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Morality tale or musical jest?

By Dave Snowden  ·  August 5, 2014  ·  Opera & Theatre

My last full day in Australia before flying back to the UK tomorrow and it was pretty packed.  The seminar Simon and I had run the previous week generated a lot of interest and I had follow through meetings before repeating the social sector event from Brisbane.  For the evening I planned to go to the opera house in Sydney to see Don Giovanni, one of two Mozart Operas I am prepared to make an effort to go to.  I agree with Kierkegaard that it is Mozart's greatest opera and that opera is the greatest form of art, but I profoundly disagree that Mozart is the greatest of all composers, but simply I think he lacks emotional depth, its all to clever by half.  But the world seems divided between Wagnerians and Motzartians and the distinction does seem to fall between the musicologists and those of us who prefer a grander envisioning of meaning.

But this production had a good cast and on the night Nicole Carr as Dona Elvira had a voice to die for and a body to match the idea of a young naive victim of an experienced and cynical seducer.  But overall the set was drab and the scene where Don Giovanni is taken into Hell was comical, it  lacked gravitas and on that scene the whole opera stands or falls.  Jud Arthur as the Commendatore  just didn't have the depth of voice or presence to make it work.  Leporello was clumsy not comic-tragic.  I could go on but it was played as jest  not as a morality tale.  That is a choice which requires a very special production and this was not it.

It's always good to visit one of the world's iconic buildings but they really need to move Opera into the theatre which was designed for it.  The concert hall really does not have the right acoustics but the building itself is part of the attraction; it's worth going just to get the view of Sydney Harbour Bridge from the Opera House itself (shown).  I even played tourist and got the mug and T-Shirt!   The walk there and back was good as well although chilly.   All in all not a bad way to finish this extended trip.