Expecting magic from Opera Atelier's 2020-21 season Opera Atelier's production of The Angel Speaks. Photo: Bruce Zinger.

Expecting magic from Opera Atelier's 2020-21 season

Jenna Simeonov

Opera Atelier has unveiled its season line-up for 2020-21, with all the pomp and creative excitement we’re used to from the 35-year-old company that specializes in opera from the 17th and 18th centuries (and sometimes, early 19th…shh).

Co-Artistic Directors Marshall Pynkoski and Jeannette Lajeunesse Zingg announced the 35th anniversary season: Mozart’s The Magic Flute (Oct. 22-Nov. 1, 2020) and a double-bill of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas and Edwin Huizinga’s The Angel Speaks (February 20-27, 2021) - the latter a commission by Opera Atelier that does indeed gather together the baroque and the contemporary.

There’s also a bonus item slated for July 2, 2020. Through special invitation by Canadian pianist Angela Hewitt, artists of the Opera Atelier Ballet, and OA veteran soprano Mireille Asselin, will join Hewitt in performance at the Trasimeno Festival in Italy.

Not too many casting surprises this season; OA is making use of its ensemble of preferred singers. (If it ain’t baroque, I guess.) For The Magic Flute, we’ll hear Colin Ainsworth as Tamino, Mireille Asselin as Pamina, Holly Flack as the Queen of the Night, and Douglas Williams as Papageno. The run of shows will also include a relaxed performance, a first for Opera Atelier. Dido and Aeneas will be Meghan Lindsay as Dido opposite Christopher Enns as Aeneas, plus Allyson McHardy as the Sorceress. The Angel Speaks features dancer/choreographer Tyler Gledhill, Huizinga on violin, and singers Asselin, Ainsworth, and Jesse Blumberg.

Opera Atelier's production of Dido & Aeneas. Photo by Bruce Zinger.

I realized that I’d never actually been to an Opera Atelier season reveal. They are indeed revealing events; we heard snippets of music in productions to come, ballet-fencing demonstrations, and a rare appearance by Gerard Gauci, the go-to set designer for nearly all of Opera Atelier’s output. Gauci spoke about design, Lajeunesse Zingg about dance’s place in these operas - yes, even in The Magic Flute - and Pynkoski about the lush, grand display of artistry he’s ready to let loose upon us next season.

Frankly, we should all be so lucky to get real-time commentary by Pynkoski. He’s endlessly interested and interesting; he even had me craning my neck to see what he was on about with this business about downbeats being up in a choreographed fencing duel. For nearly 35 years, Opera Atelier has been putting up shows that, take it or leave it, have an aesthetic that is 100% fleshed out. In order to get the most out of their work, one has to dive in headfirst, few questions asked. And if you do have questions, best send them Pynkoski’s way.

Opera Atelier's production of The Magic Flute. Photo by Bruce Zinger.

I can’t be the only person who’s gone to OA shows and concluded that they often have a sameness about them. There’s a visual cue to their work which, when it’s based on dance and rhetorical gesture, make it hard to discern from photographs which production is which. After over three decades immersed in the specificity of 17th- and 18th-century opera, Pynkoski and Lajeunesse Zingg are able to spot the valuable differences between a French baroque double-bill, and the apparently zany collision of Catholicism and hedonism in their upcoming Handel oratorio. To anyone else, it’s a lot of harpsichord - but it’s hard not to get excited about the subtle differences when Pynkoski’s in the room.

Lastly, in a major nod to their work, Pynkoski and Lajeunesse Zingg have both been recognized as Officers of the Order of Arts and Letters (Officiers dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres) by the Government of France. The titles will be formalized in a ceremony at the Royal Opera House in Versailles in December 2021.

Full details for Opera Atelier’s 2020-21 season are available via their website.

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