite, 1st Floor Gallery, St James Theatre
Opera Exposed & Friends Night
14 October from 5pm

Dinner option Wellington
In our capital city, Wellington, enjoy a fabulous pre-Opera Bistro meal with the ever-wonderful Logan Brown Restaurant for $49.50 per person (book now with Logan Brown on 04 801 5114).

Tickets on sale now.
WELLINGTON – Ticketek: 0800 842 538
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Don Giovanni:  MARK STONE 
Donna Elvira:  ANNA LEESE 
Don Ottavio:  NICKY SPENCE 
Commendatore:  RICHARD GREEN 

Conductor:  WYN DAVIES
Director:  SARA BRODIE
Set Designer:  JOHN VERRYT
Costume Designer:  ELIZABETH WHITING
Lighting Designer:  JEREMY FERN 

Accompanied by the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra 
Featuring the Chapman Tripp Opera Chorus 

2014 seasons

Accompanied by the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra and Orchestra Wellington.
With the Chapman Tripp Opera Chorus.

Mark Stone:  Don Giovanni  
Warwick Fyfe:  Leporello  
Anna Leese:  Donna Elvira  
Lisa Harper-Brown:  Donna Anna  
Jaewoo Kim:  Don Ottavio  
Jud Arthur:  Commendatore  
Amelia Berry:  Zerlina  
Robert Tucker:  Masetto  



The Don still retains charms in modern twist

Review by Roger Wilson 13th Oct 2014

If the heart sank at the announcement that ‘the opera of all operas’ had been updated, any misgivings at director Sara Brodie’s setting Don Giovanni in a squalid 21st-century Spain of graffiti-sprayed walls, homeless drunks, party drugs and selfies were immediately dispelled from the very beginning of this brilliant production.

Possible incongruities and anachronisms, such as an elegant minuet played in a seedy nightclub with pole dancers in the background, were ingeniously circumvented and really didn’t matter anyway.

The genius of Don Giovanni lies in the seamless coexistence of serious and comic opera, and if this production veered more towards the latter that was no bad thing. [More]


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A triumph

Review by Jonathan Kingston-Smith and Pepe Becker 12th Oct 2014

We are introduced to the world of NZ Opera’s interpretation of Don Giovanni via a grainy image on a close-circuit TV: the white noise hiss of the screen lighting an otherwise darkened stage. And what a stage set! Classical style architecture, all ornamented columns and doorways, here degraded and wearied, snarled with tangles of graffiti and dripping with neon. 

This is not your typical rendering of Mozart’s opera. Instead it transplants the action to a grimy, urban sprawl of night clubs and alleyways. This has selfies, smartphones, pole-dancers, DJs and hen parties. There are nods to drug abuse and homelessness. Everyone seems to carry guns. On paper this sounds like a misstep: a director or production designer trying to push the piece into stranger, rougher waters, amping up the squallor and decadence in a bid to appeal to a younger or more jaded audience.  It threatens to be simply unnecessary. In reality it works startlingly well. This production also wisely (if perhaps a little sadly) opts to jettison the supernatural elements of the opera.

Don Giovanni is the kind of man that even his best friend (Leporello) describes as a “womanising pillock”. The opera opens with him pursuing the Commendatore’s daughter, Donna Anna (Lisa Harper-Brown, who, after beginning rather tentatively, grows to exhibit more passion and vocal weight as the drama unfolds). The plot synopsis describes this as a ‘seduction’ although later elaborations in the libretto make it sound more like an attempted sexual assault.

He, however, fails in this pursuit when Donna Anna’s cries of protestation summon her father (Jud Arthur, commanding in both stature and voice), who confronts Giovanni. They each draw knives and a few minutes later Giovanni can add ‘murder’ to his list of transgressions. He flees but Anna, swearing vengeance, draws her fiancé – Don Ottavio – into the melée.  Very fine work here from Jaewoo Kim, though his performance is more insular than that of some other singers. 

None of this seems to throw our compelling anti-hero off his game though, for he quickly sets his sights upon another conquest. This time he is thwarted when it is rapidly revealed that said woman is none other than Donna Elvira, whom he has previously seduced and abandoned. Needless to say, she is not best pleased with him. Cue a hilarious scene in which Leporello – who simultaneously condemns Giovanni’s womanising ways while enabling them – distracts Elvira during Giovanni’s escape by listing his conquests (off a smartphone, no less). They number in the thousands: in Spain alone, “mille e tre!”. 

Soon our wolfish protagonist happens upon a wedding party celebrating the marriage of Zerlina and Masetto. The latter (well sung by Robert Tucker, whose voice doesn’t naturally project so easily, though he covers this with fine fricative expression) is a crude piece of work with chains dangling from his waist and a controlling manner about him, and there is something of the masochist to Zerlina as well, as a later aria with him reveals. Giovanni sets his glinting peepers upon the lovely Zerlina.

Look, there’s no way that this is going to end well. In fact it all builds towards a gloriously intense, incendiary climax of lynch mobs and glimpses of Hell. 

Mark Stone fully inhabits the swagger and sexual menace of Giovanni, kitted out in an ankle-length leather coat. His rich baritone has a thrillingly unyielding property. As his lackey – sex-pest Leporello, resplendent in brightly-coloured braces and alien logo T-shirt – Warwick Fyfe provides delightful comic relief and also an additional humanity. He performs with wonderful physicality.

Anna Leese – as Donna Elvira – draws on her consummate experience in the use of different vocal colours (however, the effort required for these effects is sometimes evident). Amelia Berry as Zerlina has a lovely natural quality in her singing which flows into her acting. 

All of the leads acquit themselves well, although there is some evidence of a rushed phrase here and there, with singers glossing over their final notes in a bid to make it to their next breath, as well as the occasional inaccuracy of pitch in the recitatives. For the most part, this contributes to the naturalistic – and highly modern – feel of the production, successfully replicating speech patterns.

However, it should be noted that a Puccini opera would have worn the Sprechstimme effects somewhat better than Mozart’s late Baroque/early Classical writing which requires greater clarity. So while the usage of this technique is tremendously effective within the context of the modernised narrative, it does seem a little incongruous when measured against the music itself. 

The chorus work is confident and full-bodied, showing excellent preparation under Michael Vinten, and the staging makes entertaining use of the entire cast. In some orchestral interludes the dance grooves are unexpectedly well-matched to the simple waltz rhythms – special kudos to the chorus member in the green shirt and pants, for his terrifyingly accurate and gawky dance moves. Throughout the opera there are beautiful moments of physical comedy and vignettes (particularly of note during the overture). 

The orchestra, under the baton of the venerable Wyn Davies, deliver a stunning display of tight, organised and deeply professional playing, with wonderful dynamic range and fine ensemble work. They clearly benefit from the elevated level of the pit, thus allowing Mozart’s cleverly-voiced orchestral lines to soar across the audience. However, while the harpsichordist (uncredited) delivers a fine performance, they would benefit immensely from using an actual harpsichord rather than the tinny-sounding electronic keyboard they seem to be playing. 

All told, NZ Opera’s production of Don Giovanni is a triumph for director Sara Brodie: set design (adaptation by John Verryt) is magnificent and imaginative, Jeremy Fox’s lighting is used cleverly and creates a fine sense of atmosphere, and the costuming work of Elizabeth Whiting is wide-ranging and suitably gaudy. 

A fascinating facet of this production is the removal of the supernatural elements (a vengeful ghost speaking through a statue, in case you’re curious). Certainly these aspects would jar with the opera’s grittier, more contemporary tone and their excision is deftly handled, conveyed entirely by physical action so as not to alter the libretto. It does, however, give the final piece for chorus a darker, morally-ambiguous tone; these are no longer innocent victims of Giovanni’s vile corruption, as they were in Mozart’s work, instead they are people who have just done something terrible in the name of moral justice.


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Striking set sizzles

Review by Sharu Delilkan 23rd Sep 2014

When I heard that the NZ Opera was finally staging Don Giovanni, after it had been performed at the Christchurch Arts Festival last year, I was adamant not to miss this larger than life production. And unlike some productions that promise a lot and deliver very little, this NZ Opera production not only met but also totally surpassed my expectations. 

Seeing Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra very visible from the pit as I took my seat was indeed a pleasant surprise, adding to the overall experience right from the word go. [More]


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Nightclub setting for Opera Don makes sense

Review by William Dart 20th Sep 2014

From the start, New Zealand Opera’s Don Giovanni presented the mix of tragedy and comedy stipulated in the opera’s description as “dramma giocoso” (playful drama). Wyn Davies immediately captured its emotional ambivalence in a sharply paced overture from a spruce Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra.

Sara Brodie’s concept for this production, setting it in 21st century Spain, garnered some bad press after its 2013 Christchurch launch. Yet this tale of vengeance and vindication among a callous contemporary party set, with nightclub bouncers and relatively demure pole dancers, made sense. [More]


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A great deal to enjoy, ponder and marvel at

Review by Penny Dodd 19th Sep 2014

The General Director of New Zealand Opera, Stuart Maunder, describes Don Giovanni as a “brilliant drama giocoso, a tragi-comedy and one of the greatest operas of all time.” This is a grand statement with which I most wholeheartedly agree.

The music, from sweet simple melody to full-throated hellfire and damnation, is infused with character and life. The drama is character-driven, charming and nasty, delightful and demonic, with a deep understanding of human nature and moral ambivalence. The Don is a degenerate, and he is sexy and attractive. Like Donna Elvira, we are in love with him in spite of ourselves. Like Casanova he lives to fulfil his senses, and knows no shame. He defies decency and dies for it.

It is no mean feat to devise a new production of such a work, in modern dress, with the contemporary social order imposing on the 1787 world of noblemen and servants. Mostly it works really well.  My only concerns are that Mozart’s noble musical characterisation of Donna Elvira jars with the modern young woman in jeans and boots, and the questions raised by the surprise twist at the end.

By removing the supernatural we place full responsibility for the ‘just desserts’ visited upon the errant Don on the shoulders of the lynch mob. When they reappear to sing the finale I am rather wishing we had retained the cut of Vienna in 1788 and finished when the protagonist shockingly met his fate. 

These quibbles aside, Sara Brodie has presented to us a richly detailed, witty and well thought out production. The surprise ending is set up right from the overture as Leporello removes a vagrant from the doorway of “Libertino’s nite club”. Every chorus member has a separate identity, which lends more layers to the contemporary setting, and every detail serves the narrative. There is nothing superfluous; if you notice something onstage, you are meant to. 

The cast is just brilliant. Mark Stone is the Hugh Bonneville of Don Giovannis: handsome, sexy and with a fabulous baritone voice which he spins to a silky espressivo in his seduction scenes.  Warwick Fyfe makes a creepy Leporello, with his sly iPhone videos and souveniring of women’s hair. He has elements of Rigoletto in his character, a malaise behind the buffo, which makes it a bit hard to laugh at him. And the voice is superb. How wonderful it is to hear these two baritone voices working together in their lightning fast recitatives.

Anna Leese dominates as Donna Elvira, with an assured stage presence and powerful soprano. We are in no doubt as to how she feels and what she wants to do about it. ‘Mi tradi’ however, seems a little wild by the end.

Lisa Harper-Brown as Donna Anna is a striking figure onstage, and with a clear soprano. As the daughter of the Commendatore she is more ‘higher class’ which comes through well, especially in tandem with Jaewoo Kim as Don Ottavio. His ‘Il Mio Tesoro’ showcases his considerable tenorial skills, and he brings a dignity to a character who has a lot to say but has little opportunity to contribute to the action. 

The delight of the production is the previously rustic, now Westie (or Essex) couple Zerlina and Masetto. We meet them on their respective stag and hen nights, complete with antlers, rubber sex doll and platform shoes. Amelia Berry, after a nervous start, delivers a vibrant characterisation and some extraordinary and beautiful singing. She makes the most of very opportunity with her character, fulfilling a vital role as the catalyst for the Don’s ultimate fate. ‘Vedrai Carino’ is a real standout moment – of great tenderness and with a stunning vocal cadenza. Bass baritone Robert Tucker richly portrays Masetto as a real Kiwi bloke, staunch but a softie, and ultimately capable of putting things to rights.

And what a joy to see and hear Jud Arthur again, delivering with absolute authority the fury of the Commendatore, and his subsequent role in bringing Don Giovanni down.

Although set in Italy this is a New Zealand production, with the majority in key positions Kiwis. Our humour and dark side are prevalent all through the opera.

I am thrilled to see the APO, in a small Mozart orchestra configuration, raised almost to floor level so that the scrolls of the double basses are visible above the stage level. This is a great idea – there are forty people in the pit and I want to see, hear and appreciate them. And, judging by the audience’s special acknowledgement of them, I’m not the only one. There is a sense of better cohesion between stage and pit, which is vital when a piece moves as fast as this one does. The recitatives are a mixture of harpsichord (David Kelly) and orchestral, and the mandolin is played exquisitely by Dave Kahn. Conductor Wyn Davies holds everything together with considerable warmth and aplomb.

The set, contemporary urban Italy (adapted by John Verryt), depicts a nightclub and hotel quarter, with lots of graffiti painted onto the old buildings, street people, working girls, a transient population, people looking for a good time. This is represented by several massive facades that open up like pages of a book to show interiors and exteriors of several different clubs, hotels and streets.  

Costumes, by Elizabeth Whiting, speak of today, in all its great variety and subtle social stratifications. Jeremy Fern’s lighting serves the piece well, with the final scene becoming darker and darker until the final moments when we are dazzled by the conflagration.  

With such an array of characters, thought-provokingly presented, superbly directed, brilliantly performed, the star on the night is still Mozart, whose light continues to shine in blinding fashion. There is a great deal to enjoy, ponder and marvel at in this production. Not to be missed.


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Illuminating the cavalier and foolish

Review by Elizabeth O’Connor 22nd Aug 2013

The production of this monumental opera is set firmly in contemporary, Mediterranean Europe, with classic stone and plaster building facades scrawled with graffiti, stylish and sexy costumes, and the strange, ambivalent world of Silvio Berlusconi’s bunga bunga parties juxtaposed with the sexploits of Don Giovanni and others.  Even Ottavio, the supposedly devoted fiancé of Donna Anna, pays off a prostitute while his beloved grieves for her murdered father.

The choice of setting does illuminate the extraordinary and cavalier delight with which Don Juan and all his successors up to the present day have deceived women for their pleasure, and the foolishness of said women in believing their blandishments and allowing themselves to be overtly sexualized throughout every dimension of culture. 

However, some of the production choices undermine the tragedy of Donna Anna’s story, and the final confrontation between Don Giovanni and Il Commendatore. 

Lisa Harper-Brown gives a moving and lyrical account of Donna Anna, Anna Leese is a spirited Donna Elvira, and Amelia Berry shows her developing agility and skill in the role of Zerlina.  Mark Stone radiates both physical and vocal assurance as Don Giovanni, while Jonathan Lemalu brings out the comic dimensions of Leporello with flair. 

Nicky Spence as Don Ottavio is in strong voice but seems less comfortable with the stage movement required than other principals.  Richard Green as Il Commendatore and Robert Tucker as Masetto complete the ensemble with panache.

The chorus, who are busy as party guests, street-walkers or rioters, attempt valiantly to fulfil the stage action and only occasionally look a little aimless. 

The orchestra sounds fractionally ragged in the opening overture, but gains confidence and power as the opera progresses, while never drowning the singers – which in the CBS Arena acoustic says much for all concerned. 

While some in the large audience bemoan the omission of a favourite aria, others are pleased they are able to follow the story so clearly.  Applause is warm but not rapturous. 

It is certainly wonderful to have an opportunity to attend opera in Christchurch again, and to listen to the mastery of Mozart live with hundreds of others. 


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