Windsor to get a taste of Mozart’s Don Giovanni
Baritone with local roots helps present accessible opera
A 231-year-old tale of womanizing and seduction is coming to a Windsor church this fall, and a former choirboy is the one bringing it there.
John Holland and eight others will perform Mozart’s Don Giovanni Sept. 30 at All Saints’ Anglican Church, the fourth and final stop on the group’s Ontario tour. “We’re bringing opera to where people can easily access it,” said Holland, who grew up in Windsor, and earned an undergraduate degree in music from the University of Windsor.
“There’s no need to dress up and pay hundreds for a ticket. Opera was composed for everyday people, and everyday people can still enjoy it now.”
The 42-year-old baritone who once sang in All Saints’ church choir now lives in Toronto and teaches at both York University and the Royal Conservatory of Music. He founded the Canadian Institute for Czech Music in 2013, and recently partnered with Opera by Request, a Toronto-based group, to put together a cast for a touring production of Don Giovanni.
Normally it takes months to learn a part in an Italian opera, said Holland, since English-speaking singers are not only learning to pronounce and sing the lyrics, but also learning what each line means so they can act it. This time it only took two weeks of preparation to get the show together — each cast member, all friends of Holland, had already played his or her character in previous productions of Don Giovanni, so it was like “dusting off an old memory,” Holland said.
Holland played the part of Leporello, Don Giovanni’s servant who chronicles his master’s life through the stories of his romantic conquests, in 2015 at the Estates Theatre in Prague, Czech Republic — the same place Mozart conducted the opera’s premiere in 1787. “It was amazing to be there and think, this is where it first happened,” said Holland. “Some people there thought they could feel Mozart’s presence, and I wanted to share that feeling with Windsor.” Now, he’s reprising the role for the four Ontario shows: Ottawa, Toronto, London, and Windsor. Holland said he’s happy the final show will be in his hometown; a big celebration will come with the closing curtain. “Windsor has a smaller arts scene than Toronto, but it’s a strong arts scene,” said Holland, who admitted to still getting homesick for the city he grew up in. “The main thing is bringing classical music and opera out of big theatres and into local spaces.” Holland chose All Saints’ church for its acoustics and intimate size, he said. The concert will be accompanied by a single piano, which he said will fill the room with the passion and colour Mozart intended a symphony to convey. Anyone concerned they won’t understand the Italian opera can rest assured — a screen with English translations of each line will be projected on stage behind the performers.
Tickets for the show, which starts at 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 30, cost $20 and will be available at the door.