Opera Atelier-- Acteon & Pygmalion

Opera Atelier: Acteon & Pygmalion

Director: Marshall Pynkoski

Choreographer: Jeanette Lajeunesse Zingg

Dance Artists of Atelier Ballet

Elgin Theatre, Toronto
Oct. 25-Nov. 3, 2018

Reviewed by Ted Fox

Choreographer Jeannette Lajeunesse Zngg celebrates 33 years as choreographer/dancer with Opera Atelier, a company founded by her and her partner in life, director Marshall Pynkoski. This latest production features a double bill of short operas, Charpentier's Acteon and Rameau's Pygmalion.

I have seen practically all of the shows staged by Opera Atelier. And Zngg consistently choreographed movements faithful to the originals, while evoking her personal variations. Her dancers come from a variety of backgrounds, including contemporary, modern and classical dance. Zngg always integrates them into colourful tapestries of fluid seamless movements. A joy to watch.

Charpentier's Acteon is a a pastoral work centred around Acteon and his hunter friends, setting out on what promises be the best hunt ever. It certainly turns out to be a memorable one.

Acteon spies Diana, Goddess of the Hunt, and her nymphs, bathing in a woodland pool. Diana is so enraged she turns him into a stag. His friends wonder where he is, only to discover that the stag they just arrowed to death was their friend-- now, horror of horror, dismembered by the dogs. Very appropriate for Hallowe'en.

This a relatively quiet and humorous piece before this sudden event. There is always, though, an undercurrent of dread.

The second half begins with a brief excerpt from Inception, a work in progress featuring co-creators dancer Tyler Gledhill as Eros and violinist Edwin Huizinga. A sort of prequel to Pygmalion, Inception is shown here as the world comes to life from nothingness. Composer/violinist Edwin Huizinga is joined by choreographer/dancer Tyler with red slatted wings sprouting from his shoulders. Gledhill dances in and out around the musician. A beautiful imagistic and haunting excerpt of a work that once completed will be Opera Atelier's first commissioned work. A perfect segue to Eros' creation of Pygmalion.

Tenor Colin Ainsworth's richly textured voice eloquently incarnates Pygmalion. He falls in love with the sculpture he has just created. He conjures up Venus to breathe life into it. Soprano Meghan Lindsay as the statue Galatee manages to stay frozen with not a quiver of movement for probably about ten minutes before she is brought to life. Really convincing as a statue.

This piece pulsates with life, taking on a colouful celebration featuring ten segments of superb dance throughout, seamlessly blending dance from different time periods, including 18th century and contemporary. Strikingly rich colour in the costumes with confetti falling vaudevillian style onto the perfomers.

In Acteon, set and costume designer Gerard Gauci employs subdued coloured backdrops with scrims and a trompe d'oeil effect, creating an illusion of reality particularly in the bathing nymphs scene. For Pygmalion he creates a phantasmagorical dream-like space, a chiaroscuro of light and shade. A Magritte-like look of a world suspended in clouds.

These two works make for a sparkling charming, visually rich and highly entertaining evening.