‘Don Giovanni’ gets youthful shot in arm

‘Don Giovanni’ gets youthful shot in arm

Cape Town Opera and the UCT Opera School will tantalize audiences with a theatrically daring take on Mozart’s thrilling ‘Don Juan’ adaptation ‘Don Giovanni’ at The Baxter Theatre from August 20 to 24.

PETER TROMP got director MATTHEW WILD on the line to chat about what opera buffs can expect.

Don Giovanni is regarded as one of opera’s original bad boys. What was the appeal personally for you in helming this work?
‘Don Giovanni’ was the first opera that I fell in love with when I was 14; I remember borrowing a recording from the Wynberg public library. Before then I thought a lot of opera voices sounded wobbly, but I was slapped in the face by this music of immense drama and beauty and the voices just sounded so full and majestic. That being said, it is a piece that stage directors fear because it is very hard to get to grips with. For a director the challenge lies particularly in the way it just barrels from very serious moments to very comic moments. It is very Shakespearean in that way, with the changing of tones and the fact that it doesn’t provide any easy answers for the audience. It’s an ageless look at unhealthy relationships and that’s always appealing territory to explore.

What can audiences look forward to?
We’re working with a shoestring budget, so necessity has really been the mother of invention. It’s a radically minimalist production and that is going to shift the emotions of the characters right to the fore, which might catch people off guard, but in its stripped down form it is also quite modern. We don’t provide any indication of a time period. There really has been a concerted effort to try and strip down any fluff that might exist around the edges and put the focus squarely on the performers’ bodies and the text and Mozart’s music. Between ‘Don Giovanni’ and ‘The Rokcy Horror Show’ at the Fugard Theatre this has definitely been my winter of staging sex and groping and undressing (laughs).

Mozart had a young cast in mind when he wrote the opera, and suitably you are working with UCT Opera School students. Tell us about the cast.
People who have been going to opera have gotten used to seeing 40 year olds up on the sage. There is something so great about having physically able and attractive performers that are also good singers at your disposal. We’ve got Thesele Kemane and Riaan Hunter who will alternate as Don Giovanni along with two different casts, which means that if you saw the production two evenings in a row, you’d definitely get a different experience both nights. It’s a really fantastic cast, who’ve been bringing the piece to very vibrant life in the rehearsal room so far.

* Bookings are open at Computicket.
The opera will be sung in Italian with English subtitles projected above the stage.
The show is not suitable for children under the age of 16, because of partial nudity and violence.