Sydney Arts Guide is a key part of stage and film culture, and exists to celebrate the art of performance, in theatres and cinemas.
2014 was a year of amazing diversity, and our twenty accredited specialist reviewers, were all spoiled for choice in the quality of the live theatre performances to be experienced in the City of Sydney, and the suburbs of Sydney.
As the old adage goes, “live theatre is not dead theatre, as there is a different performance to be experienced every night”. Our team of professional reviewers, have each nominated their personal preferences for both theatre and cinema. A small number of movies were nominated out of the hundreds of cinema films that were seen during the last twelve months.
At the end of another outstanding year for the arts in Sydney, on Wednesday 31st December 2014, Sydney Arts Guide announced its 2014 awards in these Stage and Screen categories:-
It’s a great shame that there were only two performances of this excellent production of Mozart’s ‘Don Giovanni’ by Sydney Independent Opera.
Sung in English – generally a very good translation – musically and vocally under the energetic , expressive yet controlled direction of Steven Stanke, the show featured marvelous playing by the rather small but excellent orchestra and an interesting use of the delicate harpsichord during the ‘recitatives’.
It is interesting to note that this production was based on the 1777 Prague version. It was a ‘semi staged’ theatre using the heavy proscenium arch and the rolling acoustic panels at the back as the set with swirling cloaks and small handprops, where appropriate, augmented by excellent costumes and lighting.
The sparse staging allows the audience to concentrate on the music, plot and characters. There was hot and steamy lust and passion, and the darkness, cruelty and depravity of the story was also acknowledged. The narrative is a morality story cloaked in heavenly music,- all of the characters are damaged in some way , and Don Giovanni ends up being dragged down to Hell ( ‘The punishment of the libertine’).
Rakish ,debonair Don Giovanni was excellently sung by Randall Stewart in magnificent voice in a most impressive performance .He is presented as a Mafia Don with guns , knives etc and in a very expensive looking suit and waistcoat . His seductive aria /duet ‘Là ci darem la mano’ or here in English ‘There will my arms enfold you’ with Zerlina was lyrical and melting .No wonder she was almost swooning!
We first see Donna Anna (Qestra Mulqueeny ) in a pink shirt making wild passionate love to Don Giovanni and then oddly smiling as her father is killed, –is this a Surrealist Brechtian nightmare? Mulqueeny is then later revealed as an ultra-elegant, almost Valkyrie, with blond upswept hair and stunning black dresses , with a very strong voice, particularly in her showy arias .
As naughty , saucy , downtrodden yet stylishly dressed , cynical Leporello, driven to distraction by his master’s bedhopping hijinks and lack of concern, Paul Smith was excellent .His ‘catalogue aria’ in Act1 that cruelly informs Donna Elvira of the overwhelming number of his master’s conquests was excellent .
Donna Elvira (Salina Bussien ), passionately obsessed and in love with Don Giovanni, is presented as tall, imposing ,pale and in Gothicky black with the initials DG tattooed on her breast as revealed by the slit in her costume. Bussien is a marvellous,very strong actress who gave a terrific performance.
As the Commendatore Iain Fisher gave a tremendous, chilling performance particularly in the terrifying denouement of the second act that sent chills down the spine. Bravo.
Zerlina and Masetto , the young bride and groom whose relationship and wedding day Don Giovanni almost destroys ,were wonderfully played and sung by Maia Andrews and Joshua Salter . Zerlina’s ‘Batti batti or as here in English ‘beat me beat me ‘ stopped the show .
A most enjoyable production that was quite dramatic and seductive. Running time 2hours 45mins (approx) including one interval
DON GIOVANNI, by the Sydney Independent Opera, had two performances – 1 & 3 November 2013- at the Independent Theatre