Sunday, April 27, 2014

Review: (Toronto / Opera) Persée

Don’t Stop Believing 
by Shannon Christy

People give strange wedding gifts. Imagine for a moment that you have just been married to a stunning woman who hails from a remarkable family, is intelligent and incredibly witty.  On your wedding night you are presented with a gift: an opera about a bastard who is infatuated with a beautiful maiden engaged to someone else. The bastard then rescues her from many monsters one of whom is her betrothed. One would have to be sympathetic if Louis XVI was upset about such a wedding gift but if the original was anywhere near as entertaining as what Opera Atelier presented last night then it is understandable if the Dauphin and future King of France simply ignored the content preferring to indulge in the music, ribald humour, and beauty presented to him.

The story is about the exploits of Persée, (Christopher Enns) who is the self-proclaimed bastard of Jupiter and is in love with Andromède, (Mireille Asselin), despite the fact that she is a class above him and already betrothed to Phinée, (Vasil Garvanliev). Naturally Persée is oblivious to this and as a result a series of events unfold putting our hero on the path of capturing the eye of his desire. 

On the surface this is a pretty simple plot but the music, conducted by David Fallis, seeps into your ears and wiggles its way to the essence of your being. The Baroque period instruments played by Tafelmusik orchestra are a delight. The strings on the opening score have a more muted sound that provide a natural warmth similar acoustically to the physical sensation one may feel from standing near a hearth with a large bed of simmering coals. This describes the vocals as well: warm and subdued at times, as the artists provide the story and accompany the music while entertaining their audience. Co-Artistic Director Marshall Pynkoski told the audience that his Tenor was suffering from a cold and if it was Christopher Enns then his performance was flawless and I would have been none the wiser if I had not been told. 

The second part of this trio of entertainment was the comedy. This becomes apparent but is not limited to Act III when Medusa is revealed as one of the most hideous women I have ever laid eyes on. In Act II, for instance, at the Palace Gardens while Andromède and Meropé, (Peggy Kriha Dye) confess their mutual love for Persée we are set in a garden with five minor fountains and one enormous fountain jutting out of a pool and spurting a stream of frothy liquid. This happens while Meropé caresses a column and both women describe Persée’s vitality. A more robust form of description is hard to imagine and the spectacle of having two beautiful women lamenting their desires for one man will certainly provide fluid for your fountain. Obviously this is not a laugh out laud moment but a very efficient way to get a simple point across: Persée is a hell of a man. 

The final aspect of this trio was the beauty of the show. This came through in the form of the dancers who provide the transition in XVIIth and XVIIIth century works. After you have digested each act the dancers come out like birds to provide you with a rhythmic digestif and prepare you for the next entrée. All of them are a spectacle to behold and whether it is the men who are staging a titillating fight scene, compliments of Jennifer Parr, or the women who are preparing an offering for Juno, watching their lithe bodies float across the stage only heightens the experience and for the briefest of moments you feel like a King. 

This is a complete work of entertainment that brings life back from the past and will provide you with the experience of a lifetime.  

April 26 - May 3

1 comment:

  1. Marie Antoinette was fourteen when she was married off to the (future) Louis XVI. This opera was an excellent example of "we'll (France) show YOU (Austria) what culture REALLY is!" A stunning piece, truly.


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