Don Giovanni NZ Opera

New Zealand Opera brings womanising party king Don Giovani to the ASB Theatre, Auckland. Don Giovanni is here for a good time not a long time and director Sara Brodie wants us all to fall for him.

Forget what you thought you knew about the opera, this production will shatter any stuffy preconceptions you may have.

Nightclubs complete with DJs, graffitied walls, pole dancing and drug taking all feature in this production, as well has some cleverly inserted use of smartphones with a few cheeky selfies thrown in. Modern, fun costumes and props enhance rather than distract. All of this is not what you would normally expect from a 18th century Opera.

Another welcome difference was the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra raised to stage height whilst they play Mozart’s lively score, rather than tucked away in the usual orchestra pit.

The story begins as Don Giovanni kills the Commendatore following a failed seduction of his daughter Donna Anna. Discovering this, Donna Anna begs her husband Ottavio to avenge her fathers death.

Lisa Harper-Brown and Mark Stone as Donna Anna and Don Giovanni
Lisa Harper-Brown and Mark Stone as Donna Anna and Don Giovanni

We see Don Giovanni turning on the charm for every woman he meets, an irrepressible ladies man, so much so that he ends up hitting on Donna Elvira, a former conquest of his. Giovanni’s hapless servant Leporello is at his constant aid, protecting, lying and distracting to help him get his way. When a wedding party arrives Giovanni can’t help but crack on the bride Zelina, while his trusty servant removes the groom Masetto. Luckily for Zelina, Elvira steps in to stop Giovanni. This sets off a spiral of events that will ultimately end in his demise.

This womanising and hedonistic lifestyle leads to some beautifully choreographed nightclub scenes where Mozarts Music is absorbed by the movements of all that are on stage. Some raunchy pole dancing and risky embraces scatter the show and there’s a jaw dropping finale, but no spoilers here!

Warwich Fyfe played impish manservant Leporello.  He was an audience favourite and extremely funny as he buzzed around pleasing his master and trying to distract everyone else. Vocally he was excellent, and really held the audiences attention to win their affection.

Donna Elvira was excellently performed by Anna Leese. She gave an energetic and emotionally charged performance, and one where the modern setting pushes this character forward as a crusader for all the wronged women.

Lisa Harper-Brown has a distressing emotional journey as Donna Anna, and her onstage husband Jaewoo Kim, provides a wonderfully pronounced bass in Don Ottavio.

Amelia Berry and Mark Stone as Zerlina and Don Giovanni
Amelia Berry and Mark Stone as Zerlina and Don Giovanni

Zerlina was full of youthful naivety and excitement in Amelia Berry’s interpretation. An accomplished vocal performance where I loved her energy and interactions with Don Giovanni and husband Masetto, played by Robert Tucker.

Commendatore, Jed Arthur creates some formidable scenes with his vocals and characterisation giving a high impact performance.

Mark Stone struts his stuff in a superb Matrix style leather Jacket as Don Giovanni. A marvellous performance of a not so loveable rogue where he is both playful and flirtatious and depraved and dark. Vocally brilliant throughout.

NZ Opera cleverly push the boundaries ,which never fails to surprise and delight it’s audience. I’d imagine this may not be suited to some purists out there, but I loved this production which had so much to offer both for the eyes and ears. It allow the audience to view this classic work in a new light.

An excellent night of raunchy shenanigans, beautiful music and deserved comeuppance for Don Giovanni!

You can see Don Giovanni at ASB Theatre in Auckland until 28 september and at Wellingtons St James Theatre 11 – 18 October.

Reviewed by Ingrid Grenar

All photos credited to Neil Mackenzie