Designing a dark world for Don Giovanni

It was in Vienna that director David McVicar and designer Robert Jones discovered the strongest image that would inspire their Don Giovanni. In the catacombs under an ancient church, more than 4,000 bodies lie.

“We went in and looked at this and there were piles of bones and skulls all coming up through the earth,” explains Jones. “That gave us a really strong image for the set.”

“We all know where this is going: Don Giovanni will die. We wanted to get a sense that death was near, that you can almost smell it. So it’s always in the set. It’s always apparent. We never let it go away. It’s not light and bright, it’s dark and earthy, it’s slippery, it’s wet. It’s an uncomfortable world to be in. There’s a sense of danger.”

— Robert Jones

photograph of set model with skulls piled against a wall

A photograph of the set model showing the design for Don Giovanni. Photo by Aidan Corrigan.

A photograph of the set model showing the design for Don Giovanni. Photo by Aidan Corrigan.

An image of a set model diorama, with a large crucifix at teh rear of the stage

An image showcasing the set model of Don Giovanni. Design by Robert Jones.

Opera Australia's 2015 production of Don Giovanni. Photo by Jeff Busby.

Two figures in period dress stand before a pile of skulls.

Opera Australia's 2015 production of Don Giovanni. Photo by Jeff Busby.

An image showcasing the set model of Don Giovanni. Design by Robert Jones.

Opera Australia's 2015 production of Don Giovanni. Photo by Jeff Busby.

Opera Australia's 2015 production of Don Giovanni. Photo by Jeff Busby.

“You’re never quite sure who is listening or overhearing a conversation. Someone can appear or disappear into the shadows and there aren’t necessarily doorways to walk through but there are lots of entrances, pillars to hide behind and walls to hide behind.  It’s a world of shadows, you never quite know who is around.”  

 Robert Jones

Figures hide in the shadows on the set of Don Giovanni.

Opera Australia's 2015 production of Don Giovanni. Photo by Jeff Busby.

Opera Australia's 2015 production of Don Giovanni. Photo by Jeff Busby.

Who lacerates my soul?
Who torments my body?

What torment, oh me, what agony!

What a Hell! What a terror!

 Don Giovanni

A man cowers in front of demonic women.

Opera Australia's 2015 production of Don Giovanni. Photo by Jeff Busby.

Opera Australia's 2015 production of Don Giovanni. Photo by Jeff Busby.