Review: Don Quichotte (Canadian Opera Company)

The Canadian Opera Company’s Don Quichotte is “a stylish feast for the senses, truly a spectacle”

From the opening strains of the overture, the COC’s production of Don Quichotte by Massenet ensnared the hearts and imaginations of the audience and did not let go until the opera’s stirring conclusion. Don Quichotte is a 19th century French retelling of Don Quixote by Cervantes.

The COC pulled out all the stops for their season finale. Music, drama, costumes and set converged to create a stylish feast for the senses that was truly a spectacle. This production was clearly a true collaboration. The audience could sense the intimacy with which director, set, costume and lighting designers and musicians had worked to produce an organically harmonious finished product.

The majestic set consisted of numerous larger-than-life tomes that looked like blown up reproductions of a first edition copy of Cervantes’ novel, as well large-scale quills and ink wells atop plinths in lieu of more representational set elements. This was a clever and highly effective reference to the surreal world of imagination and fantasy in which our protagonist lives. Projection of handwritten passages and illustrations from the novel on parchment were used during the scene changes to caption the story and communicate some of the profound philosophical and social themes of the timeless classic. The audience let out a palpable gasp of awe when the curtain came up.

The costumes worked with the set to enhance the story-book environment. The elegant beauty of the period costumes was most apparent during the several striking chorus number that were a highlight of this work. There was also a beautiful symbiosis between costumes and choreography. The production was accented with several graceful and powerful dance sequences.

The singers, chorus and orchestra worked together as unified team to bring to life Massenet’s sinuous, effervescent, and unrestrained lyricism which represents the epitome of composition in the late 19th century Melodie style. My companion and I were blown away by the dramatic virtuosity of bass Ferruccio Furlanetto in the title role. His interpretation of the richly evocative score conveyed the heart wrenching sincerity and virtue of this deluded and noble idealist with a sensitivity and conviction that was compelling from the first note. Mezzo-Soprano Anita Rachvelishvili stepped into the role of the merciless femme fatale Dulcinée as though it was a second skin; infusing her rich, warm voice with a sensuous charm that caressed the listener. Baritone Quinn Kelsey sings with an assured, relaxed freedom that was born to step into the role of the loyal squire, Sancho Panzo.

The closing production of the COC’s 2013-2014 season reminded me of the truly transcendent power of opera when it is realized to its full magnificence. Don Quichotte is sure to be a jaw-dropping delight for seasoned and novice opera goers alike.


  •  Don Quichotte is playing until May 24 at Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts (145 Queen Street West)
  • Show times are 7:30 PM on May 14, 17, 20 and 22 with additional matinees on May 11 at 2 PM and May 24 at 4:30 PM
  • Ticket prices range from $45 – $365. Patrons under 30 can purchase tickets for $22 or $35 here.
  • Tickets are available online, or through the box office at 416-363-8231 (long distance 1-800-250-4653)