Saturday, October 29, Elgin Theatre, Toronto.
Opera Atelier’s 26th season opener, Mozart’s, Don Giovanni, is a lot of fun. Director Marshall Pynkoski sees it not as a “dark, psychological drama featuring a sexually immature, aging lothario.” It’s more about (as Lonnie Donegan’s 1957 skiffle hit has it) “Seeing all the young folks puttin’ on the style.”
When you think of the lusty Don, think less of Jack Nicholson and more of the Fonzie of “Happy Days.” Thinking this way, you will be able to actually like a guy whom we meet as he is frustrated in an attempted date-rape (of Donna Anna) and, when challenged by the girl’s father (the Commendatore), stabs him to death, and, on his way home seduces another girl (Zerlina) who is walking with her financé (Masetto). Don is a cool ‘Juan’, and he never loses it: even after the flames of hell attempt to consume him, he appears to be enjoying himself. Bravo!
What’s interesting about this interpretation is that both directors, Pynkoski and Lajeunesse Zingg, make convincing arguments that the style of this production is true to the original production that Mozart himself conducted. The most convincing proof of their judgement is the constant flow of pleasure their production gives.
Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra, arguably among the best opera ensembles in the world, was guest-conducted by Stephano Montanari, the charismatic violinist who last May conducted Tafelmusik’s peformance of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons by whistling the melody. His tempi tonight matched Mozart’s, shaving 30 minutes off the ‘modern’ standard’.
The female leads are unfailing in their portrayals. Peggy Kriha Dye gives Donna Elvira just the right nuance of comic devotion; Meghan Lindsay’s Donna Anna is rich and full-flavoured with pathos. Carla Huhtanen’s stellar singing and acting as Zerlina bewitches the Don, Matteo, and the audience.
Lawrence Williford’s (Don Ottavio) slender frame and ringing tenor stood out to advantage among the heftier baritones. Curtis Sullivan’s richly toned instrument worked well for the Commendatore and Masetto, although he carried his striking physical gifts a bit self-consciously. Vasil Garvanliev’s Leporello was fluid, vivid, and convincing. As Don Giovanni, Phillip Addis sang with power, but perhaps because of his great height, did not radiate the larger-than-life intensity of this character.
What sets every production of Opera Atelier I’ve seen over the years in a class of its own is the direction. The flow of musical phrases is linked to a corresponding flow of theatrical gestures and movements over the stage: the players show in their bodies what they are singing; the drama unfolds, literally, across the whole canvas of the stage, engaging the whole mind of the audience. As far as taste goes, the direction is impeccable.
Finally, of course, this is Mozart, and this is Don Giovanni, and this is where, without a chorus, the arias, duos, trios, quartets, quintets, sextets and septets of the characters onstage create a tapestry of harmonies that is like nothing else on this earth.
Opera Atelier’s production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni runs until November 5, 2011. To connect with it click HERE.
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