Krešimir Špicer in OA’s Production of ‘Der Freischütz'

Photo by Buce Zinger

Il Ritorno d’Ulisse in patria (The Return of Ulysses)

Some Thoughts About Opera Atelier’s Upcoming Production

by Brian Hay

There’s a DVD floating around, unfortunately out of print now, that has Krešimir Špicer performing the title role in this opera. Under the baton of William Christie, Les Arts Florissants, Špicer, co-star Marijana Mijanović and largely unheralded ensemble come up with a definitive rendition of Monteverdi’s work. According to Marshall Pynkoski, Opera Atelier Director and Co-Artistic Director, it was this that introduced him to the work of Krešimir Špicer. At the time, during his introduction to ‘Idomeneo’, he described the man as “possibly the finest singing actor in the world”. Since then Krešimir has become a frequent performer on Opera Atelier’s stage and is rightly appreciated by virtually everyone who’s been lucky enough to watch him. Having the chance to see him perform the role of ‘Ulysses’ live is like a gift from the Gods who watch over the character.

The cast involved in the production is a fine one. Mireille Lebel brings her ravishing tones (and more than considerable acting chops) to the role of ‘Penelope’. Carla Huhtanen comes in as ‘Fortuna’ and ’Melanto’ while Christopher Enns takes on the role of Ulysses’ son, ’Telemaco’. Laura Pudwell plays the nurse and Meghan Lindsay is on hand as ‘Minerva’ and ‘Cupid’. That’s just some of the performers involved in an impressive list that’s a who’s who of OA stalwarts.

The score was performed by the Toronto Consort when OA last staged the opera so hearing the Taflemusik Baroque Orchestra will be a new experience. The possibilities that exist here are boundless. According to Christie, with the exception of the short instrumental numbers, what Monteverdi left was essentially just a figurative bass line and the vocal line. The remainder was left to orchestras and the singers to flesh out, probably according to the resources a troupe would have on hand when staging the piece. OA’s material doesn’t mention who will be conducting or their source for the score but it would likely be David Fallis, a musical scholar who would probably enjoy the challenge of doing much of the prep work scratch.

The opera itself is a fabulous character study that carries some pointed social commentary. With the depth it offers the actors and its inherent beauty, the music is an amazing vehicle for orchestra and singers. There’s been many instances since, but (for me anyway), one of the most beautiful moments from any of Opera Atelier’s stagings came about when Jennie Such sang ‘Melanto’s numbers ‘Amoré un idol vano' .

That was a memory to cherish. This production is likely to provide more of them.

Tuesday April 10, 2018

Opera Atelier’s production of ‘The Return of Ulysses’ runs at the Elgin Theatre from April 19 to April 28, 2018. For tickets and more information follow the link below to Opera Atelier’s Site.

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