Another Don Giovanni

Opera Atelier are about to open a new production of Don Giovanni.

And why not?  When last seen in these parts, The Don was ambushed by a feminist reading from the Canadian Opera Company almost exactly three years ago, a world-weary lover overcome by his adversaries; it was as if they were all fed up with being on the losing end in every other production and finally had their revenge.  While it was surprisingly enjoyable (I loved it even if the critics didn’t seem to get it), in an opera that often is a site for directorial experimentation, I suspect OA will go in precisely the opposite direction, giving us something closer to what Mozart had in mind.  Even at their most transgressive, this is a company with possibly the most recognizable style of any company in North America, aggressively seeking to get to the heart of the text.

Don Giovanni

Photo Credit:Bruce Zinger 2011; Artists: Phillip Addis, Curtis Sullivan and the Artists of Atelier Ballet

And is there a risk?  We’re always hearing that money’s tight no matter how much the economy is booming.  Now –when the western world’s economy is showing signs of coming apart—you’d think we might see some cautious programming.  The Canadian Opera Company have so far shown no loss of nerve in their programming, possibly because their research –and their loud delirious audiences—tell them that being bold is the way to go.

OA’s audience appear to be just as devoted.   DG isn’t a risk for Opera Atelier, when they have such a well-defined brand, unlike the COC, who undertake opera from any century in just about any style.

Start with a ballet company impersonating an opera company.  It used to bother me until I stopped demanding that they behave like all the opera companies I had experienced before.  Oh my, every performer looks good onstage.  Movement vocabulary is researched and prepared as exquisitely as any part of the text.  For some operas they’ve use paintings as clues to how singers gestured, stood and moved.  They’re nerds for scholarship, and by that i mean that they aren’t afraid to do opera as written.

The musical preparation is every bit as thoughtful and restrained.  An Opera Atelier production falls as delicately upon the ear as if you were sitting in a royal court rather than a public theatre.  It helps that they play in small to medium sized spaces, and that they are accompanied by Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra, one of the finest such ensembles in the world, an orchestra that never upstages or covers the singers.

And OA regularly pull operas out of their recent past, restaging and re-thinking operas over and over, gradually making them a little better.  While this is a new Don Giovanni, they’ve staged the opera before.  I am eager to see what they find in this new interpretation.

A Don Giovanni has just opened at the Metropolitan Opera.  While the reviews have been unenthusiastic, they’ve been hampered by the loss of their star Mariusz Kwiecien due to a back injury.  Perhaps when Kwiecien feels up to it, he’ll deliver as promised.  But in the meantime, there’s always a historically informed alternative up the road in Toronto, and then later in Columbus Ohio, where OA will also perform later in November.

Marshall Pynkoski, co-artistic director of Opera Atelier

Marshall Pynkoski, co-artistic director of Opera Atelier

Director and co-artistic director Marshall Pynkoski says “we believe that Mozart wrote Don Giovanni as a true comedy about a young man who is innocent in many ways. This interpretation is in line with Mozart’s own, though it sets us apart from many modern productions.”  I’m eager to see.

Don Giovanni opens October 29th at the Elgin Theatre, running until November 5th

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