Mozart Don Giovanni
It seems odd at first glance that this performance of Don Giovanni should be issued. It has a cast of which few people in the northern hemisphere will recognise a single name except perhaps for the protagonist, the stage of the Sydney Opera House is small, and so is the Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra. And the only props are the sedan chair in which Donna Elvira arrives – and shortly after Don Giovanni leaves in it, oddly – and the Commendatore’s black coffin, which doubles as Giovanni’s dinner table. Costumes are late 18th century, in some cases very elaborate. The acting style is traditional: grand postures and grand gestures.
Notice the name of the conductor, though, and your spirits should lift: Mark Wigglesworth is one of the most underrated conductors on the international scene. The way in which he conducts the Overture here is arresting and refreshing. Its allegro section is detailed, urgent, even anxious, but also subversive. Tempos throughout seem perfectly right, with some wonderfully old-fashioned, ‘Romantic’ slowings-up, as in the recitative to Elvira ‘s Act II aria. But the sensation of the set is the Giovanni of Teddy Tahu Rhodes, the sexiest and most menacing Giovanni I’ve ever seen. He makes his entrance in high boots and black leather underwear, and throughout is proud of showing off his physique; but seen in close-up, he has a wide range of expressions, and the panache to carry off seduction, violence and, at the end, magnificent defiance. To begin with his voice is throaty, but after it warms up it is impressive. None of the other singers is on this level, but they are all good enough to make this the most rewarding experience I have had of this very tricky opera for a long time.