Opera’s “over-the-top sense of whimsy” shines at The Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre in Toronto!
In classical Greek mythology, the tale of Orpheus and Eurydice is one of courage, self-doubt, loss and mortality. Opera Atelier’s 2015 production of the Hector Berlioz version of Christophe Gluck’s Orpheus and Eurydice offers a fresh and playful take on this timeless tragedy.
I always find that Opera Atelier productions provide great entertainment value. The costumes are exquisite, the dancing is arresting, and the orchestra is superb. And of course, the singing is beautiful.
An over-the-top sense of whimsy is also a very typical feature of Atelier interpretations. This technique was used to full advantage here, as the production featured a number of very memorably flashy stage tricks.
While the music of this opera has some dark moments, the general tone is surprisingly cheerful given the heavy subject matter. The opera’s intimate cast of three characters did a phenomenal job of exploring this emotional contrast.
One of the main innovations of Berlioz’ 19th century reworking of Gluck’s 18th century work was in casting a mezzo-soprano in the role of Orpheus, in lieu of the traditional alto castrato. As Orpheus, Mireille Lebel’s voice possesses an agility and control that allowed her to manipulate the colour of her voice and inject a dark, round quality in her low notes that effectively conveyed Orpheus’ loss and emptiness.
Peggy Kriha Dye’s voice is bright, supple and stunning and very suited to this playful, ingenuous interpretation of Eurydice. Meghan Lindsay’s memorable scenes as l’Amour were infused with an impishness that allowed us to go with the flow whenever any unexpected twists occurred.
The Tafelmusik choir has a huge part to play in this work and they truly outdid themselves. The singing was sublime and spoke to their collective command of historically informed performance.
The extended closing ballet that was omitted from the Berlioz 1859 version was reincorporated in this production and was one of the most memorable aspects of the performance. The fresh, spring pastel colour scheme of this “floor show” was charming and definitely in keeping with the fun-loving spirit of this production. My companion preferred this version to more standard interpretations of this work and especially enjoyed the dancing and choral singing.
Orpheus and Eurydice is an intriguing bundle of contradictions: a tragedy that has you walking out of the theatre with a spring in your step. Once again, Opera Atelier has managed to demonstrate that historically informed period productions don’t have to be stuffy.
- Orpheus and Eurydice is playing until April 18, 2015 at The Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre (189 Yonge Street)
- Show times are 7:30 PM on April 14 & 17; 3 PM on April 12; and 4:30 PM on April 18
- Ticket prices range from $45 – $189. Patrons under 30 can purchase tickets from $24.
- Tickets are available online, or through the box office at 416.314.2884
Photo: Mireille Lebel with Artists of Atelier Ballet by Bruce Zinger.