After Opera Atelier’s seductive take on Mozart’s Don Giovanni, you could add thousands of Toronto opera lovers to the Don’s infamous black book of conquests.
Director Marshall Pynkoski’s entertaining version highlights the opera’s comic aspects, but of course the work’s gravitas comes through in the music and libretto, which tell the story of the legendary lothario’s exploits. Having assaulted Donna Anna (Meghan Lindsay) and killed her father, the Commendatore (Gustav Andreassen), Don Giovanni (Douglas Williams), with the help of his servant Leporello (Stephen Hegedus), tries to woo the about-to-be-married Zerlina (Mireille Asselin), all while fleeing spurned lover Donna Elvira (Carla Huhtanen).
Pynkoski’s casting is inspired. Not only is Williams charismatic and mellifluously mercurial in the title role, Martha Mann Southgate’s richly detailed costumes fit him like the proverbial glove (Mann died earlier this year and the production is dedicated to her). What’s more, Williams and Hegedus have similar builds, making the opera’s clothes-swapping and mistaken identity shenanigans more convincing than usual.
Pynkoski’s cuts, especially of two big arias in the second act, mean some characters get less shading than normal. Huhtanen’s Elvira emerges as the most complex of the women, tackling both the bravura arias and comedy with ease.
Asselin’s Zerlina and her put-upon fiancé, Masetto (Olivier Laquerre), also create sharp portraits of a young couple.
While David Fallis’s conducting of the Tafelmusik orchestra sometimes falters – one of the Don’s numbers seemed particularly under-rehearsed on opening night – this Don Giovanni has a liveliness and momentum that many productions lack.
Gerard Gauci’s set – elegant but not gaudy – fills the Ed Mirvish Theatre nicely, and there’s at least one operatic in-joke that Opera Atelier fans will enjoy.
There’s also fine use of the chorus and dancers. Pynkoski often opens a scene with a performer racing across the stage to adjust a piece of the set, which gives the work a velocity that makes the three music-filled hours pass by quickly.