Abridged Opera Delivers Stunning Symphony In Mozart’s Don Giovanni

Its been 232 years since Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart premiered his famed Don Giovanni Opera at the original National Theatre in Prague. So, it is understandable the latest production, by the Windsor Symphony Youth Orchestra and the Young Artists of Abridged Opera, playing this evening at downtown’s Capitol Theatre, might have a few updates. Some are subtle, but the most significant one is the location for this time-tested and globally loved “drama giocoso,” a drama with dark comedic elements. The backdrop is an office.

There was a slight change to make the Opera more Canadian. In Act 2, a feast is prepared, consisting of wine, Timbits, and pizza.

Philip Klaasen, Kaitlyn Clifford, and George Ossipov

The Commendatore (George Ossipov) lays murdered mourned by his daughter Donna Anna (Kaitlyn Clifford) as her fiancé Don Ottavio (Philip Klaasen) looks on in Abridged Opera’s Abridged Opera’s presentation of Mozart’s Don Giovanni at The Capitol Theatre in Windsor, Ontario, on May 22, 2019. Photo by Eric Bonnici / Eyes On Windsor..

The Opera did keep an innovation of Mozart by opening with a murder, in this case the Commendatore. His dying minutes are played convincingly by George Ossipov with his untimely end mourned by his daughter Donna Anna, acted with considerable depth by Leamington’s Kaitlyn Clifford and Donna Anna’s fiancé Don Ottavio, the role performed excellently by the very supportive Saskatchewan tenor Philip Klaasen.

In the modern version, it turns out Don Giovanni is actually the office lothario which opens up a considerable number of complications for Giovanni himself, performed with rigid perfection by Brazilian baritone Jorge Trabanco. This includes his efforts for romantic entanglements with basically all woman with only one criteria, they wear skirts.

orge Trabanco as Don Giovanna and Brianna DeSantis as Zerli

Jorge Trabanco as Don Giovanna and Brianna DeSantis as Zerlina performing in Abridged Opera’s presentation of Mozart’s Don Giovanni at The Capitol Theatre in Windsor, Ontario, on May 22, 2019. Photo by Eric Bonnici / Eyes On Windsor.

One of his complications is the lovely but emotionally-confused Zerlina, played with total and understandable wonderment by local soprano Brianna DeSantis. Most of her confusion is having to fend off Giovanni if only because she is betrothed to the hapless Masetto. To the role, Nick Borg brings a solid level of weakness to a character well deserving of such a portrayal only compromised by Borg’s incredibly strong and fine operatic voice.

Nick Borg as Masetto

Nick Borg as Masetto performing in Abridged Opera’s presentation of Mozart’s Don Giovanni at The Capitol Theatre in Windsor, Ontario, on May 22, 2019. Photo by Eric Bonnici / Eyes On Windsor.

On the vocal front, Borg is not alone. His is one in a sea of incredible voices projected throughout the Theatre’s Pentastar hall. None of the actors, who admirably combine acting and singing in Italian, wear microphones. To understand the power they generate is to sit in the front role when Clifford performs at the edge of the stage and to feel the air currents vibrate.

Kaitlyn Clifford as Donna Anna

Kaitlyn Clifford as Donna Anna performing in Abridged Opera’s presentation of Mozart’s Don Giovanni at The Capitol Theatre in Windsor, Ontario, on May 22, 2019. Photo by Eric Bonnici / Eyes On Windsor.

It so happens, traditionally operas are sung in the romance language, and Don Giovanni is no exception. As to singing in Italian, Clifford tells Eyes on Windsor that not one cast member is fluent. This could almost sound like a ruse given to the untrained ear, and most likely a few trained ones, it is an almost unbelievable statement. The secret in her case, says Clifford, is the twelve years she has been involved in opera and one of the key attributes of her training has been to sound like a native Italian singer.

She and the cast do it so well. Given the foreign nature of the language, subtitles are projected on a screen behind the actors so the audience is able to follow the action, and there is plenty, building up to the tragic but dramatic ending.

Philip Klaasen as Don Ottavio

Philip Klaasen as Don Ottavio performing in Abridged Opera’s presentation of Mozart’s Don Giovanni at The Capitol Theatre in Windsor, Ontario, on May 22, 2019. Photo by Eric Bonnici / Eyes On Windsor.

There is also something unique about the performance. Young musicians join with professional orchestral musicians in the orchestra pit. The idea for the union was brought to Daniel Wiley, Windsor Symphony Orchestra (WSO) Assistant Conductor by Erin Armstrong, the Abridged Opera’s Creative Director. Wiley not only contributed WSO musicians but members of the Windsor Symphony Youth Orchestra as well.

Live music certainly added an immediacy to the performance

Other cast members are Montreal’s Anthony Rodrigues as Leporello, local soprano Alyssa Epp in the role of Donna Elvira and local baritone Jake Flynn.

Alyssa Epp as Donna Elvira

Alyssa Epp (centre) as Donna Elvira performing in Abridged Opera’s presentation of Mozart’s Don Giovanni at The Capitol Theatre in Windsor, Ontario, on May 22, 2019. Photo by Eric Bonnici / Eyes On Windsor.

Anthony Rodrigues as Leporello

Anthony Rodrigues as Leporello performing in Abridged Opera’s presentation of Mozart’s Don Giovanni at The Capitol Theatre in Windsor, Ontario, on May 22, 2019. Photo by Eric Bonnici / Eyes On Windsor.

Conductor is Daniel Wiley and Erika Downie is the Director with Claire Harris the Repetiteur.

The final performance, one not to be missed, will be Thursday, May 23rd, at 7:30pm at the Capitol Theatre, 121 University Ave., W. Tickets are $25 General admission, $15 seniors/students, $5 kids 12 & under. For more information, including purchasing tickets visit the Eyes On Windsor Event Listing For Abridged Opera’s Don Giovanni.

Robert Tuomi

Article by Robert Tuomi

For over a decade, Robert has covered local news and community events. Initially as a contributor to CBC Radio’s local morning show and then as the long-time producer and host of CJAM’s The Rest of the News and as a journalist at the Windsor Square. A graduate of the Nikon School of Photography he enjoys illustrating his reports with what he sees through his camera’s lens.