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As Bubbly as Champagne

The Elgin Theatre
10/29/2011 -  & Oct 30, November 1, 2, 4*, 5 (Toronto), 25, 27 (Columbus), 2011
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Don Giovanni, K. 527
Phillip Addis (Don Giovanni), Vasil Garvanliev (Leporello), Meghan Lindsay (Donna Anna), Peggy Kriha Dye (Donna Elvira), Carla Huhtanen (Zerlina), Lawrence Williford (Don Ottavio), Curtis Sullivan (Masetto/Commendatore)
Marshall Pynkoski (Director), Jeannette Lajeunesse Zingg (Choreographer),Gerard Gauci (Set Designer), Martha Mann (Costume Designer), Bonnie Beecher (Lighting Designer)
Stefano Montanari (Conductor)
The Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra, Opera Atelier Chorus, Artists of the Atelier Ballet

V. Garvanliev & P. Kriha Dye (© Bruce Zinger)

Opera Atelier’s Don Giovanni builds on the company’s many strengths (as seen notably in other Mozart productions in recent years) and the result is a dramatically intense production that is also extremely amusing. Mozart’s own description of the work as an opera buffa has been taken to heart.

The company continues its use of performers who have proven themselves adept at fulfilling its unique approach to stage movement, which amounts to a sort of semi-choreography. Singers who have the good fortune of being shaped more like dancers have a definite advantage. Notable returning performers are Phillip Addis as the virile, youthful title character and Peggy Kriha Dye as the ever-ardent Elvira.

Carla Huhtanen is always welcome, and in this instance performs Zerlina as a rather calculating character - no innocent peasant girl she. Curtis Sullivan cuts a fine figure as Masetto and also doubles as the Commendatore. The fact that his voice lacks the scary tone when singing as the threatening statue is just a minor flaw in fine performance overall.

Making his role debut is Vasil Garvanliev as Leporello, a part he attacks with great relish. (He has previously performed smaller roles with OA).

Lawrence Williford has a slender voice but he uses it with such intelligence and sense of line that he truly comes across as the ideal, dreamy Don Ottavio. His Dalla sua pace is surely the most elegant I have ever heard. One regrets in this version the lack of his character’s other aria, Il mio tesoro intanto. We also do not get Elivra’s Mi tradi (frequently omitted as it was a later addition to the work). An entire scene is also cut, namely the one ocurring after Giovanni invites the statue to dinner. This is the scene where Donna Anna informs Ottavio that she wants to wait awhile before they marry, thus we also lose Anna’s aria Non mi dir.

Making a company debut is Meghan Lindsay as Donna Anna. After local training (at the Royal Conservatory, where she showed great promise) she has spent a year with the Opera Studio Nederland in Amsterdam. Taking on such a high dramatic role at the beginning of a career is a daring move - and she has pulled it off.

There are a couple of spots where the commedia knockabout business gets a bit out of hand, but nothing serious.

One effectively droll moment: during the final scene, after Don Giovanni has been dragged off to hell, Donna Anna informs Ottavio that she wants a year of mourning before they marry. At this, Masetto offers Ottavio his pistol - whether to shoot himself or Anna is not clear. Another nice touch: tableaux vivants during the curtain calls.

Jeannete Lajeuness Zingg’s carefully researched choreography adds just a right touch of liveliness (bordering on mayhem) during the party scene. Martha Mann’s costumes will no doubt earn her yet another design award. Gerard Gauci’s breezy sets are up to his usual high standard.

Pulling everything together musically with his expansive conducting style is Stefano Montanari. Every phrase is sharply defined and correlates perfectly with the stage movement. He has made notable appearances in recent seasons with the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra as both conductor and violinist. I see his conducting career seems to be ramping up - I hope Toronto still manages to nab a share of his time.

This is the second production of Don Giovanni in Opera Atelier’s 26-year history. The first was in 1996 and I felt they had over-reached themselves at the time, unlike this new production which comes together with such an impeccable sense of purpose. The earlier production toured to Ottawa, Japan and Seoul. This production deserves to be widely seen, and in fact its first voyage occurs later this month (November 25 and 27) when it is presented by Ohio’s Opera Columbus.

Michael Johnson



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