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Olivier Laquerre (centre) with Artists of Atelier Ballet; Photo by Bruce Zinger
Opera Atelier always seems to find ways to make their productions bigger, grander, and more spectacular than might seem possible. Cudos to Set Designer Gerard Gauci, Head of Wardrobe/Designer, Michael Legouffe, and Lighting Designer Michelle Ramsay for achieving marvellous grandeur and special effects. Others in the creative team include Resident Fight Director Jennifer Parr, Fight Captain, Jeremy Nasmith, and French Diction Coach Charles Di Meglio.
This production stops at nothing to portray the drama. The word ‘elaborate’ doesn’t begin to describe the complexity of this opera. Sets, costumes, lighting, dancers, a chorus in the side balcony, and the orchestra stretching across the pit and into the boxes on either side of the theatre, all contribute to the vision of Director Marshall Pynkoski and Associate Director and Choreographer Jeanette Lajeuness Zingg. They have mounted a grandiose spectacle that grips at the heart with sympathy for the betrayed woman despite her abuse of power.
Peggy Kriha Dye (centre) and Stephen Hegedus (front), with Artists of Atelier Ballet Photo by Bruce Zinger
Opera Atelier can be proud that this production has reached out to the hearing impaired with ASL theatre interpreters and has invited students from its educational program Making of an Opera in Toronto schools. The company is also offering pre-performance talks about the opera. Last night’s fast paced and insightful presentation by Deanna Gontard focused on the human drama within the complex story, and how the music contributes to that drama.
The entire Opera Atelier company with over eighty performers including Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Choir will travel to Versailles France in May to mount Medea at the Royal Opera House in the Palace of Versailles.
The cast was strong throughout. Pynkoski for the most part, went with singers familiar to Opera Atelier. Peggy Kriha Dye (Médée) and Colin Ainsworth (Jason) were both dramatically powerful and vocally brilliant. Kriha Dye has said that she works on a role a year in advance. It showed. She was emotionally dominant in her role depicting her struggle between love and vengeance. Mireille Asselin (Créuse), Stephen Hegedus, (Créon), Olivier Laquerre (Arcas, La Vengeance & Un Argien), Meghan Lindsay, (Nérine & Un Captif), Kevin Skelton ( Un Corinthien & Un Captif) and Karine White (Cléone) were all veterans of the Opera Atelier stage. Only Jesse Blumberg (Oronte) and Whitney Mather (Cupidon) were new to the company amongst the singers. The cast was incredibly strong.
Conductor David Fallis had the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Choir at his command. The orchestra included two harpsichords, a complement of strings, winds, and plenty of percussion. Elisa Citterio was concertmaster of the orchestra. This opera was her first performance in Toronto since the announcement of her appointment as Music Director of Tafelmusik. The sound of period instruments in the hands of Toronto's world class orchestra added to the authenticity of the production. The choir as usual was magnificent in its dramatically punctuating role. Fallis kept the opera moving forward with his brisk pacing.
One can’t say enough about the choreography and the artists of the Atelier Ballet. Twelve dancers created a wonderful spectacle at the arrival of the prince of Argos, and later as phantoms, and warriors complete with sword fights. Indeed, this was Baroque dance at its finest.
Have you ever felt betrayal to the extent that rage and vengeance are all that is on your mind and in your heart? The anger that can come from an infidelity, especially after one has given one's all to a relationship, can be one of life’s most overwhelming moments. Such a betrayal and its consequent acts of vengeance are at the centre of the powerful story of Medea, the opera by Marc-Antoine Charpentier mounted this week by Opera Atelier, Canada’s internationally renowned theatrical company specializing in opera, ballet and drama from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.
The opera is a three-hour tale of the Greek epic tragedy of the sorceress Médée (Medea) and Jason. The opera opens with Médée having assisted in Jason's retrieval of the ‘Golden Fleece’. She used her special powers to help Jason overcome otherwise insurmountable obstacles to gain the fleece and assist in his ambitions to be king of Thessaly. Médée’s crimes have forced the couple and their two children into exile in the palace of Créon, king of Corinth, where the opera begins with her suspicions that Jason has fallen in love with Créuse, the daughter of Créon. If this all seems very complicated, the drama on stage is actually quite clear in its depiction of the love, jealousy and rage that overtakes Médée as the opera unfolds.
Review by David Richards
Toronto ON April 26 2017
Mireille Asselin (Créuse) and Peggy Kriha Dye (Medea); Photo by Bruce Zinger
Opera Atelier delivers a heart wrenching Medea in its elaborate new production!
Colin Ainsworth (Centre) with Mireille Asselin (Right) and Artists of Atelier Ballet Photo by Bruce Zinger
Colin Ainsworth (Jason) and Peggy Kriha Dye (Medea); Photo by Bruce Zinger