Torontonians have an unusual luxury this time of the year. They can seea play about the beginning of the Trojan War and an opera about events at theend of that great, mythical conflict. You remember the 1000 ships moored in theharbour of Aulis ready to rescue the gorgeous Helen, Queen of Sparta from thenefarious Trojans? Small problem: no wind to help them sail across the Aegean.Solution: sacrifice the daughter of King Agamemnon. So goes Euripides’ Iphigeniaat Aulis as adapted by Sina Gilani as Wedding at Aulis forSoulpepper.
At the end of the war, Idomeneus, King of Crete, is returning from thewar but the sea god Neptune causes a storm that threatens to swallow the king. Solution: Idomeneus promises to sacrifice thefirst person he sees in Crete if his life is spared. Neptune agrees and thefirst person the king sees is his son. So, we start with human sacrifice of adaughter and end with the sacrifice of a son. A good plot for Mozart’s opera seria Idomeneo.
Opera Atelier holds the distinction of giving the first production of Idomeneoin North America on period instruments back in 2008. What was good then is evenbetter now. Director Marshall Pynkoski with Set Designer Gerard Gauci andCostume Designer Marco Gianfrancesco set the opera in its 18thcentury roots as a work of beauty, elegance and grace. Choreographer JeannetteLajeunesse Zingg and the Artists of Atelier Ballet add to these attributes sothat the entire production, in addition to all its operatic and balleticqualities, becomes a visual delight.
Mozart is an equal opportunity composer who provides virtual concertpieces for the main characters of the opera. The cast is exemplary starting withOpera Atelier stalwart, tenor Colin Ainsworth as the unfortunate Idomeneo. Heis a haunted man who has made a terrible choice. Ainsworth has a finely tunedvoice and his Idomeneo expresses vocal finesseand delivery of character as much as is permitted in opera seria.
His son Idamante, the intended sacrifice to Neptune, is sung by mezzosoprano Wallis Giunta. The role was written for a castrato but is frequentlysung by a tenor. It can be done quite well by a mezzo soprano and Giunta withher lovely voice gives a marvelous performance as the prince who is loved bytwo women.
The lushly voiced and dramatic Measha Brueggergosman is back as thelove-struck but ill-fated Electra. She is in love with Idamante, but he is inlove with someone else. She goes from passion to beingunhinged as she realizes that she is the loser of the love triangle.
Soprano Meghan Lindsay runs away with kudos for her performance as theTrojan princess Ilia. She is brought to Crete as a trophy and then falls inlove with her owner. We hear her pain and her love in a vocally andtheatrically superb performance.
Opera Atelier usually performs at the gorgeous Elgin Theatre but theyhave been squeezed out of there and sent to the Ed Mirvish Theatre up thestreet. It is not made for opera and the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra washemmed in around the stage looking a bit uncomfortable. That appearance was notreflected in their playing under the baton of David Fallis.
Idomeneo is basedon a less than satisfactory libretto by a cleric named Giovanni BattistaVaresco and its form of opera seriadoes not help it. But despite those shortcomings, Opera Atelier has managed onemore time to give us a production that is a feast for the eyes, a banquet for theears and ambrosia for the soul. A highly civilized evening at the opera.
Idomeneo byW. A. Mozart, presented by Opera Atelier, is being presented between April 4 to13, 2019 at the Ed Mirvish Theatre 244 Victoria St. Toronto, Ontario. www.operaatelier.com