Vancouver Opera

Dates and Venue 1, 6, 7, 8 & 9, March 2014, 7.30pm (matinee on Sun at 2pm) | Queen Elizabeth Theatre

Don Giovanni Daniel Okulitch Donna Anna Erin Wall Donna Elvira Krisztina Szabó Don Ottavio Colin Ainsworth Leporello Stephen Hegedus Zerlina Rachel Fenlon Masetto Aaron Durand Commendatore Giles Tomkins

Conductor Steuart Bedford Director Kelly Robinson Projection Design Bob Bonniol Chorus Director Leslie Dala Lighting Design Harry Frehner Stage Manager Theresa Tsang

Sung in Italian with English SURTITLESTM

Reviewer John Jane

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Il dissoluto punito, ossia il Don Giovanni, thankfully shortened to Don Giovanni for international productions, is a dramma giocoso opera in two acts. Loosely based on the legend of Don Juan, Mozart’s debauched anti-hero spends much of his leisure time indiscriminately pursuing women of any size, age or social bearing, and as a European aristocrat, he has a lot of leisure time. But is he an insidious sex addict or a hopeless romantic? In this Vancouver Opera production, baritone Daniel Okulitch plays him in convincing style as a lusty rogue with no moral compass.

Director Kelly Robinson sets this mounting in late eighteenth century Seville, roughly the time it was written. Robinson first introduces Don Giovanni to the audience during the overture, as he clambers onto the stage, looking dishevelled after presumably a rough night out on the town. The opera then opens with Notte e giorno faticar with Giovanni’s sidekick Leporello (Stephen Hegedus) complaining about his lot in life serving his master.

Mezzo-soprano Krisztina Szabó as Donna Elvira, sopranos Erin Wall as Donna Anna and Rachel Fenlon as Zerlina may be the best-looking female cast to elegantly grace the Queen Elizabeth Theatre stage in some time. Both sopranos offer captivating and engaged performances, particularly Ms. Fenlon, who is naively charming in Zerlina's aria Batti, batti, o bel Masetto, as she implores her betrothed Masetto (Aaron Durand) to believe in her innocence.

Krisztina Szabó is marvelous as the coquettish Donna Elvira. Delivering good coloratura in her showpiece aria, Mi tradi quell'alma ingrate she reflects on the misery that Don Giovanni has brought, yet still harbours a fondness towards him. Ms. Szabó, who alternates with Leslie Ann Bradley for the role, reveals comic timing and a natural penchant for physical comedy.

Daniel Okulitch takes on the role of Don Giovanni with flair and charisma. Sure, he’s a loathsome cad, but when he sings Mozart with such clarity and style, who can’t forgive him. Frequent performer with Vancouver Opera, Toronto tenor Colin Ainsworth is less visible in the role of Don Ottavio. But he displays strength in dutiful tenderness in his solo aria Il mio tesoro, vowing to avenge the death of Donna Anna’s father on Don Giovanni.

Guest conductor Steuart Bedford leads the Vancouver Opera Orchestra in a balanced and nuanced interpretation of Mozart’s brilliant score.

Projection designer Bob Bonniol’s gorgeous images are projected onto every surface of the well-constructed set. Shades of grey change to vibrant colour as locations switch seamlessly from underground cisterns to grand ballrooms.

Don Giovanni is opera on a grand scale. The Queen Elizabeth Theatre is fine for two hours of musical theatre, but for high level productions like this, Vancouver needs its own opera house - but don’t hold your breath.

© 2013 John Jane