Opera Atelier: Actéon and Pygmalion

I saw two baroque operas on the same bill, plus something brand new added. Opera Atelier are presenting Charpentier’s Actéon and Rameau’s Pygmalion at the Elgin Theatre in a program exploring Ovidian tales of transformation, tenor Colin Ainsworth starring in both.

Actéon is the darker piece before intermission, a cautionary tale with erotic overtones: the hunter who catches a glimpse of the Goddess Diana.  When he is caught in the act, he is turned into a stag who is devoured by his own hounds. While it sounds deadly serious, there are moments when one glimpses a hint of mischief from the voyeuristic hunter peeking out of the bushes at the beautiful nymphs & the goddess.

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The Actéon Company (photo: Bruce Zinger)

After intermission the something new was Inception, featuring an original solo violin score composed by Edwin Huizinga, danced by Tyler Gledhill. Inception functions as a kind of prologue to Pygmalion, introducing us to the god Eros.

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Tyler Gledhill (dancing) with Edwin Huizinga (violin) in Inception (photo: Bruce Zinger)

Pygmalion is in a different style from Actéon, but again starring Colin Ainsworth, who seems to sing more notes than everyone else put together(!), a remarkable amount of flawless coloratura. Where he roamed into haute-contre territory for the role of Actéon the Rameau score seems to require more voice, a great deal of impressive singing.

The dramatic highlight occurs when Meghan Lindsay as the statue comes to life. No CGI required, just good acting. Her first halting steps are charmingly awkward, as she gradually comes to life.

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Tyler Gledhill (winged), Meghan Lindsay and Colin Ainsworth in Pygmalion (photo: Bruce Zinger)

The magic of dance rules the entire program. When Actéon changes, dance is the indispensable effect to persuade us of the metamorphosis while supplying a wonderful release of tension in the physical movement & the music. For the second part of the program, Opera Atelier are really in the promised land, giving us more dancing than anything else, a light-hearted celebration of love.  The creative team of choreographer Jeannette Lajeunesse Zingg & director Marshall Pynkoski blend thoughtful movement throughout the program.

The Opera Atelier double bill including Huizinga’s original music continues until November 3rd at the Elgin Theatre

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