DON GIOVANNI by Mozart, directed by Marshall Pynkoski, conducted by Stefano Montanari (Opera Atelier). At the Elgin Theatre (189 Yonge). November 2, 4 and 5 at 7:30 pm. $33-$175. 1-855-622-2787. See listing. Rating: NNN
Don Giovanni is the best-known lover in the world of opera, the seducer of thousands of women. Mozart's operatic version of the lecherous Spaniard offers superb melodies, and the Opera Atelier production offers first-rate music-making.
We first see Giovanni seducing Donna Anna and killing her father, the Commendatore; then he meets Donna Elvira, a spurned lover, and he sets his sights on the peasant woman Zerlina, about to be married to Masetto.
By the end of the work, he's fooled everyone and escaped each plot to entrap him, only to be caught by the Commendatore's stone statue, who drags the unrepentant man to hell.
Opera Atelier director Marshall Pynkoski points out that this opera works best if played with speed and youth. Mozart listed Don Giovanni in his catalogue as an opera buffa, a comic work; Pynkoski turns the entire piece into a comedy.
Thus the don and his servant Leporello become a commedia dell'arte team with lots of clownish interaction; Donna Elvira, arguably the most complex figure in the opera, is a laughable drama queen. There's lots of sexual business, and most of the characters indulge in large takes in response to the comic shenanigans.
The comedy works best with Zerlina and Masetto, in part because of Carla Huhtanen's marvelous Zerlina, bright of voice and spirit. She's a flirt, too, and clearly is pretty well fed up with Masetto (Curtis Sullivan) before they're wed. Once she's met Giovanni, the jealous Zerlina stands in the way of any other woman who comes near him. Huhtanen's comic acting is as entertaining as her singing, but she can be tender, too, in the way she draws the angry Masetto back to her.
There's also some real humour in Vasil Garvanliev's Leporello, a honey-voiced singer with a quicksilver tongue; he proves to be an audience favourite by the end of the evening.
Meghan's Lindsay's Donna Anna offers some thrilling singing, while Lawrence Wiliford's pure voice and dramatic commitment make Don Ottavio, Anna's fiance, a more rounded figure than audiences usually see.
But the opera requires some gravitas here and there. Sullivan is a good foil for Huhtanen as Masetto, but he makes little impression as the Commendatore, especially in the final scene, which begins as an elegant dinner and becomes a slide down to the hell.
Like all the singers, the elegant Phillip Addis is always pleasant to listen to, but in a number of scenes he lacks the weight that Don Giovanni needs. Despite how Mozart catalogued the opera, there are times when his music and the libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte take Giovanni seriously.
This Don Giovanni is a treat for the ears -- in addition to the strong singing, Stefano Montanari races Tafelmusik through the score in an exciting fashion -- but ultimately it's not as seductive as it might be.