Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” is a classic opera and a known crowd pleaser, and it is not hard to see why. Mozart’s inspired compositions and Lorenzo Da Ponte’s mischievous libretto combine to bring a touch of whimsicality to the opera world. Considered an “opera buffa” (comic opera) it certainly reaches beyond that, merging drama and comedy to create the elaborate narrative. Based on the legend of Don Juan, the story revolves around its namesake (Gordon Bintner, Baritone), his disgruntled manservant, Leporello (Daniel Okulitch, Bass-Baritone), and the many innocent victims left in his wake.
First there is Donna Anna (Emily Dorn, Soprano) who narrowly avoids being added to Giovanni’s long list of conquests and whose father, the Commendatore (Alain Coulombe, Bass), gives his life for her honor. Heartbroken, she turns to find solace in her fiancé, Don Ottavio (Jean-Michel Richer, Tenor), who vows to avenge her father’s death.
Then there is Donna Elvira (Layla Claire, Soprano), the wife Don Giovanni has abandoned and who is now searching for answers from the father of her unborn child.
Last but not least, we have Zerlina (Hélène Guilmette, Soprano) and Masetto (Stephen Hegedus, Bass-Baritone), whose wedding day is ruined by Giovanni’s attempted seduction of the bride.
After multiple failed attempts by these many foes to bring Don Giovanni to justice, the renowned lothario must face the ultimate judgment in the end.
In his debut as conductor for L’OdM, Jordan DeSouza led a beautiful interpretation of Mozart’s work, unfortunately I cannot say the same for the production itself. Also making his OdM debut, stage director David Lefkowich did not seem able to deliver “Don Giovanni” with a clear and concise voice. Much like the art of seduction, when coupling the comedic and the dramatic, one must tread lightly and act with precision. An approach that would have been appreciated in the opening scene, when what appears to be a very passionate encounter between Donna Anna and Don Giovanni quickly turns into a rather aggressive scene of attempted rape. This may sound extreme, but so did wondering whether this production should open with a trigger warning. A thought which lead me to also question why the traditional pre-show warning was not delivered regarding the gunshots that occur in the two acts.
The very strong cast features seven leads, and so it felt very natural to have maintained a minimalist approach to the set and costumes. An approach which lends itself perfectly to have the lighting tell the story the physical backdrop could not deliver alone. However, the dramatic effects of the lighting were sparse and sporadic at best, with some obvious missed opportunities to elevate the production from solid to remarkable. All that being said, the energy and enthusiasm of this opera, as exemplified in this production by Daniel Okulitch as Leporello, will surely continue to woo audiences new and old alike.
Photos by Yves Renaud