Opera Atelier is one of Toronto’s artistic treasures, and last night it previewed its 35th anniversary season at St. Lawrence Hall. The company is rare if not unique in undertaking period performances of Baroque operas and in approaching them with meticulous choreographic expression by dancers and singers; artistic co-directors Marshall Pynkoski and Jeannette Lajeunesse Zingg (both recently awarded the Order of Canada) are dancing masters. They are already fully engaged (the co-directors and the company take the time needed to make these representations spectacular and of high quality in every way) in preparing for the Eastertide performance of Handel’s Resurrection. Dancers Juri Hiraoka and Kevin Law, both armed with swords, danced a pas de deux from the opera, angels storming the gates of Hell. Pynkoski and Lajeunesse Zingg drew the attention of the audience to the lightness of the Baroque choreography, to the upward motion of the dancers on the musical “downbeats.”
Review by Paul Merkley F.R.S.C.
Toronto ON January 28th 2020
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Opera Atelier Launches its New Season with a sparkling preview
Tenor Colin Ainsworth in Opera Atelier’s production of The Magic Flute
Photo credit: Bruce Zinger
Artist of Atelier Ballet Tyler Gledhill and composer/violinist Edwin Huizinga in Opera Atelier’s production of The Angel Speaks at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance in Chicago; Photo credit: Bruce Zinger
Pynkoski gave a thumbnail sketch of the history of their performances, a very impressive list, many of the productions having taken place in Europe and Asia. The company is presently at its zenith, internationally recognized and in demand in many venues. Beside Resurrection, the coming season will feature Mozart’s Magic Flute. Set designer Gerard Gauci showed slides of the sets he has planned for that production and explained the inspiration for some of them. The production will be very impressive, and the singers that have been engaged are well worth hearing. Lajeunesse Zingg commented on the dances in Mozart’s work, noting that all of the dances the company performs were called for by the composer, and underlining the importance of reconstructing the period choreography and ways of movement, which this company does faithfully and precisely.
Opera Atelier has commissioned a new, neo-Baroque work entitled The Angel Speaks, the production based on the theme of the Annunciation, featuring new Baroque inspired music (written by violinist Huizinga) alongside music by Purcell, including that composer’s Evening Hymn. Part of this work (in progress, but to be completed for the upcoming season) has been performed in Toronto, Chicago, and Versailles (where the company has performed six times in the Royal Chapel). This production will be paired with Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas in the coming season. Soprano Mireille Asselin (who will sing the Queen of the Night) performed the Evening Hymn beautifully; it is easy to imagine her in Mozart’s impressive role, a truly villainous villainess.
Opera Atelier’s strength is in bringing operas of the past to life accurately, truly, and faithfully, and in executing performances that express the beauty of the original works with great attention to detail, and in a fashion that compels attention and excites admiration and wonder. All of their performances are well worth attending. Why not subscribe?