Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra's Don Giovanni must be its finest Opera in Concert yet.
In the #MeToo era, this 1787 opera seemed very 2019 as its lecherous anti-hero ruthlessly manipulated women and bullied men.
Librettist Da Ponte and composer Mozart would have appreciated the audience laughter at the often edgy humour in sparkling recitatives. There was hearty applause for well-known arias and one could sense a collective holding of breath as the Don received his grisly comeuppance from Pelham Andrews' rather youthful Commendatore.
Working with a theatrically savvy cast, Stuart Maunder's stage direction was resourcefully alert. Nudging updates, from a cellphone in Leporello's catalogue aria to take-away kebabs for Giovanni's final meal, didn't impinge on psychological penetration.
Richard Sveda's Don Giovanni slid from sweet to snaky on a chord change in David Kelly's stylish continuo, swaggering and abusing one minute, serenading the next. Brigitta Kele's Donna Elvira and Ekaterina Siurina's Donna Anna were memorable victims, dealing out coloratura as if born to it and never sacrificing shapely Mozartian lines during energetic stage business.
Natasha Wilson's subtly toned and confidently sung Zerlina offered many shades of vulnerability. Alongside her, the role of Masetto revealed a stauncher, darker side of Morgan Pearse than his Figaro in last month's The Barber of Seville while Adam Frandsen took Don Ottavio to impressive lyrical heights.
Robert Gleadow's Leporello might have stolen the show, had it not been integrated so beautifully into the fine ensemble work. Leaping from stalls to stage for his opening number, the character's journey from cynical sidekick to cowering repentant provided an ethical barometer for the evening.
The Freemasons New Zealand Opera Chorus exuded energy, both musically and dramatically, while the splendid APO played centre stage, with Maunder's grim and funny morality tale laid out around it. Conducting with verve and joy, Giordano Bellincampi opened up a Mozartian musical heaven and, best of all, allowed us to enter it.
What: Don Giovanni
Where: Auckland Town Hall
Reviewed by: William Dart