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Artists of Atelier Ballet; ​Photo credit:  Bruce Zinger

Baritone Bradley Christensen, tenor Colin Ainwsorth, Artists of Atelier Ballet
​Photo credit:  Bruce Zinger

Many traits of the musical Baroque lived on after J.S. Bach. In 1781 the twenty-five year old Mozart wrote his opera Idomeneo in Crete with da capo forms; basso continuo; a castrato hero (powerfully sung last night musically and dramatically by the young, rising vocal star Wallis Giunta); and exit arias, in which the number of characters on stage is narrowed down to one, who sings a big aria and leaves the stage (one presumes with the coins, flowers, and other gifts thrown onto the stage by admirers). These are characteristics of Baroque opera, and Opera Atelier specializes in that period. 

Co-artistic directors Marshall Pynkoski and Jeannette Lajeunesse Zingg, both holders of the Order of Canada, approach the demanding art of opera production as “sung ballet.” That is to say that every movement down to the smallest gesture, whether by the dancers or singers, in every scene, is precisely and expressively choreographed, and synchronized with a specific musical beat. The result of this painstaking preparation is a mesmerizing presentation in which one’s attention never wavers. My friend called it concise. There is an artistic unity between music and movement, a well deliberated presentation that is persuasive, moving, and expressive. The tableaux enacted by the soloists were particularly moving.

Soprano Measha Brueggergosman; ​Photo credit:  Bruce Zinger

The cast was very strong; Colin Ainsworth, no stranger to the company, sang the title role effectively. Guest artist Measha Brueggergosman sang the soprano role of Elettra convincingly, especially in her solo aria near the end of the opera.

Soprano Measha Brueggergosman, tenor Colin Ainsworth and
​mezzo-soprano Wallis Giunta; ​Photo credit:  Bruce Zinger

Last night’s performance demonstrated that, in all aspects of production (dance, music, dramatic interpretation, sets, costumes, cast, and so on), Opera Atelier is certainly capable of rivalling any other company. And no other company excels as it does in the combination of music and movement. I have been privileged to attend a rehearsal in which Pynkoski brought a scene to life through precise alignment of choreography and music, and I felt the strength of that preparation in the entire production last night.

Meghan Lindsay, soprano, played her successful rival in love, and carried the role through the full range of expression, as Giunta did for the object of her affection.

The supernatural effects and interventions by the gods were very effectively conveyed by the dancers and lighting. It seemed that not one moment of music and drama was neglected, that every scene was made to count. The stage management was impressive; sets and props were changed or moved easily and discreetly, without distracting from the performance.

Great care went into the making of the sets, which were visually evocative. The dancers were at their best, executing the well carefully designed choreography in all its details, bringing the story to life through movement.

The company has carried most of the elements out very well in the past, but last night was a stunning artistic synthesis of all of them with an excellent result. The instrumentalists were in fine form, David Fallis bringing out the best in all players, an especially important element in that Mozart had access to the musicians of the celebrated Mannheim Orchestra in his day. The chorus (this tragedy features a Greek chorus, of course) added to the experience. The production, which should not be missed, can be heard and seen at the Ed Mirvish Theatre on April 6 at 7:30, April 7 at 3:00, April 12 at 7:30, and April 13 at 4:30.

​​Review by  Paul Merkley FRSC
oronto ON April 5 2019

Opera Atelier Produces a Stunning Idomeneo