Mozart’s Don Giovanni in the veld, shouted the headline of the save the date email lying in my inbox. On further reading the email referred to the event as an open air opera adventure. Well, who can resist a musical adventure set in the lush, green wonder that is the Nirox Sculpture Park? Not I, I tell you.
Nirox is an 18 hectare green belt nestled in the Khatlhampi Private Reserve, about an hour’s drive from Johannesburg. Once a trout farm, now the redesigned reserve is home to a wonderful mix of landscaped gardens, water features and outdoor art. Not that I think kids don’t appreciate art, but Nirox is like a very pretty park for grownups. The Nirox Foundation, a private not for profit trust, has become a leading supporter of the arts and music. The venue hosts an artists’ residency and studios, where local or foreign artists are able to stay and create works inspired by the surroundings, including the Cradle of Humankind – in exchange the artist leaves a creation behind. The park also makes for a great outdoor concert.
Don Giovanni is an opera in two parts sung in Italian and set to music by the super talented Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. In a nutshell the opera which is a blend of drama and comedy, tells the story of a womanising nobleman, who seems determined to break every female heart he can. He isn’t well liked by men either. After one too many a betrayal, Don Giovanni is eventually confronted by a group of demons, never to be seen again. Considering the stage was outdoors, I thought the performances were great, the cast certainly deserved the standing ovation they received.
What an outstanding venue for such a musical treat, and at the start there was a fantastic vibe. On arrival before the opera, the crowd was treated to the sweet strains of an acoustic guitar and violin. It set the right tone ahead of the opera. Once seated in the ‘amphitheatre’ where the opera was set, the experience was somewhat tainted by badly behaved children, smokers who think just because they are outdoors, they can puff as much as they want and off course people who show up late and literally put their camping chairs on top of you! Organisers should be more proactive in addressing these issues, by having clearly designated smoking areas and maybe reminding the audience about basic house rules before the music starts.
The Nirox website describes the cuisine on offer by the ‘Epicurian Emporium as a collective of high-end diverse food traders’. So I was expecting to be wowed. But I am not convinced that all of the traders live up to that description. The ice-cream on offer was just sweet and nothing special. Ice cream from a tub from any retailer would be better. For lunch we opted for a Charcuterie platter, choosing the 2 person sharing, standard platter, which had a combination of cheese, cold meats, pate, olives, grapes, melon preserve and 4 slices of baguette. I thought this platter was far too SKIMPY. The desserts were a highlight, especially the chocolate churros! They went down a treat for their yumminess and the fact that we were still hungry after the barely there Charcuterie platter.
Overall, we had a wonderful day out in a beautiful park, listening to talented South African musicians. Despite the heavy blanket of dark clouds that moved our head, the rain held off, and we enjoyed stunning sculptures and long walks around the garden. We were treated to Mother Nature’s full splendour, the sunset was magical. With the natural wonder on offer at Nirox, I will return, I will just have to limit my expectations.