The serial seducer is on the loose again, in a new production from one of the most provocative minds in opera today, David McVicar.
Teddy Tahu Rhodes’ Don is mad, he’s bad, he’s dangerous but, damn him to hell, his serenades are just divine.
In the role he was born to sing, Teddy Tahu Rhodes’ powerful magnetism, dark-hued voice and imposing physique make being bad seem oh so good.
Before Don Giovanni opens his mouth, before the curtain has even gone up, Mozart has us jumping out of our skins with an earth-shattering D Minor chord from the pit: the sound of the gates of hell juddering open.
Opera’s lecherous anti-hero has already been condemned – the work was originally subtitled “the libertine punished”, after all.
But how do we judge the notorious ladies’ man today? Is he a sex addict, or just a rich, randy player whose diversions have become an inexorable way of life? Are fire and brimstone really his just desserts?
And in any case, isn’t he losing his touch?
Although his list of conquests extends beyond a staggering 2,000 names, we never see him complete his ritual seduction – even if we hear some very persuasive serenades along the way.
David McVicar teases out the psychological drama of these questions in a highly anticipated new production and Australian debut from the leading opera director of his generation.
And in the role he was born to sing, Teddy Tahu Rhodes’ powerful magnetism, dark-hued voice and imposing physique make being bad seem oh so good. The Don has met his match.
|Director||Sir David McVicar|
|Set & Costume Designer||Robert Jones|
|Lighting Designer||David Finn|
|Fight Coordinator||Scott Witt|
|Assistant Director||Matthew Barclay|
|Don Giovanni||Teddy Tahu Rhodes|
|Donna Anna||Elvira Fatykhova|
|Don Elvira||Nicole Car (until 16 August)
|Don Ottavio||John Longmuir|
Not recommended for children.
Running time: approximately 3 hours & 15 minutes, with one 25-minute interval
Performed in Italian with English surtitles.
“Teddy Tahu Rhodes is an ideal Don Giovanni”
In the dead of night, Leporello, servant to Don Giovanni waits impatiently outside the palace of the Commendatore. His master has stolen inside, attempting to seduce Donna Anna, the Commendatore’s daughter. Don Giovanni suddenly rushes out of the palace, Donna Anna in pursuit, trying to unmask her assailant. Her father appears, sword in hand and challenges the intruder. As Donna Anna runs for help, Don Giovanni fights with and kills the Commendatore. He and Leporello slip away as Donna Anna returns with her betrothed, Don Ottavio. They swear an oath of vengeance over the dead body of her father.
As dawn breaks, Don Giovanni and Leporello roam the streets of Seville. Don Giovanni senses the approach of a woman and they hide. Donna Elvira, a lady from Burgos, seduced and abandoned by Don Giovanni has come to Seville in search of him. Not recognising her at first, Don Giovanni makes an approach. She furiously accuses him but Don Giovanni manages to slip away into the night, leaving Leporello to explain his master’s true nature. He shows her a book, the catalogue of Don Giovanni’s innumerable conquests and leaves her crushed and humiliated. Donna Elvira swears to have revenge on Don Giovanni.
In a village near Don Giovanni’s palace, the peasants are celebrating the marriage of Zerlina and Masetto. Don Giovanni appears and immediately sets his sights on the bride. He orders Leporello to conduct the whole company to his palace to continue the celebrations but detains Zerlina by his side, to Masetto’s jealous fury. Alone with the peasant girl, he attempts to seduce her but is interrupted by the appearance of Donna Elvira, who denounces him and snatches Zerlina from his arms. Don Giovanni angrily makes after them but is distracted by the arrival of Donna Anna and Don Ottavio, both in mourning. Unable to recognise her assailant of the night before, Donna Anna appeals to Don Giovanni for aid in hunting down her father’s killer. Once more Elvira appears and desperately tries to convince them that Don Giovanni is a hypocritical deceiver. Her emotion gets the better of her when Don Giovanni accuses her of being a madwoman and she leaves in tears. Don Giovanni sets off after her, bidding Donna Anna farewell. Something in his voice betrays him and Donna Anna recognises the murderer of her father. She accuses him to Don Ottavio and furiously demands that he take revenge. Don Ottavio resolves to seek out the truth before taking such action.
Leporello has had a hard time entertaining the peasants, who are now roaming drunkenly round the palace and he complains bitterly to Don Giovanni when he arrives home. To further complicate matters, Donna Elvira has appeared with Zerlina in tow and he has had to skilfully manipulate her out of the palace and lock the doors. Don Giovanni is delighted that Zerlina has not yet evaded him and commands Leporello to organise a lavish ball for that evening.
In the palace gardens, Zerlina is pleading with Masetto. She asks him to punish her if he cannot believe in her innocence. Just as Masetto is won over, Don Giovanni approaches with servants. To test Zerlina’s fidelity, Masetto hides, leaving her alone to face Don Giovanni. He attempts once more to seduce her, pulling her towards the very spot where Masetto is hidden. Thwarted again, he can barely control his anger and commands the two peasants into the palace ballroom, where musicians can already be heard playing. Donna Elvira appears with Don Ottavio and Donna Anna, all of them masked. They mean to enter the palace in disguise and discover the true nature of Don Giovanni. Leporello spots them from a window and Don Giovanni bids them welcome to the ball.
In the ballroom, Don Giovanni and Leporello entertain their guests. Zerlina and Masetto fear the worst. The three maskers enter and are greeted warmly by their host, who commands the orchestra to strike up once more. As the musicians play aristocratic and peasant dances alike, Don Giovanni steals away from the room with Zerlina. Her sudden screams halt the dancing and Masetto runs desperately after his bride. Don Ottavio, Donna Elvira and Donna Anna cry for help and Don Giovanni appears, threatening Leporello, accusing him of assaulting Zerlina. The maskers reveal their identities and accuse Don Giovanni in turn. As a thunderstorm breaks over the palace roof, Don Giovanni is undaunted and unrepentant.
Back in the streets of Seville, Leporello has had enough and quits Don Giovanni’s service. A large bribe is enough to win him back however and Don Giovanni tells him his latest plan. Disguised in Leporello’s clothes he intends to seduce the maid of Donna Elvira. As darkness falls, Elvira herself appears at the window of an inn on the street and pours out her heart. She is unable to prevent herself from loving Don Giovanni. He takes the initiative and lures her down to the street by declaring his love and repentance; but the figure waiting below is in fact Leporello, dressed in Don Giovanni’s clothes. In the darkness, she believes that she is embracing her beloved. Don Giovanni, pretending to be a highway robber chases them away and settles down to serenade the maid. He is interrupted by the arrival of Masetto and a band of peasants, armed and hunting for Don Giovanni. In the guise of Leporello, he fools them into going separate ways, making sure Masetto stays behind. Alone with the peasant, he turns on him and beats him to the ground before running off. Zerlina appears and hears Masetto’s groans. She tends to his wounds and offers him consolation. They are finally reconciled.
Leporello and Donna Elvira have wandered by accident into the darkened courtyard of the Commendatore’s palace. Trying to shake her off, he vanishes into the shadows but is unable to find his way out of the courtyard. Donna Anna and Don Ottavio suddenly appear with servants and torches and Donna Elvira and Leporello hide. As the couple make their way inside the palace, Leporello tries to slip away, only to be discovered by Masetto and Zerlina. Believing they have captured Don Giovanni, they raise the alarm. Desperate, Donna Elvira comes out of hiding and pleads for her beloved’s life. The others are astonished, but at this point Leporello reveals his identity, to Elvira’s horror and shame. He narrowly escapes with his life by spinning a web of confusing excuses. He slips suddenly away into the darkness, pursued by Masetto and Zerlina. Don Ottavio has seen enough; he determines to go to the authorities and accuse Don Giovanni of the Commendatore’s murder. He asks the others to remain in the palace to comfort and console Donna Anna.
Alone, Donna Elvira struggles with her conflicting emotions. She loves and despises Don Giovanni at the same time, but above all fears that divine justice must surely strike her seducer down.
Don Giovanni, on the run from a fresh escapade has taken refuge in a graveyard. Leporello also arrives, still trembling from his adventure in the Commendatore’s palace. Laughing, Don Giovanni tells him that his latest prey has turned out to be Leporello’s own girlfriend. Suddenly, a sepulchral voice is heard from amongst the tombstones warning Don Giovanni of imminent punishment. Don Giovanni’s eyes fall upon the tomb of the Commendatore. Half joking, half in earnest, he commands Leporello to invite the effigy on the tomb to supper at his palace that evening. Terrified, Leporello complies and the Commendatore’s voice is heard in acceptance.
In the Commendatore’s palace, Donna Anna begs Don Ottavio to allow her time to grieve and assuage her pain before giving him her hand.
Don Giovanni sits down to supper, served by a ravenous Leporello, who steals mouthfuls of food when he believes his master is not watching. Suddenly Donna Elvira bursts in. Throwing herself at Don Giovanni’s feet, she begs him to mend his ways and save his soul. He cruelly mocks her distress and she leaves, cursing him. In the corridor outside she is heard screaming and Leporello is sent to investigate. He too cries out and rushes back into the chamber. He is incoherent in his terror and when loud knocking is heard at the door, Don Giovanni opens it himself. The Commendatore has kept his word and stands before him. The dead man returns Don Giovanni’s invitation and bids him dine with him in his house. Don Giovanni gives the Commendatore his hand in acceptance. His body is seized with convulsions as the Commendatore urges him to repent his sins and tells him that his final moment has come. Don Giovanni defiantly refuses. The earth opens and furies spring up and seize him. Don Giovanni is dragged below into hell.
With officers of the law, the others burst into the chamber. Leporello tells them that the fugitive is now far beyond their reach. Don Ottavio agrees to a year’s mourning before his marriage to Donna Anna. Donna Elvira resolves to live out her days in a convent. Zerlina and Masetto decide to celebrate at home in company and Leporello gets ready to go to the tavern to find another, less dangerous master. As one, they all sing the moral to Don Giovanni’s tale and go their separate ways.