Monday, September 11, 2017

Mozart in leather and chains - Emotionworks Cut Opera's wild and cleverly devised Don Giovanni

Published online at Melbourne's Herald Sun 11th September 2017 and in print 12th September. 

Death literally comes knocking at the door in Mozart’s dark blend of the serious and comic in one of opera’s everlasting cornerstones, Don Giovanni. Expect to be surprised.

Michael Lampard as Don Giovanni
Emotionworks Cut Opera cut and splice to create their own unique blend, this time fusing the likes of Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, Alice Cooper, Eurythmics and Queen alongside a well-represented chunk of some of the most recognisable arias and ensembles from the opera.

Inventively devised by Julie Edwardson, the two-hour show is buoyed by more than 20 well-interpreted popular snippets and a terrific expletive-laden English adaptation, despite the comedy being mostly knockabout and the work’s operatic base unevenly polished. More than anything, Edwardson’s formula demands vocal adaptability to smoothen the storytelling — something only half the cast achieves.

But the story of the arrogant, licentious and murderous nobleman, whose evildoing spells his demise, is transposed wildly and cleverly from 18th century Spain to an Australian rock festival at which Don Giovanni (Michael Lampard), rock legend, is the headline act.

All other original roles slip effortlessly into Edwardson’s scheme — including band manager, Leporello (Peter Hanway), support act, Ottavio (Patrick Macdevitt), band guitarist, Masetto, (Richard Woods) and Commendatore (Wayne Cuebass), the murdered band drummer whose ghost returns with a vengeance to drive Don Giovanni into hell.

Lampard dynamically captures the virile, fierce and self-entitled legend, his solid baritone straddling both sides of music comfortably, a highlight being his more bourbon-fuelled Act 1 Champagne Aria mixed with J.J. Cale’s dazed Cocaine.

Kate Bright as Elvira and Peter Hanway as Leporello
Macdevitt gets the festival off to a sound start as the supporting act with Bob Dylan’s Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door and equally succeeds in bridging musical extremes, as does Kate Bright’s foxy Elvira (festival act and Don Giovanni’s former girlfriend), who opens with a warm version of Pat Benatar’s Love Is a Battlefield, then impresses with her rich operatic mezzosoprano. Katrina Waters works a treat as Ottavio’s histrionic girlfriend Anna and Katy Turbitt makes a sweet “little pony” as Masetto’s girlfriend Zerlina. Leporello, Masetto and Commendatore are more accomplished and in tune as rock singers and musicians than opera artists.

The small band, including Edwardson on keyboard, Woods on guitar and Cuebas on drums pumps the pace smashingly and Brunswick’s grungy, wall-art heavy Rubix Warehouse supplies the perfect backdrop that sound and lighting designer Mattieu Delepau overlays with effective concert atmosphere.

Leather and chains, rugged guys and headstrong gals, drugs, alcohol and a messy trail of sexual abuse — it’s all in the mix. And when Leporello says he’s off for a drink at the bar after Don Giovanni’s off his hands, followed by an excellently harmonised Bohemian Rhapsody, you’ll probably want to join him.

Emotionworks Cut Opera
Rubix Warehouse
63 Phoenix Street, Brunswick
Until 24th September


Production Photos: Phil Thomson

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