Don Giovanni (Rhodes)

 

Mozart Don Giovanni opera to libretto by Lorenzo da Ponte.  Directed 2011 by Göran Järvefelt at the Sidney Opera House. Stars Teddy Tahu Rhodes (Don Giovanni), Conal Coad (Leporello), Rachelle Durkin (Donna Anna), Daniel Sumegi (Commendatore), Henry Choo  (Don Ottavio), Jacqueline Dark (Donna Elvira), Taryn Fiebig (Zerlina), and Andrew Jones (Masetto). Mark Wigglesworth conducts the Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra (Concertmaster Aubrey Murphy) and the Australian Opera Chorus (Chorus Master Anthony Hunt). Designs by Carl Friedrich Oberle; lighting by Nigel Levings; rehearsed by Matthew Barclay; assistant direction by Johanna Puglisi.  Directed for TV by Cameron Kirkpatrick; audio by Tony David Cray. Production Executive was Chris Yates; producer was Sam Russell.  Released 2012, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: A-

When watching the Opera Australia Don Giovanni, I noticed the "shoe box" shape of the stage with the narrow end of the box facing the audience and the long side of the box receding to the rear of the stage. This configuration is different from most opera sets that take full advantage of the available width of the stage. I also recalled the Mozart Masterpieces HDVD from EuroArts. That HDVD was made in the Estates Theater in Prague, where Mozart personally directed the premiere of Don Giovanni.

According to information with the Mozart Masterpieces disc, the stage is now a replica of how it appeared for the Don Giovanni premiere.  Sure enough: the Mozart Masterpieces disc shows that the front of the stage at this tiny venue is about 45 feet wide and is the narrow end of a rectangle about 75 feet deep. It's hard to believe that the great DG was originally presented in a space that holds only 228 seats in orchestra and 405 seats in the balconies!

And now I see what director Järvefelt was up to with his Opera Australia set: he reproduced what Mozart had to work with at the beginning. This tactic was successful: Järvefelt was able to tell the story with great clarity on his oddly-shaped stage.

The L'OperaDou Jury tried this title in 2012 and the verdict was an A.   The jury found that Teddy Tahu Rhodes was the best Don Giovanni they had ever seen. He's handsome and thin with a decent six-pack (which you only see briefly). More important, he can act out an aura of malicious good humor that makes him a credible great seducer. All the other stars were excellent or at least decent in their roles. This is a straight-forward traditional production that doesn't take itself too seriously. Göran Järvefelt did a splendid job of blocking and directing so that every scene makes good sense---a trick task in an opera where something is always happening. And this show ends with a bang that will impress even the most jaded opera fan.

A number of other critics, however, have faulted Rhodes's singing as unexceptional for the role of the great seducer.  For example, Matthew Gurewitsch writes an amusing piece about the Australian DG at page 59 of the October 2012 Opera News. Gurewitch says,  "But if the mic does Tahu Rhodes no favors, with the camera, it's love at first sight." My auditions of this line up with the critics of Rhodes, and I reduce the grade here to A-.

Here are a couple of good YT clips about this title from the Sydney Opera: