Vancouver Opera

Don Giovanni
by W.A. Mozart
libretto by Lorenzo da Ponte

Dates 4, 7, 9, 11, 13 March 2006 at 7.30 Venue Queen Elizabeth Theatre

Conductor Jonathan Darlington Director Michael Cavanagh Chorus director/Assistant conductor Leslie Dala Fight director Nicholas Harrison Sets & costumes John Pascoe Lighting Steve Ross Stage manager Sheila Munn

Don Giovanni Brett Polegato Leporello Burak Bilgili Donna Anna Angela Fout Don Ottavio John Tessier Donna Elvira Carol Wilson Zerlina Nathalie Paulin Masetto Daniel Okulitch Commendatore Brian McIntosh

Reviewer Elizabeth Paterson

With music to charm the ear and a dashing hero to seduce the heart, Mozart's ambiguous take on the libertine Don Giovanni is on view at Vancouver Opera.

Both the principals and the chorus are uniformly excellent, displaying elegant mastery of line, ornament and diction. And everyone can act. The orchestra under Jonathan Darlington plays with liveliness and sophistication, deftly bringing out Mozart's sub-text.

To this fine ensemble, Borak Bilgili brings a warm, robust voice and engaging presence to Leporello. Angela Fout, as Donna Anna, displays a voluptuous voice and strength of character and Carol Wilson sings Donna Elvira's glittering notes faultlessly. Outstanding was John Tessier in the usually unhappy role of Donna Anna's dithering fiancé. He infuses such intensity and direct honesty into "Dalla sua pace" that Don Ottavio is brought to life. Nathalie Paulin is enchanting as Zerlina, singing with so much ease she seems artless. Daniel Okulitch makes a solid, pig-headed Masetto and Brian McIntosh a strong and assured Commendatore.

Brett Polegato plays the Don with unflagging confidence and panache that attract even while his actions repel. The timbre of his voice is truly lovely, and he makes this Don suave and sophisticated. In a brilliant piece of staging, his serenade beneath a lady's balcony, "Deh vieni alla finestra" (Come to the window) draws out all the local inhabitants and passers-by in the darkened street stop to listen.

Yet this is the only moment when we are allowed to enjoy seduction unalloyed. Menacing supernumeraries, crosses in the backdrops and lurid lighting all combine to produce a heavily moralizing directorial vision. The despicable aspects of Don Giovanni's behaviour are kept front and centre, his charm almost sleazy . Humour and lightness are down-played and the Don slides from elegance to outright crudeness. In the end, laid on with a trowel as it is, this modern moralistic view defeats itself. Don Giovanni's steadfast insistence to be himself seems admirable.

The costumes and sets, on loan from the Michigan Opera, are both by John Pascoe. The costumes are elegant, in a subdued palette of blacks, reds, browns and blues. Don Giovanni's costumes are dazzling, ranging from Prince Charming white to devilish black. The sets in contrast are heavy in effect and symbolism.

This was a beautifully sung and acted performance, with an interesting point of view. It is unfortunate that any audience member should think it more important to be first out of the parking lot than thank the cast and orchestra for their work.

© 2006 Elizabeth Paterson