Saskatoon Opera presents film noir take on Mozart classic

Emma Johnson and Iain MacNeil perform a scene from Saskatoon Opera’s Don Giovanni at the Remai Arts Centre.
Michelle Berg / Saskatoon StarPhoenix

Part opera buffa, part opera seria, Don Giovanni combines humour and drama in the story of a promiscuous nobleman.

Regina native Emma Johnson makes her Saskatoon Opera debut as Zerlina. The soprano discusses her role, her love of Mozart’s music and her opera career in a few key words.

Voice: “My voice teacher pretty much raised me into who I am.” At six or seven, Johnson started training with Diana Woolrich. By the end of high school, she encouraged Johnson to pursue singing as a career. Her parents also encouraged her talents and the pursuit of an undergrad in voice performance. “It was kind of like a virus. It just spread and I said ‘I’ve got to do this.’”

Classical: “The thing with classical music, not just opera but the whole genre, is you can never listen to all of it. There’s always more. You hear something and think ‘I want to sing that.’ It’s this crazy love that comes from wanting to sing, from the music, from the text and the languages.”

Mozart: “The music in Don Giovanni is absolutely amazing. It’s some of the best that Mozart ever wrote. I think it appeals to a really vast audience. Young people like it, old people like it. It’s so diverse in how Mozart wrote the music for each character. In that sense. it doesn’t feel like one opera.”

Interpretations: “There’s so many ways it can be done,” she said. “Ours is set in the 1940s. Their vision was black-and-white movie. I don’t think it’s something that’s been done often. I’m used to seeing it in the traditional time. With this, there’s so much we can do with it.”

Iain MacNeil and Emma Johnson perform a scene from Saskatoon Opera’s Don Giovanni at the Remai Arts Centre.

Michelle Berg /

Saskatoon StarPhoenix

Don Giovanni: Johnson said the 1787 opera is still very relevant today. Through seven main characters, the audience gets to see many different relationships. “It’s a piece where you just want to know what happens next, but it’s also very relatable in the sense that I think there are a lot of men like Don Giovanni in the world and a lot of women like Zerlina, Donna Anna and Donna Elvira.”

Zerlina: “I love playing this character because she’s young and she’s naive. Some call her innocent, but I don’t think so. I feel she is the character who comes out unscathed from Don Giovanni’s grasp,” Johnson said. “The hardest thing for me about playing Zerlina is finding a mix between that sweetness and sassiness and bringing that to the music.”

Evil?: “Don Giovanni has the never-ending hunger for lust and women, but there’s also the question of, in the moment does he love these women? Is he really sincere?” she said. “I think the audience should decide for themselves.”

Masters: Johnson completed an undergrad in voice performance at the…

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