Next generation of opera stars do Mozart proud

Next generation of opera stars do Mozart proud

SHOW: Don Giovanni
DIRECTOR: Matthew Wild
CAST: Riaan Hunter, Thesele Kemane, Thato Machona, Nomsa Mpofu, Khanyiso Gwenxane, Bongani Kubheka, Goitsemang Lehobye, Linda Nteleza, Raimondo van Staden
VENUE: Baxter Theatre until August 24
REVIEW: Peter Tromp

‘Don Giovanni’ is an opera suffused with dualities, the nature of good and evil perhaps prime among its concerns. Suitably, Cape Town Opera’s production of Mozart’s classic work is a real tale of two halves.

The first half plays out like a cross between ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ and a latter day Miley Cirus music video as we become accustomed to the world of excess that the titular character inhabits, but unfortunately the execution is a bit lacking and as a result it isn’t nearly as thrilling as it tries to be. The second half, by far the more successful of the two, is more mannered, as the opera at that stage becomes more contemplative, and this allows director Matthew Wild to put his focus squarely on the main characters and less on the spectacle. As a result what we see and hear becomes far more affecting.

The music is beautifully executed, and the young singers of the UCT Opera School all deserve immense kudos for the sensitivity with which they perform their various parts. The all-important role of Don Giovanni was sung by Riaan Hunter on opening night and he radiated the requisite Mephistophelean magnetism to make one understand why so many of the seemingly sensible character in the opera would succumb to his infernal spell. There’s real menace in the way Hunter telegraphs the Dark Triad of personality traits that ultimately leads to his character’s downfall and it makes for a compelling evening’s viewing and listening.

The rest of the cast is rounded out by performers most likely recruited from the Copacabana School of the Performing Arts, but hey, a little bit of eye candy never hurt anyone (as far as I know).

Just like he demonstrated in ‘The Rocky Horror Show’, currently showing at the Fugard Theatre, Wild has a vivid imagination and can extract the maximum from what were evidently very minimal resources. He is hampered though by a set that although functional, I found to be problematic. It is just too uninspiring a lump of architecture and most often hampered the fluidity of particularly the scenes of carnal decadence and excess.

* Book at Computicket.