Don Giovanni Delights

Music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Libretto by Lorenzo da Ponte. Directed by Marshall Pynkoski. Conducted by Stefano Montanari. Until Nov. 5 at the Elgin Theatre, 189 Yonge St. 1-855-622-2787.
If you’re a fan of agrodolce, the sublime sweet and sour sauce which is one of the treasures of Italian cuisine, then you will have a glorious time at Opera Atelier’s production of Don Giovanni, which opened on Saturday night at the Elgin Theatre.
Not only do you get to spend three hours listening to an exquisitely played score (bravo, conductor Stefano Montanari and the Tafelmusik Orchestra!), but you have a cast who sing like angels, act like devils and thoroughly explore all of the spiritual terrain in between.
Director Marshall Pynkoski is out to stress the comedic elements in the work, which is the wisest approach, because the gravity that lies inside it — a murder in the first scene, a descent to hell in the last — will make itself felt without any further coaxing.
Both sides of Mozart’s creative self were in full force here: the sensitive soul who understood the pleasurable pain of love all too well and the irreverent jester who thumbed his nose at convention and mocked decorum. The magic of Don Giovanni lies in the quicksilver rapidity with which these elements are juggled before our eyes and ears.
“Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee,” may have been Mohammed Ali’s motto as a boxer, but it applies equally to Mozart’s music and Marshall Pynkoski’s direction.
His refreshingly rapid, yet delicately detailed staging brought to mind a master pastry chef applying curlicues of decorative frosting at the speed of lightning on top of an already sumptuous cake.
But to stop us from sliding into mere frivolity or camp, he wisely steered Gerard Gauci into a scenic design that delivered a world of melancholy muted earth tones, against which Martha Mann’s crisply tailored costumes, favouring blacks and whites, stood out in vivid relief, while Bonnie Beecher’s almost subliminal lighting gave us a world where the line between night and day, as well as good and bad, is being constantly blurred.
The cast deserve the rest of the glory. Phillip Addis, while delivering all the vocal richness the role of Don Giovanni requires, still managed to have a cocky, almost contemporary attitude in his swagger that made us love the man even while we despised his deeds.
I would say that Vasil Garvanliev’s Leporello stole the show, but that implies making too much out of one’s role, whereas this incredibly skilled young performer simply provided everything the character demands: wit, agility, comic invention, splendid diction and solid musicianship.
Meghan Lindsay’s Donna Anna also impressed me enormously, offering a stunningly attractive stage presence married to the kind of crisp, clear sound that gives the role its true place in the score.
And Peggy Kriha Dye was a delectable Donna Elvira, exploiting all the dramatic and musical colours the part has to offer, from broken-hearted grief and concupiscent hope right through to the blazing fury of a woman scorned.
Lawrence Wiliford’s tenor shimmered as Don Ottavio, while Curtis Sullivan’s double of Masetto and the Commendatore was vocally sure, but dramatically mixed and by the same token, Carla Huhtanen sounded sweet but acted a bit tentatively as Zerlina.
Still, all in all, Opera Atelier’s Don Giovanni is a feast for lovers of great music, great theatre and great entertainment.