6 years ago

Volume 9 Issue 7 - April 2004

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-§.VJ$¥1l·1;Miai=@;l·M!Hf·M·Pcompiled and edited by David Perlman This month's three e-mail interviews all relate to opera. In each case the initial inquiry was the same - please say who you are, say what you're doing now, and say something about the longer tem1. Therea ter each interview allowed its own ath. We are the founding Co-Artistic Directors of.Opera Atelier, a company that . produces the opera and ballet of the Baroque era. Our company is set apart by the fact that we are always accompanied by an orchestr.a playing on period instruments (in Toronto, Tafe!musik Baroque Orchestra) and our commitment to pre- / sen ting all aspects of production in a historically info.rmed maJ:}ller. THIS IS A particularly busy time for us right now. We are taking our production of Monteverdi's The Coronation of Poppea to Cleveland's State Theatre, .immediately after which we begin rehearsals for a remount of our millennium production of Lully's Persee. Persee was our most important and Opera Atelier: L to R are Luke Sc!Jeuer, Jeannette Zingg, Laird Macintosh and Marshall Pynkoski. lavish production to date bringing together the most extensive cast of singers, dancers and instrumentalists in Opera Atelier's history. It also marked the beginning of our exploration of 17th century French repertoire and was followed by Charpentier's Medee in 2002. It is a privilege for us to revisit this beautiful production which also proved to be such a success with Toronto audiences. LooKING AHEAD, the 2005-2006 season marks Opera Atelier's 20th anniversary and will include our most ambitious undertaking in the company's history, a fully staged production of Lully's Armide which will include Tafe!musik Baroque Orchestra under the baton of British conductor Andrew Parron. We also plan to introduce a third productim into our Toronto season and continue our commitrrent to international touring. FOLLOW UP First I want to ask what you mean by "historically informed". It is evi- · dent from the fiercely polarized critical responses your work inspires in your audiences (Iphigenie was a perfect case in point) that one person 's "history" is another's anathemn. You don't leave very mnny people in your audience indifferent! For Opera Atelier, an "historically informed" production is one in which the aesthetics and performance techniqu~ of the 17th and 18th centuries act as building blocks. They lay the foundation for a performance style, which is unique and new - a style which is resonant of the past but does not slavishly copy it. When we use the phrase "historically informed" it is also important to realize we are referring to history in its broadest context. A "historically informed" production must take into account the social; political, religious and even sexual context in which a piece of theatre was created. At times these contexts must be clarified for a modem audience. For example, there is no sense in producing Monteverdi's Coronation of Poppea if the audience believes that the final love duet for Nero and Poppea signals a happy ending. Few people in a mxiem audience are aware that Nero murdered Poppea only four years after crowning her empress. The people that attended the original production of Poppea were aware of this fact and the final scene of The Coronation of Poppea was consequently laced with irony. It is up to us as producers to find a way to make certain that our audience understands the final duet for what it was rreant to be. Is there some particular notion that you wish people who most intensely misunderstand your work would let go of? The fact that we are producing something "historically informed" should not lead the public to believe they are about to see something that is predictable. I'm struck by the relationship between stylizaiion and risk-taking in your productions. You employ a rigorous and Jormnl gestural language that could end up mnnnered and stultifying. Yet it instead often becomes a passport to astonishingly risky performance. Stylization has the potential to alienate an audience if you have developed a performance style which is comprehensible only to those on stage. Opera Atelier's stylization focuses on a gestural language which intensifies and clarifies what our singers and dancers are communicating. Through constant exploration and experimentation our "style" continues to evolve, keeping our artists on edge and our audience on the edge of their seats. We are proud of the fact that current OA productions look so radically different from our earliest endeavors. This is as it should be. Take a look at Balanchine's first production photos of Apollo with its white tutus, stylized wigs and togas and compare this with the spare and ex- . posed piece of theatre it became by the end of his life. The choreography stayed the same but details changed immeasurably; we hope the same will always be said of our creative efforts. Could you say more about the artistic relationship between the two of you-

years back. He talked about working for a ·while as a vocal coach at r; of T Opera School, (klte seventies, early eighties?) and mentioned working at that time with, among others, you, Russell Braun, Tracy Dahl, Adrianne Pieczonka, Kimberly Barber, and. Catherine Robbin. It sounds like a hot bed of talent and I'm wondering if you could say a bit about the school and its people at that time. Your Sweeney Todd for Calgary Opera caught my eye among your extraordinary list of credits. I'd be interested in your thoughts on the line, if you draw one, between music theatre and opera. IT's NOT QUITE so long an absence from Opera Ontario as I did Falke there in the 97-98 season ... how soon they forget. .. ! It will be wonderful to be back in Hamilton. I will have a lot of friends and famiiy there, I love the theatre, Daniel Lipton is conducting ... lots of positives. Opera Ontario was also very kind and gracious to me by releasing me from a contract with them that I might accept my first contract with the Metropolitan Opera, so they hold a very special place in my heart. JOHN GREER played a huge role in my years at opera school and he had a great influence upon the development of many of us. Connie Fisher and Jim Craig along with Stephen Ralls and Michael Evans also provided fabulous background and training. Singers during my years there included Ben Heppner, Joanne Kolomyjec and Gidon Saks. I DID Phantom of the Opera for two years on tour and then after 16 months of opera again, went back to the Toronto production for 7 months, so I've done both theatre and opera. In my experience the shows are more technical from the staging side of things ie. machinery moving in and out, special effect etc ... although some opera productions are intense and complicated as well. Sweeney was the opera house version so we didn't wear body mikes like they do in Phantom etc. and I guess overall the vocal demands in that respect are different. There is also the argument that opera is about the sound of the voice and that theatre is about the text, but hopefully in both we can get good voice that can project the words as well. .. .just my hope/opinion. Claire Hopkinson, Tapestry F or all ofmy career (except for an early stint as an actor in hometown Montreal I have been an artistic producer - a "cultural entrepreneur", primarily working with artists creating new works in theatre, music theatre and opera. I like developing ideas, and then making these ideas come to fruition. In my twenties, I took my first job in Toronto as General Manager of the pioneering Camus Music Theatre, which saw a great deal of experimentation in music theatre and contemporary opera. Working with Billie Bridgman, R. Murray Schafer, John Beckwith, the Canadian Electronic Ensemble and many others, we attempted to redefine opera. Although I was from "the Theatre", this new world of music theatre was very stimulating and held so much promise. When I joined Wayne Strongman as Producer at Tapestry New Opera Works in 1991, I brought much of that original drive to recreate opera into a contemporary art form, but I was also intent on creating a sustainable company and building a large audience that found new opera as exciting as I did. I have also turned into a bit of an arts advocate, and firmly believe that collective action can move mountains. I have just completed a five-year term as Chair of and helped birth the Canadian Opera Creation Program. I am a co-founder and the Chair of Creative Trust, a hugely exciting new project that helps mid-sized Toronto arts organizations attain organizational health. Perhaps strangely, for someone is who is so identified with new Canadian work, I am also Vice Chair of OPERA America and that provides me CONTINUES NEXT PAGE GREAT CHAMBER MUSIC DOWNTOWN PETERSEN QUARTET Berlin's best plays Milhaud's first, Mozart's last and Grieg's only string quartets Thurs., April 1 at 8 p.m. TOKYO QUARTET String quartets from B to Z - Mozart, Zemlinsky, Beethoven Get a ticket, if you can! Thurs., April 15 at 8 p.m. SUBSCRIPTIONS NOW ON SALE FOR OUR 2004-05 SEASON Emerson St. Lawrence Debussy Venezia STRING QUARTETS Borealis Arditti Schubert Ensemble Tokyo PIANISTS Andras Schiff Anton Kuerti Heather Schmidt Arthur Ozolins Pascal Roge · THE GRYPHON TRIO AND THE MTO CHAMBER SOCIETY BRILLIANT YOUNG ARTISTS Frederique Vezina Aviv Quartet . Denise Djokic Treat yourself to concerts from for 3 · young artists to 1 for the entire season of 20 concerts ~{({) AT ~ J1t1e M,dku Thc·;itrl' . TO DQN'f:Q- 1-l .l' W\'\'.stk.nim ~~ St. La\Ti..'llC.:l' Lt...·ntn: l()r thl' :\ns 416-366-7723 • 1-800-708-6754 order online at www APRIL 1 - MAY 7 2004 WWW. THEWHOL ENOTE.COM

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