Opera Atelier is a Toronto based baroque opera company well known for its excellent quality of productions. The company began this year’s season (2009/2010) with a spectacular revival of Christoph Willibald Gluck’s great reform opera, Iphigénie en Tauride. Produced by Marshall Pynkoski and choreographed by Jeannette Lajeunesse, this opera tells a subplot of the famous Helen of Troy legend. Agamemnon’s daughter, princess Iphigénie, escapes her father’s murderous sacrifice with the help of the goddess Diane; she is abandoned on the island of Tauride. Her brother, Oreste (who kills his mother while avenging his father) is forced by a storm to the island with his beloved companion Pylade. Here the two men face imprisonment and sacrifice.
Gluck’s Iphigénie en Tauride premiered in Paris in 1779, but has rarely been performed since then. One of the rare occasions was Opera Atelier’s 2003 performance in which Pynkoski cast Oreste and Pylade as gay lovers; his interpretation resulted in a lot of conflicting reviews. This newly revived production, which leaves a little more to the imagination, is still a multi-media crowd pleaser combining all elements of a thrilling theatrical experience; spectacular singing, rich orchestral music, high drama, exciting ballet, lavish costumes and elaborate sets.
American soprano Peggy Kriha Dye, a favourite with OA audiences, returns as Iphigénie capturing the true essence of this piece with her emotional performance. Croatian tenor Kresimir Spicer makes his role debut, as her brother Oreste, and steals the show with his rich soaring voice easily spanning the challenging baritone and tenor ranges. Canadian tenor Thomas Macleay makes his company debut as Pylade and proves he is a fine actor with remarkable control. Esteemed British conductor, Andrew Parrott, leads the Tafelmusik Orchestra and Chamber Choir. And the Artists of Atelier are truly delightful; the male ballet dancers, at times scantily clad, are very easy on the eye while flaunting their powerful sexuality.
Sung in French with English Subtitles, Iphigénie en Tauride is showing at the Elgin Theatre from October 31 to November 7, 2009. Tickets range in price from $30 to $135 and can be purchased at www.ticketmaster.ca or by calling 416.872.5555.
Photo: Bruce Zinger / Artists: Tenor Kresimir Spicer as Oreste soprano Peggy Kriha Dye as Iphigénie and Artists of Atelier Ballet
Opera Atelier’s production of Iphigénie en Tauride