Star of the upcoming State Opera of South Australia production Don Giovanni, South Australian baritone opera singer Grant Doyle chats with The Adelaide Review about performing Mozart’s famous role of Don Giovanni.
Born in Adelaide, Grant Doyle studied at the Elder Conservatorium and from there moved to London to attend the Opera School at the Royal College of Music in London. Doyle has gone on to appear in a number of lead roles, performing in both Australia and London. In 2015, Doyle returns to the role of Don Giovanni after performing a modern interpretation of the hedonistic character for Garsington Opera in 2012. In the lead role of Don Giovanni, the pursuit of pleasure is amplified. A murderer, a seducer, a libertine and a heartbreaker, Giovanni leaves a trail of broken promises and shattered lives, which is presented in a three-hour opera accompanied by the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra and conducted by Graham Abbott. What brought you to the role of Don Giovanni? When I was a student, I was always aware of the great baritone part of Don Giovanni and wondered if it would ever be for me. When I started at the Royal Opera House in London in 2001, one of my first jobs was to understudy Bryn Terfel in the role and I had to cram all the words and music into my head in five weeks. I was equal parts elated and terrified – since then I have performed the part in a couple of different productions in the UK and France, and I still love singing it. You’ve been in a number of productions around the world, what do you enjoy most about your home state? In London I call (State Opera of South Australia) my home company and often talk about how great it is, what it has done for me and what a great place Adelaide is. I am fiercely proud of my home city and I believe we have a fine reputation internationally for producing home grown artistic talent, which puts us on the map. I love the Festival Theatre, I almost grew up there and it is a great opera stage to sing on. How do you prepare your voice for productions such as Don Giovanni? I just spent a week or two brushing up some of the musical corners that are tricky before I hopped on the plane from London. If I can hold off any bugs that come my way from the flight or the first week of jetlag, then, as part of the rehearsal process, I keep testing my stamina and building it up. Don Giovanni is quite a long role, and quite characterful and energetic, so vocal and physical stamina is a priority. What do you enjoy most about being involved in opera productions? Collaboration is the most enjoyable part of my life in music generally. It is perceived that singers spend years in their practice rooms waiting for their moment to be in the spotlight and famous. This is a myth and is detrimental to the reputation and need for quality, professional performing arts. In my experience, real satisfaction comes from the joy of achievement as part of a team, much like our favourite team sports. Every person involved in an opera production has a particular job to do, backstage and onstage, and everyone’s talents and contributions are integral. I just happen to be the guy playing the title role – without the whole team, I’d be kicking the footy to myself. You have played the title role before in 2012, are you taking a different approach to the character in 2015? Yes indeed, the production at the Garsington Opera in the UK was a modern interpretation. I played Giovanni as a floppy haired rich playboy in over-priced jacket and jeans. It was fun and worked for me, but it is also important to continue productions in the traditional way – set in the period intended. This Goran Järvefelt production is traditional, and Don Giovanni’s power as a nobleman is never questioned. Therefore his abuse of that position to deceive women and damage their reputation is all the more despicable. What do you like to do after shows to wind down? It does take a few hours to wind down after a show, so a few bevvies are always on the cards – it’s great fun to hang out with everybody. We make friends really quickly in this business, and we need the social time together outside of work, just like anyone. I like to be as normal as possible between shows – keep healthy, get plenty of sleep and rest my voice. What is it about Mozart’s Don Giovanni that continues to appeal to people? The music first of all. Mozart’s music appeals so readily and his ability to write convincingly for the stage is remarkable. He must have loved this story because he takes quite a few risks, and in those risks, we hear his adult genius blossom. It gives us a glimpse of ‘what if’ [if] he had lived beyond 35. The opera is a dramatic comedy, and there are many moments of fun, especially in the relationships between Leporello, Giovanni and his tenacious (erstwhile) wife, Donna Elvira. Of course, the final banquet scene is one of the greatest moments in all music, and its impact is still extraordinarily powerful and thrilling. Don Giovanni Festival Theatre 23, 26, 28, 30 May saopera.sa.gov.au