Opera Atelier’s webstream of Handel’s The Resurrection premiered on Thursday evening and will be available until this coming Thursday. It’s ticketed and you can buy an access code from the RCM box office. It’s the first Opera Atelier show conceived for webstreaming as opposed to filming a stage performance. The action was filmed in St. Lawrence Hall and the music was recorded at Koerner.
I think this approach is the right thing to do until we can all be sure that a performance can go ahead in a theatre with an audience. The end product is recognisably Opera Atelier but good use has been made of the opportunities that making for film allows. There’s lots of ballet and the chorus never appears. Perhaps even more than most Opera Atelier shows it feels like a ballet with singing. Some of this is because the piece is not terribly dramatic. Almost all the action is sung about rather than seen. There are exceptions; notably two big confrontation scenes between the Archangel and Lucifer but much of the rest of the time there would not be much to see. The visual interest is provided by the ballet or, sometimes, by quite striking lighting effects. The lighting is interesting. There’s a lot of use of colour and also of smoke with bright spots playing on the smoke. Sometimes this makes the picture rather murky which I guess isn’t out of place for scenes that take place in Hell but you likely need to watch this on reasonably high resolution gear.
For me though the really enjoyable part of this show was the music making. The singing from all the principals is excellent and Tafelmusik sound great. The trio of ladies; Carla Huhtanen as the Archangel, Meghan Lindsay as Mary Magdalene and Allyson McHardy as Cleophas provide an interesting mix of voices. Carla has the brightest sound and the showiest music with plenty of coloratura which she manages with aplomb. She also is obviously having a lot of fun in the scenes with Lucifer! Meghan’s richer voice gets some gorgeously lyrical music and Alysson’s smoky mezzo rounds things out beautifully. Douglas Williams is absolutely solid as Lucifer and goes in for some entirely justifiable scenery chewing too. Colin Ainsworth, as St. John the Evangelist, is as pleasing to listen to as ever and sings a couple of big arias really nicely.
As a film it’s well crafted. I think the choice of shots is generally judicious and there’s just a touch of use of effects like superpositions. The sound recording is excellent with a realistic balance. The video is 4K which is probably going on necessary given the smoke and lighting. That said, the delivery platform is Vimeo which isn’t the easiest thing to get to work properly on most home theatre set ups so you may end up, as I did, watching on a laptop. I have a retina screen so that was fine but I hate to think what this would look like on some of the work supplied laptops I’ve used over the years.
So in summary, Opera Atelier’s film of Handel’s The Resurrection does a good job. It’s musically excellent, visually interesting and technically high quality. I’d recommend it with the only proviso that I suspect it needs to be watched on a reasonably high quality screen.