Peggy Kriha Dye as ‘Medea’
From Opera Atelier’s 2017 Production
Photo by Bruce Zinger
Colin Ainsworth and Peggy Kriha Dye
Photo by Bruce Zinger
Opera Atelier: Medea; Absolute Power With Its Frightening Potential Realized
Monday April 24, 2017
by Brian Hay
The sheer force projected by singers Peggy Kriha Dye and Stephen Hegedus during the scene that follows the intermission has intensity enough to curl the padding on the seats in the back rows of the theatre. The dance sequences, set pieces, lighting designs, sound effects and the musical interpretation frame the buildup of their raw emotions beautifully but what unites everything together is the monumental savagery of their portrayals. Everything, from their physical gestures to shadings in their vocal work, combines to place finishing strokes on the elements crafted by the technical crew. Set Designer Gerard Gauci, The result is a piece of staging that Choreographer Jeannette Lajeunesse Zing, Lighting Designer Michelle Ramsay, Fight Director Jennifer Parr and their effects manager (who doesn’t appear to be named in the program) deserve to be on stage taking bows for individually.
Two of the key players performed against what’s normally their “type”. Tenor Colin Ainsworth, whose creation of noble figures always seems effortless, depicts a ‘Jason’ who lies so readily that the only time viewers can be sure of his sincerity is when the character is scared to death. Soprano Mireille Asselin (who also stepped out of the “nice girl” persona beautifully a few years ago with her sexually ravenous portrayal of ‘Morgana’ in the company’s production of ‘Alcina’) crafted the role of ‘Créuse’ as a manipulative piece of work who willfully sugar-coats intentions that would make an Adder cringe. Body language, tone colouring and intuitively spontaneous interaction with every element of the production produced characterizations that stand apart from much of what either has done before. The ease with which they did it was something to think about as well.
The shifts between stoic courage and terror leading to sheer madness were handled brilliantly by bass-baritone Stephen Hegedus in his depiction of the politically motivated ’Créon’. The weakness of ‘Oronte’s’ nature was portrayed nicely by baritone Jesse Blumberg as well. The smaller roles played by tenor Christopher Enns (‘La Jalousie’ and ‘Un Corinthien’), soprano Whitney Mather (‘Cupidon’) and tenor Kevin Shelton (‘Un Corinthien’ and ‘Un Captif’) came through with flair and verve. Soprano Meghan Lindsay was stellar as a ‘Captif’ and the confidante ’Nérine’. Her presence in any role is always a joy, regardless of the size of the part. Bass-baritone Olivier Laquerre appeared early as ‘Jason’s’ comrade ‘Arcas’ and quickly made enough of an impact to wish the roles he played (‘La Vengeance’ and ‘Un Argien’) had provided him with more time on stage. Soprano Karine White had just enough space as ‘Cléone’ and ‘Un Captif’ to demonstrate the charisma she already has and to hint at what’s likely to come. There’s a bright future ahead for this lady especially if she continues working with groups who nurture performers as this one does.
Ultimately, the performer who shone most brightly was Peggy Kriha Dye. Her depiction of ‘Medea’ was of a being who combined the power of a deity with the vulnerability of an individual emotionally fragile enough to be shattered as easily as the most delicate pane of glass. The character loved with a depth that can only be dreamt about and raged with the force that can lay waste to nations — she was at her core a flawed being with the power to insure her deeds could be monstrous. As a singer and actress she’s one who’s appreciated more with each role and performance; whatever the demands she always finds the perfect combination to give it life and nothing, dramatic or comic, appears to beyond her scope.
Every facet was joined beautifully by Director Marshall Pynkoski. His understanding and obvious empathy with the story and its musical backdrop speaks for itself. Under the baton of David Fallis the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Chamber Choir gave Marc-Antoine Charpentier’s beautiful score a sensitively thoughtful interpretation that complimented Pynkoski’s pacing of the narrative flawlessly. The dance sequences that accompanied it were extraordinary, and often, exquisite. Michael Legouffe wardrobe designs remained true to the company’s unique styling and fit the characterizations of the players well. Stage Manger Arwen MacDonell and her crew kept the changes of scene and movement of stage machinery seamless. The result was a production where the elements of story and characterization melded together to make absolute sense of a story that seemed convoluted at first and to allow its inherent message to carry like bolts of lightning.
That’s no small achievement, and it’s one the company should be proud of.
Opera Atelier’s production of ‘Medea’ runs through to the 29th of April. This performance took place on Sunday April 23rd at the Elgin Theatre in Toronto Ontario. The article was written to convey impressions of what it was like to be there watching.
Below: A gallery of images from ‘Medea’ featuring Peggy Kriha Dye as ‘Medea’, Colin Ainsworth as ‘Jason’, Mireille Asselin as Créuse’, Jesse Blumberg as ‘Oronte’, Stephen Hegedus as ‘Créon’ and the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra.
All photos are by Bruce Zinger.