Dark, unflinching production unmasks serial rapist Don Giovanni


January 6th, 2023. Peter McCallum

When Opera Australia flashed trigger warnings of impending violence against women in its recent production of Carmen on Cockatoo Island it was unclear whether the motivation was concern or dramatic irony. The absence of such warnings in David McVicar’s production of Don Giovanni suggests it must have been the latter.

Though Mozart’s work uses the formal framework of Italian comic opera, McVicar’s conception finds nothing of charm or comedy in the behaviour of its eponymous serial rapist, while masked fornicators thrust away in Robert Jones’ sets of crumbling stone and David Finn’s sepulchral lighting.

As Don Ottavio, betrothed of Donna Anna, earnestly pursues evidence, the empowering moment comes right at the close when it is the women Don Giovanni has previously wronged – the ghosts of all those in Leporello’s famous “catalogue” aria – who rise up behind the Commendatore, stone statue of paternalism, and drag him down to hell.