Stage Door News

Toronto: Opera Atelier unveils its 35th season

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Opera Atelier proudly announces its iconic 35th Anniversary Season with two groundbreaking works at the historic Elgin Theatre: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s The Magic Flute, considered the company’s most successful production in its history, on stage from October 22–November 1, 2020; and The Angel Speaks – a new Canadian commission – double-billed with Henry Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas from February 20–27, 2021. Both productions will feature the full corps of Artists of Atelier Ballet with choreography by Jeannette Lajeunesse Zingg C.M., stage direction by Marshall Pynkoski C.M., and the renowned Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra led by Music Director Elisa Citterio under the baton of Opera Atelier Music Director David Fallis.

Additionally, Opera Atelier, through special invitation by lauded Canadian pianist Angela Hewitt, will make their debut at the internationally-renowned Trasimeno Festival in Italy on July 2, 2020, performing alongside Hewitt. The 2020/21 season will also celebrate the extraordinary recognition of Opera Atelier’s Co-Artistic Directors Pynkoski and Lajeunesse Zingg who have been made Officers of the Order of Arts and Letters (l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres) by the Government of France. This distinguished award recognizes eminent artists who have contributed significantly to furthering the arts in France and throughout the world. The award ceremony will take place in December 2021 at the Palace of Versailles.

Opera Atelier’s 35th Anniversary Season opens with Mozart’s The Magic Flute, sung in Andrew Porter’s internationally acclaimed English translation — it remains the most captivating work with which to introduce children and adults to opera, and to Mozart’s music in particular. Hailed as “the most imaginative staging of the opera to be seen in [Toronto] in the last quarter century” (Toronto Star, following its premiere in 1991), The Magic Flute remains Opera Atelier’s most sensational and accessible production to date. The acclaimed cast includes Opera Atelier audience favourites: Tenor Colin Ainsworth in the role of Tamino, Soprano Mireille Asselin as Pamina, Bass-baritone Douglas Williams performs as Papageno, Bass Gustav Andreassen as Sarastro, and Soprano Holly Flack as the Queen of the Night. Gerard Gauci provides an elaborate set design, with radiant lighting design by Michelle Ramsay.

“The Magic Flute was a seminal production for Opera Atelier, a dramatic turning point when it premiered in 1991,” says Pynkoski. “It was the first fully-staged period production of Mozart in North America and generated enormous interest internationally — reshaping the early music landscape. As part of our 35th Anniversary restaging, the production has been extensively refurbished — including new costumes for all of the principal artists, designed by award-winning Canadian costume designer Michael Gianfrancesco — and a new flying machine for the Queen of the Night.”

The season continues with the completed version of Opera Atelier’s new music for period instruments titled The Angel Speaks. Excerpts from this new commission, by Toronto-based composer and violinist Edwin Huizinga, originally premiered in 2017 at The Royal Chapel of Versailles, and have since been performed in Chicago and Toronto to critical acclaim. The Angel Speaks seamlessly blends masterpieces of the Baroque repertoire with Huizinga’s compositions. Described by Pynkoski as a ‘theatrical intervention’, The Angel Speaks explores the presence of the supernatural in our lives through the interweaving of Baroque and contemporary compositions for singers, dancers, and an ensemble on period instruments. The luminary cast features Mireille Asselin as the Blessed Virgin, Colin Ainsworth and Jesse Blumberg as the Angels; with additional contemporary choreography by Tyler Gledhill.

Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas is a miniature masterpiece — English repertoire at its very best — replete with exquisite storytelling supported by a luxuriously melodic score. The opera offers exceptional opportunities for solo singing, choral singing and dancing. Soprano Meghan Lindsay sings Dido and Tenor Christopher Enns sings Aeneas. Mireille Asselin takes the role of Belinda, with Allyson McHardy as the Sorceress and Colin Ainsworth as the Sailor—along with the Toronto Children’s Chorus.

“It seems only fitting that Dido and Aeneas be included in our 35th Anniversary,” says Pynkoski. “It was the first fully-staged opera undertaken by Opera Atelier — 35 years ago in the lecture hall of the Royal Ontario Museum.”

Opera Atelier’s first performance of the season will take place outside its hometown of Toronto in Città di Castello, Italy, as the company makes its debut performing alongside Canadian pianist Angela Hewitt at the Trasimeno Festival. Ms. Hewitt has invited Lajeunesse Zingg to choreograph and perform along with Artists of Atelier Ballet. Lajeunesse Zingg and Pynkoski will be joined by Canadian Soprano Mireille Asselin singing music by Purcell that demonstrates the influence of Baroque dancing on 17th and 18th century vocal music.

“It will be wonderful to explore the connection between dance and music in the Baroque Keyboard Suites, which have played such an important part in my career,” explains Hewitt. “For the audience to see these dances performed live and choreographed by an expert in Baroque dance, will be an event unique in the history of the Trasimeno Festival. The inclusion of Canadian Soprano Mireille Asselin will allow us to also explore how dance rhythms are exploited in the vocal music of the Baroque era. This program will be a unique opportunity to experience the interpretation of Baroque dance suites between three distinct performance disciplines.”

As part of the 35th Anniversary celebrations, Opera Atelier is thrilled to announce that Co-Artistic Directors Pynkoski and Lajeunesse Zingg have received the unprecedented recognition of being named Officers of the Order of Arts and Letters (Officiers dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres) by the Government of France.

At the request of Laurent Brunner, Director of Château de Versailles Spectacles, the ceremony of investiture will beheld in December 2021 on the stage of the Royal Opera House in Versailles when Pynkoski and Lajeunesse Zingg return to mount a Château de Versailles production.

“We are deeply honoured to be recognized in this way by the country whose culture we most admire,” says Co-ArtisticDirector Lajeunesse Zingg.

Subscriptions for Opera Atelier’s 2020/21 season are on sale January 28 at operaatelier.com/subscribe or by calling: 416-703-3767 ext. 222.

Single tickets on sale in the summer of 2020.

Subscriptions for Arts-Workers or Under 30 audiences can be purchased via email at tickets@operaatelier.com or by calling 416 703 3767 x222.

For more information, visit www.operaatelier.com. 

Photo: Colin Ainsworth as Tamino, Laura Pudwell as Second Lady and Olivier Laquerre as Papageno. © Bruce Zinger.