The 2016 production of Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro from La Scala had me really puzzled after three acts. There’s nothing to help with the production in either the booklet or on the disk so I went looking on line. According to the Financial Times, Frederic Wake-Walker’s production replaced a much revered version by Girgio Strehler and is a sort of homage to him filled with references to other of his productions.
I just got my hands on the La Scala recording of Mozart’s Lucio Silla. It’s the Marshall Pynkoski production that was done at Salzburg, then La Scala, then in somewhat modified form at Opera Atelier in Toronto, which I saw. It has provoked lots of thoughts about the work itself, how well the OA aesthetic transfers to another house and how seeing a production on video differs from seeing it live.
Season announcements, it seems, are like the King Street streetcar(1). You wait for ages then three come along at once. This time it’s Opera Atelier announcing the 2017/18 season. As ever there are two productions. A remount of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro runs October 26th to November 4th. The cast icludes Douglas Williams, making his Opera Atelier debut, in the title role, with Mireille Asselin (Susanna), Stephen Hegedus (Count Almaviva), Peggy Kriha Dye (Countess Almaviva), Mireille Lebel (Cherubino), Laura Pudwell (Marcellina), Gustav Andreassen (Bartolo), Christopher Enns (Basilio/Don Curzio), Olivier Laquerre (Antonio), and Grace Lee (Barbarina). This one will be sung in English.
Patrick Jang, Carla Huhtanen and Phillip Addis in “The Marriage of Figaro” (2010). Photo by Bruce Zinger.
Opera Atelier’s production of Mozart’s Lucio Silla opened last night at the Elgin. This is, more or less, the production that played at the Salzburg Festival and, later, at La Scala to considerable critical acclaim. It’s not hard to see why. It’s much the best thing Opera Atelier has done in a while. It’s more restrained than recent shows and trimmed of excess the familiar approach looks quite fresh again.
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.
Artists of Atelier Ballet with image of Meghan Lindsay as Alcina. Photo by Bruce Zinger.
Opera Atelier’s first real venture into Handel is accompanied by some significant shifts in aesthetic coupled with some slightly puzzling throwbacks. The work chosen is Alcina. It’s not Handel’s best known (or, indeed, best) but it’s a perfectly serviceable example of Handel’s Italian works for the London stage. The plot, ultimately from Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso, concerns the sorceress Alcina who has an illusory kingdom made up of the souls of men she has ensnared. Her most recent conquest is the knight Ruggiero. His betrother, Bradamante, disguised as her brother, Ricciardo, shows up with Ruggiero’s former tutor, Melisso. Melisso has a ring which shows things as they are, shorn of illusion. Eventually they use this to return Ruggiero to his duty and Alcina’s kingdom goes up in smoke. Along the way there’s also a sub-plot involving Alcina’s sister, Morgana, who falls in love with Ricciardo to the dismay of her lover Oronte. In the original there’s also a boy looking for his father and a lion but they got cut in Marshalll Pynkoski’s version. In fact there’s probably close to an hour in total cut from Handel’s score.
Opera Atelier announces its usual two production season. The fall 2014 production will be Handel’s Alcina with Meghan Lindsay in the title role. She will be joined by Allyson McHardy as Ruggiero, Marie Lenormand as Bradamante, Mireille Asselin as Morgana, Krešimir Špicer as Oronte and Olivier Laquerre as Melisso. Despite the absence of Curtis Sullivan, the advance publicity suggests that the trend to ever increasing amounts of bare flesh will continue.
The spring 2015 production will be Gluck’s Orphée et Eurydice in the Berlioz orchestration. This will push Tafelmusik even further into 19th century romantic rep. Is Tannhäuser on the cards? Mireille Lebel will sing Orpheus, Peggy Kriha Dye appears as Eurydice with Meghan Lindsay as Amour.
In many ways this is the most interesting season OA have offered for some time and the venture into Handel is very welcome. More details and tickets can be found here.
William Christie and Les Arts Florissants recorded Monteverdi’s Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria in Aix-en-Provence, five years before their Madrid recording. The Aix production was directed by Adrian Noble and featured real life couple Kreśimir Śpicer and Marijana Mijanović as Ulisse and Penelope.
Oddly enough, given the post previous to this, Reiner Moritz’s essay in the booklet accompanying this recording of Cavalli’s La Didone brings up the Harnoncourt/Ponelle Monteverdi recordings as a precursor to what he sees as Bill Christie’s similar championing of Cavalli. I guess the big difference is that only three of Monteverdi’s operas survive while we have 27 of Cavalli’s. I think he may have a point though. It seems to me that 17th century Italian opera works on an aesthetic which is very in tune with today. The relative spareness and clarity of the music seems closer to Britten than to Verdi and the cynicism and explicit sexuality of the libretti closer to Anna Nicole than La Bohème.
There’s a lot to like in Opera Atelier’s current production of Weber’s Der Freischütz but also some things that are just plain puzzling. I enjoyed it but certain aesthetic choices made no sense at all to me.
Let’s start with the good stuff. The OA template was relaxed quite a bit, particularly in the dance department. Allowing the women to dance in point shoes allowed for a degree of choreographic flexibility that was most welcome to me. This, from a dance point of view, was the best OA production I have seen. The singing, though stylistically inconsistent, was also uniformly excellent. Meghan Lindsay’s Agathe was superb. She had much the most dramatic voice on display and, to me, was the truest to the real sensibility of the piece. Carla Huhtanen, as Aanchen, was also excellent though in such a different way that wondered whether they were in the same production. Solid singing from the men too especially Krešimir Špicer as Max who was very stylish, if not especially heroic. The design and lighting elements were also not too constrained by baroque considerations and worked pretty well.
Meghan Lindsay and Krešimir Špicer in Opera Atelier’s production of Der Freischütz (Bruce Zinger photo).