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Two masterpieces begin Toronto spring opera season

The Canadian Opera Company’s spring season has sprung. On stage at Toronto’s Four Seasons Centre, for the next three weeks, are two big masterpieces, operas that belong in anybody’s Top 10.

Mozart’s “Don Giovanni,” the second of his three great collaborations with librettist Lorenzo da Ponte, takes the legend of the great seducer Don Juan and gives it new humor and depth. The Toronto staging is kind of mod, with wacky cocktail costumes. But the music is what gives the opera its soul, and it is unchanging. It includes the bubbly “Champagne Aria,” the acerbic “Catalogue Aria” that lists the Don’s conquests, and the haunting Minuet that Mendelssohn called the greatest minuet ever written. The famous scene when Don Giovanni is dragged down to hell – in D Minor, the same key as Mozart’s “Requiem” – can be chilling, if handled right.

The other opera is Wagner’s “Die Walküre,” which also has an ending full of fire and drama. The third opera in Wagner’s “Ring” Cycle, it tells of how Brünnhilde, the beautiful warrior daughter of Wotan, disobeys him. Heartbroken, he punishes her by surrounding her with a ring of fire. The end of the opera, when the flames are leaping and he is bidding her farewell to the strains of the “Magic Fire Music,” is tremendously moving. “Die Walküre” also includes “The Ride of the Valkyries,” one of the best-known opera excerpts of all time.

“Don Giovanni” stars Russell Braun, Jennifer Holloway and Jane Archibald, and will be on stage at 7:30 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. Sunday and 7:30 p.m. Tuesday with additional performances at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 6, 12, 14, 18 and 21.

Wagner’s “Die Walküre” features Christine Goerke in the athletically demanding role of Brünnhilde” and Johan Reuter as Wotan. Performances are at 7 p.m. Saturday; 7 p.m. Wednesday; 4:30 p.m. Feb. 7; 7:30 p.m. Feb. 10, 13 and 19; and 2 p.m. Feb. 22.

For info or tickets, call (800) 250-4653 or visit www.coc.ca.

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