REVIEW OF 2019 REVIVAL BY OPERAATELIER
Opera Atelier has revived its stunning 2004 production of Don Giovannifor its current season at the Ed Mirvish Theatre in Toronto. It is a successstory from every angle and it earns our (usual) bow to Marshall Pynkoski andJeanette Lajeunesse Zingg for their contribution to civilized life in Toronto.
Director Pynkoski and Choreographer Zingg have chosen to use aproduction style that bestows beauty and grace to the opera. They use amodified commedia dell’arte, stylized acting and ballet is used judiciously andsplendidly.
In the opening scene when the Commendatore (Gustav Andreassen) appears to defend hisdaughter against Don Giovanni (Douglas Williams) he is accompanied by a numberof dancers who perform some acrobatic dance steps. Donna Anna (Meghan Lindsay)expresses her shock at the murder of her father by raising the back of her handto her forehead in the stylized method of expression. This style is maintained throughoutand it works by giving the opera a light touch.
Ms Zingg has choreographed a number of short ballet routines throughoutthat are attractive in themselves and at the same time give the production thelighter flavour that the modified commedia dell’arte aims for.
There are numerous fascinating points that Pynkoski adds to theproduction. For example, when the betrayed and abandoned Donna Elvira sings “Ah,chi mi dice mai” about wanting to kill the treacherous Don Giovanni and tearhis heart out, she is brandishing a dagger and a crucifix. In other words shewill mete out human punishment and divine retribution upon the traitor.
Don Giovanni breaks the resistance of the peasant girl Zerlina (MireilleAsselin) in the seduction duet of “Là ci darem la Mano” by giving her a pouchof money and she is pleased. When her angry bridegroom Masetto (OlivierLaquerre) accuses her of infidelity, her denial is upset by her dropping thecoins in the pouch. Small details perhaps, that add up to a tremendousproduction.
The numerous small touches are accompanied by outstanding singing. Thefascinating Donna Anna is sung by the gorgeously-voiced soprano Meghan Lindsay.Her stylized expression of shock and subsequent description of what happened inher room on that fateful night, cast doubt on her veracity. Don’t ask where herfiancé was and why is she putting him off for a year at the end? A splendidlysung and beautifully portrayed Donna Anna.
The fiancé, of course is Don Ottavio who gets some bad press sometimes, but tenor Colin Ainsworth in the role, deserves nothing but high praise. His rendition of “Ilmio tesoro,” for example, is delivered with surpassing tenderness, passion,beauty and resolution. Ainsworth’s performance makes Donna Anna’s reason forrejecting Don Ottavio suspect.
If Donna Anna was ditched on the first night, Donna Elvira was abandonedon the third day and soprano Carla Huhtanen wants us to know about it with herpassion and furor. Her passion tells her to forgive him but her mind tells herto flee her traitor as expressed marvelously in “Ah, fugi il traditor” and “Mi tradì quell'alma ingrate” (thatungrateful soul betrayed me.) Dramatic, passionate and vocally fabulous.
Zerlina is the peasant girl we love. Pretty, lively, smart and able tohandle her man, applies to her and soprano Mireille Asselin in the role. Alovely, light soprano with a beautiful lilt, perfect for the role and adelightful performance. It’s wonderful to see her handle the hulk Masetto whois a bit of an oaf that she turns into putty. Bass-Baritone Olivier Laquerre isperfect for the role vocally and physically.
The whole enterprise is led by Douglas Williams and Stephen Hegedus, thetwo bass-baritones who sing Don Giovanni and Leporello. Williams looks, actsand sings the great seducer with relish and vocal brilliance. Hegedus is justas adept in his role as his cohort but sly, ambitious and resentful. But in theend they are a team. I enjoyed their ability to act and react to each othereven more than their individual prowess in their roles.
The Ed Mirvish Theatre does not really have an orchestra pit but that didnot seem to bother David Fallis and the magnificent Tafelmusik BaroqueOrchestra who gave a marvelous performance.
Gerard Gauci’s set with its neo-classical exterior with the necessarybalconies and entrances is effective and easily changeable.
I have made no secret of my enjoyment of this production and like ahungry Oliver Twist (for opera that is) I can only repeat I want more and soshould you.
[Travel commitments and scheduling problems prevented me from attending anearlier performance].
Don Giovanni by W. A. Mozart, presented by Opera Atelier, opened on October 31 and runsuntil November 9, 2019 at the Ed Mirvish Theatre, 244 Victoria Street, Toronto.www.operaatelier.com