This weekend, Opera Atelier’s Persée is all but guaranteed to be a smashing success. It’s the third time the company has remounted the show and this time around, they will be taking it back to its original stage—playing at the Royal Opera House at Versailles. It marks the first time the opera has been performed there since 1770 when it was first presented to Marie Antoinette as part of her wedding celebrations.
You would be wrong to assume that Persée was brought back because of the economics of being able to cut costs by borrowing from its previous incarnations. This production has been built from the ground up with each piece on set unique to this performance. Marshall Pynkoski, Atelier’s enigmatic Director says that this is visually their most complete, richest and satisfying telling of the story to date—the world as they wanted it to be is now fully realized.
Describing Lully’s Persée as being “sexy and it just hangs in the air,” Pynkoski wants his audience to feel the intensity of the emotions on stage. The story is all encompassing, it is amusing, with extremely dramatic scenes which are very personal, touching and exciting, which contrasts with the more silly, vulgar, hilarious scenes. All of this will be laid bare on stage beginning opening night.
Pynkoski is proud to have one of the longest rehearsal times of any company in North America and that shows in each of Opera Atelier’s pieces. After rehearsals and after the performers have been coached on their language, they know their music and their blocking, it becomes second nature and that’s when the beauty in the work begins.
“You don’t want people to feel totally comfortable, you want them to feel an edge in the work.” Pynkoski is almost obsessed with the idea of making the audience feel things very deeply when they attend one of Atelier’s performances. Many of the performers are returning to this production of Persée, so they bring with them their growth as artists. Audiences can expect everything to be deeper and richer. The singers and dancers are more mature now, so you’ll find there is no singing at each other—they are talking, listening and answering each other. Pynkoski quotes David Mamet as having said, “what is acting? It is listening and responding.” It’s that feeling of the performers saying “come with us, as we take you on this magical journey.”
Typically, we as audiences today love story telling, narrative and the linear quality of what theatre is at this time. Real storytellers can make the audience feel things, not just watch things, bringing things back to the theatre of the participant.
As for the return to Versailles, Pynkoski says that it’s obviously a great honour to be asked to perform in France and particularly to reintroduce Persée, but he is adamant that his Toronto audience is always foremost in his mind. I for one, am certain that the opera lovers of our city will come out in droves to see this historic performance.
Persée runs April 26, 27, 29, 30 and May 2 and 3, 2014. It will be sung in French with English surtitles. If you don’t already have your ticket, or for more information, please visit www.operaatelier.com