Resurrection Again

Handel’s oratorio The Resurrection received its belated Canadian premiere in Opera Atelier’s production brought to Koerner Hall, an early work long neglected.

Although the production had been prepared in 2021 it had to be filmed because in-person performance wasn’t possible due to the pandemic. This is, excuse the expression, the second coming of this production, and starring the same principals as in the film.

The timing adds a layer as I chose to see Resurrection on Easter Sunday, thinking that would be the best timing, as opposed to earlier in Holy Week. After seeing it I’m not sure about my choice. While I quite love the work and this production, it’s a piece of theatre, and not to be confused with something religious like a mass.

While there is much to admire in this presentation I’ll begin with the set, as it conditions our experience before the show even starts, calling attention to resident set designer Gerard Gauci’s creation. You will notice that there are matching pulpits downstage left and right.

The one to our left serves for the Angel, soprano Carla Huhtanen while the one to our right is home base for Lucifer, bass Douglas Williams. For some of us this is a profound echo of our lives in church even if there’s nothing churchy about the set.

The set is a perfect conceptualization of the antagonism in Handel’s score between the Angel and Lucifer, whether the insight originates with Gauci or Stage Director Marshall Pynkoski.

The Angel (Soprano Carla Huhtanen) at the pulpit (photo: Bruce Zinger)
Lucifer (Bass Douglas Williams) at the other pulpit (photo: Bruce Zinger)

The other key locus for action is concealed by that mysterious golden curtain under the stairs. It’s the sepulchre of course, where Jesus’s body lay: and then at the key moment, stood up and departed. While we don’t see it, that’s the drama, the absence that has been witnessed by the two women in this oratorio (Mary Magdelene–soprano Meghan Lindsay and Cleophas–mezzo-soprano Allyson McHardy). Gauci has captured an extraordinary amount in his set design.

Opera Atelier resident Set Designer Gerard Gauci

While I was smitten with the production in its film version, the impact of the voices and Tafelmusik Orchestra is that much greater. All five vocal soloists are superb with brilliant moments.

Carla Huhtanen was a properly stern presence as the Angel, yet capable of ironic mockery for her debate opponent, Lucifer. Douglas Williams sounded splendid, boastful but beaten. Meghan Lindsay continues to develop her big dramatic soprano sound, with Allyson McHardy’s smoky mezzo-soprano as a delicious contrast. Colin Ainsworth’s tenor sounded effortless, fluid and clear.

As I said back in 2021 when viewing the film, there can be no objections to an unorthodox production philosophy when applied to an unknown work such as this. Pynkoski and Choreographer Jeannette Lajeunesse Zingg employ a great deal of dance throughout to release tension in crucial moments. Jeannette herself dances one of the key moments, a very bold vulnerable choice on her part.

Soprano Meghan Lindsay as Mary Magdalene, and Mezzo-Soprano Allyson McHardy as Cleophas, with Artists of Atelier Ballet and Alexis Basque, Trumpet (photo: Bruce Zinger)

The dramaturgy is a hybrid that works especially well in the intimacy of Koerner Hall. Tafelmusik led by David Fallis sounded especially good in the warmly welcoming acoustic.

This entry was posted in Dance, theatre & musicals, Opera, Reviews, Spirituality & Religion and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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