We have detected that you are using an adblocking plugin in your browser.

The revenue we earn by the advertisements is used to manage this website. Please whitelist our website in your adblocking plugin.

SCRUTINY | Opera Atelier Teases Excellence Out Of Mozart’s Youthful Lucio Silla

By John Terauds on April 8, 2016

Mireille Asselin (Celia). (Photo: Bruce Zinger)
Mireille Asselin (Celia). (Photo: Bruce Zinger)

Mozart’s Lucio Silla with libretto by Giovanni de Gamerra. Opera Atelier, directed by Marshall Pynkoski, and Tafelmusik Orchestra, conducted by David Fallis. Elgin Theatre. Thursday, April 7.

You may justifiably have doubts about seeing a cast of characters verbalize their inner doubts and fears for two-and-a-half hours, but when they are verbalized as stylishly as in Mozart’s Lucio Silla, as brought to life by Opera Atelier and Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra, it may be wise to cast those doubts aside.

On Thursday night at the Elgin Theatre, Toronto audiences had their first opportunity to see a production by the city’s period-specialized company that has already wowed people in Mozart’s hometown of Salzburg, Austria, and at the erstwhile epicenter of the opera world itself, Milan, Italy. And it’s easy to see why critics and regular ticket buyers alike were charmed by Opera Atelier’s fine effort.

Lucio Silla, written by Mozart in Italy in 1772, when he was all of 16, is not the best-known of the great Austrian composer’s operas, and it’s easy to see why. Besides giving us an extended purview of the emotional conflicts that befall a cast of five characters torn by a variety of deadly sins, it offers the thinnest wisp of a plot, creating a challenge for any director brave enough to apply his or her imagination to staging it.

That said, this opera seria, as the genre was known at the time, is stuffed full of beautiful solo arias and ensemble singing, and comes with a rich orchestral score that belies the composer’s tender age at the time he created it.

Toss in some magnificent singing, a conductor who knows how to get the finest range of colours and textures from a period-instrument orchestra, lovely costumes and gorgeously painted sets, and the proposition becomes even more interesting.

We got to experience all that and more at the Elgin, where the opera runs until April 16. Thanks go to director Marshall Pynkoski’s staging and the seamless integration of the Opera Atelier corps de ballet, choreographed by Jeannette Lajeunesse Zingg.

The broad gestures of Baroque-era opera, repeated over and over again over the course of the evening, often seemed like exaggerated underlining of emotions that were already plainly laid out in the text, and occasionally even became tedious. But that is really a small quibble in a production where the quality of the music is so uniformly excellent.

All four sopranos, perfectly cast according to each one’s vocal colour gifts, were in brilliant form: Meghan Lindsay as Giunia, a melancholy woman separated from her beloved by a Roman tyrant (the title character); Peggy Kriha Dye, in the trouser role of Cecilio, the thwarted lover; Inga Kalna, in another trouser role as Cecilio’s wing man, Cinna; and Mireille Asselin, as the dictator’s irrepressible sister, Celia.

Each singer brought as much emotional power and vocal subtlety to her role as the thin characterizations would allow, and navigated Mozart’s elaborate vocal embellishments with aplomb.

Tenor Krezimir Spicer was admirable as Lucio Silla, a Roman dictator characterized by librettist Giovanni de Gamerra as having a good angel sitting on one shoulder and the Devil on the other. Like most of the other cast members, Spicer has appeared in previous Opera Atelier productions, and has grown impressively in vocal control and artistry.

His final bravura aria, sung from the theatre floor, devoid of extraneous gestures, was the highlight of the evening for me.

The company of Lucio Silla. (Photo: Bruce Zinger)
The company of Lucio Silla. (Photo: Bruce Zinger)

Members of the Tafelmusik Chamber Choir sounded excellent in the few bits of choral writing Mozart included in the score. And conductor David Fallis’s work with the orchestra and keeping instruments and singers in perfect sync was admirable.

Kudos go to designer Gerard Gauci and lighting designer Michelle Ramsay for making the visual spectacle a seamless extension of the story unfolding in the music.

Opera Atelier is celebrating 30 years this season. With each new production, its co-artistic directors – Pynkoski and Lajeunesse Zingg – add fresh layers of fine craft and artistry to their efforts. This company is no longer just a gift to the people of Toronto, but is now a gift to lovers of opera the world over, and that in itself deserves the rousing standing ovation that greeted the final curtain on Thursday night.

This is opera as it should be: shaped by a strong director’s hand, yet essentially left to prove its merits on the basis of beautiful music, a text allowed to speak largely from its era, and the quality of the singing and acting (and dancing) on stage.

Opera Atelier’s Lucio Silla runs through April 16. Details and tickets available at operaatelier.com.


Want more updates on Toronto-centric classical music news and review before anyone else finds out? Get our exclusive newsletter here and follow us on Facebook for all the latest.

Share this article
comments powered by Disqus


company logo

Part of

Terms of Service & Privacy Policy
© 2024 | Executive Producer Moses Znaimer