Opera Australia Blog

Design: Death, darkness and 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.”

Scroll down to see photographs of the miniature set model box created to illustrate the set design for Don Giovanni. 


“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



“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




Who lacerates my soul?
Who torments my body?
What torment, oh me, what agony!
What a Hell! What a terror!

– Don Giovanni



See Don Giovanni at Arts Centre Melbourne from May 11, 2015. Tickets and more information on the Opera Australia website.

All images in this post are of the miniature set model built to illustrate the set design for Don Giovanni. Copyright: Aidan Corrigan for Opera Australia. The image of prop skulls was taken by Interbrand.

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