Toronto Opera Initiative's Don Giovanni

Toronto Opera Initiative's Don Giovanni

Jenna Simeonov

The newly-formed Toronto Opera Initiative put up an in-concert, semi-staged presentation of Mozart’s beloved Don Giovanni at College Street United Church, just in time for Valentine’s day.

Led by sopranos Jaclyn Grossman and Rebecca Townsend, the artist-centric collective creates performance opportunities for young artists. During their transition between student and professional life, it’s all about gaining experience, even in what may seem like “stretch roles” for these emerging singers.

Music director St├ęphane Mayer took the piano for last night’s Don Giovanni, and it was a great way for us to get to know the soon-to-be Intern Coach in the Canadian Opera Company’s Ensemble Studio (201617 season). He played Mozart’s score with lots of healthy sound and creativity in the recitatives; the art of playing an orchestra reduction is a skill that takes experience to develop, and we’re interested in hearing more from Mayer as he gets his feet wet at the COC in the fall.

The cast of singers was mostly made up of singers still finishing their degrees, and so they were a bit green when it comes to the specifics of style, language, and the vocal demands of the score. In the title role, baritone Andrey Andreychik had a textbook sound that we all crave from Don Juan. He sang with young agility, but he has a stoic, manly sound that sets him apart from the other low-voiced men in the show. He even showed off an impressive high A in that fantastic scene with the Commendatore; Andrey’s is a voice to pay attention to.

Other standout performances included tenor Daevyd Pepper as Don Ottavio. He had a wonderful sound for Mozart, and the elements of the role that are so often tricky for tenors seemed to be right in his vocal sweet spot. I was thrilled that this production included his “Dalla sua pace”, which he sang smart. Catch Daevyd next in University of Toronto Opera’s production of Paul Bunyan next month.

Baritone Adam Harris also impressed as Masetto. He had fantastic comic timing that turned Masetto’s scenes into real spats between he and Zerlina. Since the role doesn’t offer a huge vocal range, I’m definitely curious to hear more from Harris.

We generously extend all the kudos to any team of young artists who organizes a company of any scale, and especially to those with the goal of creating more chances for singers to step onstage. Speaking with soprano and General Manager Jaclyn Grossman, I got a clear vibe of fun and positivity among the team, plus lots of love and respect for music director St├ęphane Mayer. Nothing at all wrong with a happy working environment.

Bravi, team! Thanks for the introductions to new voices, and we hope to hear more from you in the coming seasons!

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