Fortune favours the bold in Manitoba Opera's modern Don Giovanni

Manitoba Opera has Spain on the brain. Both operas this year, Don Giovanni and The Barber of Seville, are set in Seville. Don Giovanni director Oriol Tomas makes the most of the Spanish theme.

Obvious chemistry between youthful cast members in director Oriol Tomas's Manitoba Opera debut

Daniel Okulitch, left, is perfect in the starring role of Don Giovanni, and well supported by Stephen Hegedus as Leporello, his beleaguered manservant in Manitoba Opera's production of Don Giovanni. (Colin Corneau/Manitoba Opera)

Manitoba Opera has Spain on the brain — both operas this year, Don Giovanni and The Barber of Seville, are set in Seville.

Don Giovanni director Oriol Tomas, in his Manitoba Opera debut, makes the most of the Spanish theme. A clever stage design combines natural settings with more artistic and supernatural flashes of brilliance.

Daniel Okulitch is perfect in the starring role of Don Giovanni in this production of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's two-act opera. He is brash and violent but with convincing charm in voice and deed.

Okulitch is well supported by Leporello (Stephen Hegedus), his beleaguered manservant. The boyish and bright-voiced Johnathon Kirby (Masetto) rounds out the trio of baritones, with the resonant bass of Kirk Eichelberger bringing gravitas as the avenging Commendatore.

Guests toast at Zerlina and Masetto's wedding party in Manitoba Opera's production of Mozart's Don Giovanni. (Robert Tinker/Manitoba Opera)

When Giovanni refuses to mend his evil ways, he is banished to hell with the phrase "Time's up!" (albeit in Italian).

Mozart was a reputed lover of women and nowhere more so than on the opera stage, where he could blend their soprano voices, sending them soaring ever upward with only the baritone and bass as ballast.

Mozart has little interest in the tenor role (Don Ottavio), which is a shame, as Owen McCausland has a ringing voice.

In this earlier version of the opera, one of Mozart's most beautiful tenor arias, Dalla sua pace, has yet to be written. Instead there is the difficult and slightly cloying Il mio tesoro, not nearly as pretty, but always a showstopping tenor turn when done well. In this production it is done very well.

The two prima Donnas, Elvira and Anna, are divine. As Zerlina, Andrea Lett makes a strong and crowd-pleasing debut. 

The only opening night plaint was a certain tentativeness on the unfamiliar set.

Some of the more tricky fight choreography and blocking seemed hesitant, but the singing and the orchestra under the steady baton of Tyrone Paterson were praiseworthy and there was an obvious chemistry between the youthful cast members.

A strong start to the season!

The Manitoba Opera production of Don Giovanni is at the Centennial Concert Hall in Winnipeg on Nov. 24, 27 and 30.


Lara Rae


Lara Rae is a stand-up comic, comedy writer and the former artistic director of the Winnipeg Comedy Festival.


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