Stage Door News

Toronto: Opera Atelier opens its season with Gluck’s “Orpheus and Eurydice” October 26-November 1

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Opera Atelier launches its 2023/24 season with the French 1774 version of Gluck's Orpheus and Eurydice, written expressly for Marie Antoinette, on stage October 26 and 28 at 7:30pm, and October 29 and November 1 at 2:30pm at Toronto's historic Elgin Theatre.

Gluck's opera had already taken Europe by storm when he was invited to extensively rework Orpheus and Eurydice for the French public. A new French libretto by Pierre-Louis Moline was written to replace the original Italian libretto, and the role of Orpheus - originally created for a castrato, was rewritten for a stratospheric French tenor. The French premiere of Gluck's Orpheus and Eurydice was an unprecedented success and changed the history of French lyric theatre.

Orpheus and Eurydice will star Canadian tenor Colin Ainsworth as Orpheus - a role he first sang for Opera Atelier in 2007. This groundbreaking production will also include one of Opera Atelier's favourite sopranos, Mireille Asselin, as Eurydice, and soprano Anna-Julia David will make her company debut as Amour.

"Few tenors are able to sustain the extraordinary vocal range required of the tenor in the 1774 version of Orpheus and Eurydice," says Marshall Pynkoski, C.M., Founding Co-Artistic Director. "We are honoured to have Mr. Ainsworth return - his talent in full bloom - to interpret this role for the first time in more than a decade."

Gluck, bowing to the unique aesthetic tastes of 1774, wrote additional dance music for Orpheus, including a thrilling balletic finale, which allows the full corps of the Artists of Atelier Ballet a brilliant opportunity to interpret Founding Co-Artistic Director Jeannette Lajeunesse Zingg's choreography.

"The Artists of Atelier Ballet, who have reached an internationally acclaimed level of finesse, are thrilled to be involved in a production in which they can explore the stylistic links between baroque dancing and Romantic ballet," adds Lajeunesse Zingg.

The role of Amour is doubled as a dance role, and the choreography has been expanded extensively to showcase the talents of Artist of Atelier Ballet Xi Yi, a graduate of the prestigious Beijing Dance Academy. French dancer Vincent Gerbet - who frequently performs in Pynkoski and Zingg's Versailles productions - will make his North American debut as Opera Atelier's first dancer drawn from the Parisian dance community.

Opera Atelier Music Director David Fallis will conduct the French version of Orpheus and Eurydice for the first time. He will be joined by the Tafelmusik and Chamber Choir along with members of the Nathaniel Dett Chorale - a unique partnership fostered by Opera Atelier.

Costumes for this production have been completely rebuilt, as have major scenic elements, reflecting the artistic teams' continued interest in simplifying and streamlining the company's baroque aesthetic.

"Visually, this production strives to reflect the elegance and restraint of the early Romantic movement, so evident in Gluck's revolutionary score," says set designer Gerard Gauci.

Award winning lighting designer Kimberly Purtell will light the production for the first time, bringing her own unique style to an opera that must take us from Earth to the Underworld and finally to the Heavens.

Pynkoski has collaborated with many of the finest artists in the world of early music and his productions of opera and ballet have toured throughout North America, Europe, and Asia. He is the recipient of numerous awards including the Toronto Arts Award, the Opera Canada Ruby Award for outstanting contribution to opera in Canada, the TIME Magazine award for Classical music and the Order of Canada. Most recently, Pynkoski was named Officier dans L'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the Government of France in an investiture ceremony that took place on the stage of the Royal Opera House/Versailles.

Lajeunesse Zingg has choreographed and performed in major theatres internationally. She received her training in London, Copenhagen, and Paris. Lajeunesse Zingg has received a multitude of awards including the prestigious Toronto Arts Award, the Opera Canada Ruby Award for outstanding achievement in field of opera in Canada, was named by TIME Magazine as one of Canada's most influential artists in the field of Classical music and was awarded the Order of Canada for her contribution to ballet and oepra in Canada. Most recently, she was named Officier dans L'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the Government of France in an investiture ceremony that took place on the stage of the Royal Opera House/Versailles.

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