Mozart’s Don Giovanni

with the NAC Orchestra

2023-06-15 20:00 2023-06-17 22:00 60 Canada/Eastern 🎟 NAC: Mozart’s Don Giovanni

In-person event

Opera is back at the NAC with a thrilling performance of Mozart’s Don Giovanni, featuring a superstar cast of soloists and Ottawa’s amazing and ever-versatile Ewashko Singers under the direction of Laurence Ewashko.  Don Giovanni is undeniably one of Mozarts’s supreme achievements, but did you know it is also widely regarded as the finest opera of all time? Overflowing with comedy, tragedy, drama, and the supernatural, Don Giovanni recounts the conquests and ultimate...

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Southam Hall,1 Elgin Street,Ottawa,Canada
June 15 - 17, 2023

≈ 2 hours and 45 minutes · With intermission

Our programs have gone digital.

Scan the QR code at the venue's entrance to read the program notes before the show begins.

Last updated: June 12, 2023

Conductor’s Note

I recall with such joy the production of La bohème that I led with the National Arts Centre Orchestra and Opera Lyra just a few years before my tenure as Music Director here in Ottawa began. 

I recall admiring what a wonderfully fine opera orchestra we have here at the Centre and learning with interest of the deep and rich history of operatic productions and festivals that this city has hosted. 

That history is just one of the reasons that I believe it is important and enriching for opera to be part of our lives in Southam Hall.

I believe it also because opera represents the most enthralling coming together of artistic disciplines and creative talents. The marriage of word, music, narrative, stage, character, design, direction, voice, and instrument brings out the best of each, conjuring a whole that is one of humanity’s most kaleidoscopic creations.

And of course, few composers and librettists have achieved that oneness in the way that Mozart and Da Ponte did. Riffing on an age-old story they bring with Don Giovanni a profundity, charm, beauty, and wit into our hearts and minds that even now, more than two centuries later, moves us deeply.

To be collaborating on the project with not only a sensational cast, but also with our friend, the visionary Joel Ivany, is a dream. That the National Arts Centre and the Banff Centre stand shoulder to shoulder on this production and that the brilliant cast of next generation artists who have supported us here in Ottawa will take it to the Rockies in a few weeks is a statement of intent and creative partnership of which we are all very proud. 

I wish you an evening of joy and fulfillment with this timeless masterpiece and these extraordinary artists. 

Director’s Note

Don Giovanni. Two words that have a lot of meaning for many of us who are passionate lovers of this beautiful art form that we call opera. This story and character are forever linked to its creators, Mozart and Da Ponte. New productions, new interpretations, alongside classic recordings and countless experiences over many years. As opera returns to the National Arts Centre, with this piece, I took time to reflect on its origins. 

This opera was commissioned and written within nine months. For a new opera, this is an incredibly short amount of time. Mozart and Da Ponte were not short on ideas. Don Giovanni is loosely based off of a real-life Don Juan, Casanova. A man who lived during Mozart and Da Ponte’s time, Casanova lived a full life until age 73, with many pseudonyms and likely personalities, mingling with royalty, popes, cardinals, and creatives like Voltaire and Goethe. Best known for his affairs with women, he was labelled a libertine. Someone devoid of moral principles, responsibility, and sexual restraint (all so undesirable). Casanova was someone who looked at societal norms and decided to go against the grain.

We have people like Casanova and Don Giovanni living in a society that seeks restrictions and control.

This opera has become a hot topic for a more “woke” generation that sees Don Giovanni as an abuser and rapist, especially during and following the #MeToo movement. Don Giovanni is also seen by many as an archetype and champion for living a moral-free life.

Can both interpretations exist? It’s important to realize that both types of people exist. There are those that see Don Giovanni as a criminal deserving to be locked up (if not worse) and those that desire to live fully in the world without attachment to it. 

If I asked you what you desire today, your thoughts and answers would likely vary. Some may desire new curtains for the living room, while others have desires and impulses buried deep within that no one knows about. 

I believe this opera is about viewing someone who represents going after those impulses and desires without guilt, repercussions, or thoughts about feeling bad about what they are doing. 

In some ways, it’s a freeing way to think about life…but it is also not reality. 

It may be a reality for that one person, but life is about more than one person. If we have been reminded of anything over the past three years, it is about community and its place in society. This opera is about more than just Don Giovanni. It’s about Leporello, his friend, and the women he has influenced—Donna Elvira, Donna Anna, and Zerlina—as well as the men in this opera—Don Ottavio, Masetto, and Anna’s father, the Commendatore. It is also about the people who represent their community: our chorus.

As you sit and listen and watch this masterpiece of an opera, played tonight by Canada’s NAC Orchestra, I invite you to listen and watch with open eyes and ears to a timeless story and see how you may interact with it in new ways. 



Performed in Italian with English surtitles
Music Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Libretto Lorenzo Da Ponte



Leporello, the servant of the licentious nobleman Don Giovanni, is keeping watch while his master attempts to seduce the Commendatore’s daughter, Donna Anna. He complains about his thankless job, with no sleep and little pay (Introduction: “Notte e giorno faticar”). Suddenly, Anna rushes out of the house; she struggles with the masked Giovanni but is unsuccessful in discovering his identity. She screams and goes for help. The Commendatore appears, challenges Giovanni to a duel and is killed. Giovanni and Leporello escape, while Anna returns to the scene with her fiancé Don Ottavio and finds her father dead. She asks Ottavio to help her avenge the Commendatore’s death (Duet: “Fuggi, crudele, fuggi!”)

In the morning, while Leporello is attempting to persuade his master to reform his womanizing ways, they see a veiled woman. It’s Donna Elvira, one of Giovanni’s former lovers, who rages over his betrayal (Aria: “Ah chi mi dice mai”). Not yet recognizing Elvira, Giovanni, thrilled by the possibility of another conquest, approaches her to comfort her, but she recognizes him as the man who had seduced and abandoned her. Stunned, Giovanni makes an escape, leaving Leporello to explain to Elvira the scale of his master’s womanizing (Aria: “Madamina, il catalog è questo”).

Masetto and his bride Zerlina are to be married at a peasant wedding (Chorus: “Giovinette che fate all’amore”). Giovanni notices Zerlina and decides to seduce her (Duet: “Là ci darem la mano”). Elvira interrupts him and urges Zerlina to flee her suitor (Aria: “Ah fuggi il traditor”). Ottavio and Anna see Giovanni and appeal to him for help in their pursuit of the murderer of Anna’s father. When Giovanni excuses himself, Anna recognizes his voice. She reveals to Ottavio that Giovanni was the masked intruder who had tried to rape her and had killed her father (Aria: “Or sai chi l’onore”). She and Ottavio are now more determined than ever to avenge the Commendatore’s death.

Later that evening, Giovanni is entertaining the peasants with a party at his home. Zerlina, alone with Masetto, hears the Don’s voice nearby, and becomes agitated, making her fiancé suspicious. Masetto hides but Giovanni sees Zerlina and renews his attentions toward her. Masetto suddenly catches Giovanni by surprise, however, upon regaining his composure, the nobleman tells Masetto that he and Zerlina were merely looking for him, and he invites them to join the party. Seeing an opportunity to take their revenge on Giovanni, Elvira, Anna, and Ottavio appear, masked, at the Don’s home, into which they are welcomed by Leporello. While everyone is dancing, Giovanni attempts to drag Zerlina into an adjoining room. When she cries for help, Giovanni pins the blame on Leporello. Elvira, Anna, and Ottavio remove their masks and, with Zerlina and Masetto, all accuse Giovanni, but he and Leporello manage to slip away.



Leporello threatens to leave his master (Duet: “Eh via buffone”), but Giovanni enlists him into another scheme. They exchange clothes and Leporello is instructed to lure Elvira away so Giovanni can seduce Elvira’s maid, Zerlina (Trio: “Ah taci, ingiusto core”). While Giovanni serenades Zerlina (Canzonetta: “Deh vieni alla finestra”), Masetto arrives with a band of armed villagers on the hunt for Giovanni. They encounter “Leporello”, to whom Masetto reveals his intent to kill Giovanni. The disguised Giovanni tricks Masetto into handing over his weapons, then beats him up and runs off. Zerlina finds her wounded fiancé and comforts him (Aria: “Vedrai, carino”).

Later, “Giovanni” and Elvira are surprised by Anna, Ottavio, Zerlina, and Masetto. They all denounce the “Don”, while Elvira begs that they spare him (Sextet: “Sola sola in buio loco”). Desperate to save himself, Leporello reveals his identity, and escapes.

In a cemetery, Giovanni laughingly tells an annoyed Leporello about his recent escapades. He hears a ghostly voice and encounters the statue of the Commendatore. Giovanni orders the terrified Leporello to invite the statue to dinner (Duet: “O statua gentilissima”). The statue accepts.

At his home, Giovanni begins to dine, while an anxious Leporello sneaks food from the table. Elvira bursts in to make a last-ditch effort to persuade the Don to change his ways, but he mocks her. Furious, she leaves, but then rushes back the other way, screaming: the statue of the Commendatore has arrived. As Leporello hides, the statue asks the Don to repent; Giovanni refuses and is consumed by flames. Elvira, Anna, Zerlina, Ottavio, Masetto, and Leporello emerge, contemplating their respective futures and the fate of an immoral man.

Synopsis by Hannah Chan-Hartley



Don Giovanni, K. 527

Don Giovanni is the second opera on which composer Mozart (1756–91) and librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte (1749–1838) collaborated. It was commissioned by Pasquale Bondini, the Italian impresario of Prague’s National Theatre, where the pair’s first opera, The Marriage of Figaro, had had a tremendously successful run in late 1786. On October 29 the following year, Don Giovanni premiered there, to great acclaim; Mozart himself conducted the first four performances. The opera’s Vienna début on May 7, 1788, however, was met with a lukewarm reception, though according to Da Ponte, the audiences warmed to it with subsequent performances. By the 19th century, Don Giovanni was highly revered as a model of the operatic genre and considered by many to be the best of the composer’s operas. It is one of the first operas to be staged continuously since its inception.

By the time Da Ponte created his libretto, the Spanish story about the Spanish libertine Don Juan famed for his seduction of women had been circulating for almost a century and half in various spoken-word and operatic versions. He based his text on the one by Giovanni Bertati, entited Don Giovanni o sia Il convitato di pietra (Don Giovanni or The Stone Guest), which was originally set by the composer Giuseppe Gazzaniga as an “opera-within-an-opera” and performed in Venice in early 1787. For his opera with Mozart, Da Ponte expanded Bertati’s one-act format to two, by adding several comic episodes in the latter half and fleshing out the role of Donna Elvira.

Musically, Don Giovanni unfolds like the popular opera buffa (comic opera) of the day—that is, alternating speech-like recitatives for dialogue and action with fully musical numbers, including solo arias for meditation and emotional expression and ensembles (duets, trios, etc.) that juxtapose the characters’ perspectives simultaneously while also advancing the plot. However, Mozart sought to sharpen the drama by sometimes altering the traditional function of these numbers; for example, most of the arias in Act I are sung to another character on stage, thus feelings are expressed publicly as part of the story’s action, whereas the more self-reflective type of aria appears more frequently in Act II. Throughout the opera’s performance history, it was quite common for the libretto and score to be reworked or updated in some way—whether it be interpolating spoken-word scenes from other sources, inserting dances, or making cuts and substitutions—to suit the time and place in which it was presented.

With its distinctive blend of comic and serious elements, Don Giovanni continues to fascinate directors, performers, and audiences. The opera’s characters and their situations, highlighted by Mozart’s powerful music, seem to awaken ambivalent feelings in us. For one, how do we respond to the character of the Don? From his relentless pursuit of women to the murder of the Commendatore, we alternately laugh and shake our fists at his reprehensible and criminal behaviour. Furthermore, the music reveals very little about him; rather than having his own identity, he’s instead a vocal chameleon—listen to how his line adapts and blends with the individual styles of his antagonists as he encounters them. At the same time, we’re forced to consider what we’d do if we were in the positions of Leporello, Donna Elvira, Donna Anna, and Zerlina; we’d empathize, surely, but also likely be judgmental of their responses to Giovanni.

Perhaps the Don’s greatest moral failing is his belief that he can flout society’s laws and morals consequence free. And since he’s evaded earthly forms judgement, only supernatural force can rid him of his hubris. The Don’s demise is set up in one of opera’s most terrifying moments—the statue’s entrance into Giovanni’s dining hall. Mozart already prefigures this from the beginning of the opera’s overture, which opens with a series of D minor chords. These chords return in the climactic scene, though here, a tritone dissonance (often called the “devil’s interval”) is added to the sonority, thereby imbuing the scene with a diabolical atmosphere. When the Commendatore drags Giovanni into the flames of Hell, the furious music resolves into a triumphant D major chord. From here, as per the conventions of opera buffa, an ensemble finale follows, in which the remaining characters consider their futures, then conclude with a moral summation. Yet, even at the end, ambiguities and questions linger, evidence of why this work still provokes and resonates with us today.

Program note by Hannah Chan-Hartley, PhD


  • dscf9130-curtis-perry-2-cropped
    conductor Alexander Shelley
  • director Joel Ivany
  • Set Designer Michael Gianfrancesco
  • kimberly-purtell
    Lighting Designer Kimberly Purtell
  • lesley-bradley-headshot
    Stage Manager Lesley Abarquez Bradley
  • Chorus Master Laurence Ewashko
  • baritone (Don Giovanni) Elliot Madore
  • baritone (Leporello) Justin Welsh
  • soprano (Donna Anna) Jane Archibald
  • soprano (Donna Elvira) Miriam Khalil
  • tenor (Don Ottavio) Andrew Haji
  • soprano (Zerlina) Mireille Asselin
  • vartan-headshot-cropped
    bass-baritone (Masetto & Commendatore) Vartan Gabrielian
  • Ewashko Singers Choir
    chorus ensemble Ewashko Singers
  • tapteam2021-photobydahliakatz-0322-scaled-e1641578056504-cropped
    Assistant Conductor Jennifer Tung
  • anna-davidson-colour-1
    Assistant Stage Manager Anna Davidson
  • Featuring NAC Orchestra



Creative Team

Alexander Shelley

Joel Ivany

Stage Designer 
Michael Gianfrancesco

Lighting Designer 
Kim Purtell

Stage Manager  
Lesley Abarquez Bradley

Chorus Master
Laurence Ewashko


Don Giovanni
Elliot Madore

Justin Welsh

Donna Anna
Jane Archibald

Donna Elvira
Miriam Khalil

Don Ottavio
Andrew Haji

Mireille Asselin

Masetto / Commandatore
Vartan Gabrielian

Chorus of peasants, villagers, and servants
Ewashko Singers

Production Credits

Assistant Conductor
Jennifer Tung

Assistant Stage Manager
Anna Davidson

Surtitles Caller
Bethzaïda Thomas

Rehearsal Pianist (soloists)
Holly Kroeker

Rehearsal Pianist (chorus)
Valerie Dueck

Ewashko Singers

Donna Ager
Maureen Brannan
Allison Kennedy
Emili Losier
Ilene McKenna
Christine Muggeridge

Elizabeth Burbidge
Gabriela Comeau Gort
Katie Cruickshank 
Rachel Hotte
Vickie Iles
Caroline Johnston
Mary Zborowski

Matt Gannon
Andrew Jahn
Adam Laurenti
Chris Libuit
Alexis Poirier
Caeden Rose
Mathieu Roy
Ryan Tonelli

Russell Baron
Norman Brown
Alain Franchomme
Matthew Menard
Eugene Oscapella 
Stephen Slessor
Christopher Yordi

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart DON GIOVANNI.
Edited for the New Mozart Edition by Wolfgang Plath and Wolfgang Rehm.
Used by arrangement with European American Music Distributors Company, U.S. and Canadian agent for Baerenreiter-Verlag, publisher and copyright owner.

NAC Orchestra

First Violins
**Yosuke Kawasaki (concertmaster)
Jessica Linnebach (associate concertmaster)
Noémi Racine Gaudreault (assistant concertmaster)
Marjolaine Lambert
Emily Kruspe
Frédéric Moisan
Zhengdong Liang
Carissa Klopoushak
*Erica Miller
*Martine Dubé

Second violins
Mintje van Lier (principal)
**Winston Webber (assistant principal)
Jeremy Mastrangelo
Leah Roseman
Emily Westell
Manuela Milani
Mark Friedman
Karoly Sziladi
**Edvard Skerjanc
*Oleg Chelpanov
*Heather Schnarr

Jethro Marks (principal)
David Marks (associate principal)
David Goldblatt (assistant principal)
Paul Casey
David Thies-Thompson

Rachel Mercer (principal)
**Julia MacLaine (assistant principal)
Leah Wyber
Marc-André Riberdy
Timothy McCoy
*Karen Kang

Double Basses
Max Cardilli (assistant principal)
Vincent Gendron
Marjolaine Fournier
**Hilda Cowie
*Paul Mach

Joanna G'froerer (principal)
Stephanie Morin

Charles Hamann (principal)
Anna Petersen

English Horn
Anna Petersen

Kimball Sykes (principal)
Sean Rice

Darren Hicks (principal)
Vincent Parizeau

Lawrence Vine (principal)
**Julie Fauteux (associate principal)
Elizabeth Simpson
**Lauren Anker
**Louis-Pierre Bergeron

Karen Donnelly (principal)
Steven van Gulik

*Steve Dyer (guest principal)
Colin Traquair

Bass Trombone
*Scott Robinson

**Chris Lee (principal)

*Aaron McDonald (guest principal)

**Jonathan Wade

* Thomas Annand

Principal Librarian
Nancy Elbeck

Assistant Librarian
Corey Rempel

Personnel Manager
Meiko Lydall

Orchestra Personnel Coordinator
Laurie Shannon

*Additional musicians
**On leave