Opera Atelier opened their 30th season last night with Lully’s Armide. It’s hard to think of a work that better encapsulates what Opera Atelier is and has always aspired to be. It’s French, it’s 17th century and it’s heavily dependent on ballet, and ballet of an aesthetic that pretty much defines Opera Atelier. The whole Opera Atelier aesthetic package is there in spades. Bare chested male dancers in tights that leave little to the imagination, heaving bosoms, ladies twirling prettily in full skirts, castanets and finger cymbals, chorus singing off stage, camp “baroque” acting, tight buttocked homoeroticism, singers cast as much for eye candy value as vocals, a tendency to play for laughs,Tafelmusik. To be fair, there were a few innovations. I think I heard a more “realistic” vocal style. The singers were prepared to make ugly sounds when the emotional context demanded it, rather than an endless flow of prettiness. The homoeroticism got a BDSM twist in Act 3. Still, this was very much “by the book” Opera Atelier and if that’s your bag you’ll love it.
Opera Atelier has announced its plans for the 2015/16 season. As seems to have become the norm, the Toronto season will feature one new (to Toronto anyway) production and one remount. The new piece will be Mozart’s little seen Lucio Silla which played at last year’s Salzburg Festival( with a considerably starrier cast) and which is headed for La Scala in a few weeks time. The title role will be sung by Kresimir Spicer, alongside Inga Kalna (Cinna), Mireille Asselin (Celia), Peggy Kriha Dye (Cecillio) and Meghan Lindsay (Giunia). David Fallis and Tafelmusik will be in the pit. There will be six performances as follows; April 7th, 9th, 10th (3:00pm), 12th, 15th, and 16th (4:30pm), 2016 (start times 7:30 pm except where noted). FWIW here’s a review of the Salzburg production.