Opera Atelier's The Return of Ulysses


The Return of Ulysses

Opera Atelier Presentation

Featuring Kresimir Spicer as Ulysses and Mireille Lebel as Penelope

Music: Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra conducted by David Fallis

Dancers: Atelier Ballet

Choreographer: Jeannette Lajeunesse Zing

Elgin Theatre, 189 Yonge Street
April 17-18 2018

Reviewed by Ted Fox

The Opera Atelier production of The Return of Ulysses features dancers from the Atelier Ballet. They come from a variety of dance backgrounds, including contemporary dance and ballet. Many have been with the company for years, Jeremy Naismith since 1986.

The Return of Ulysses begins with a prologue in which Ulysses bemoans suffering mortals who are subjected to the whims of Time, Fortune and Love.

Penelope laments the non-return of Ulysses after five years in Troy. Frustrated suitors compete for her hand in marriage. They set up an entertainment in which they will present her with expensive gifts, each trying to outdo the other.

Choreographer Jeannette Lajeunesse Zing's choreography is based upon Late Renaissance and Early Baroque eras. In the suitors' entertainment, the dancers' movement consists of the male dancers leaping in awesome scissored leg extensions. All stamp their feet, clap and and use castanets and finger cymbals.

At another point the women become Naiads, displaying Ulysses' treasures. They form a frieze, moving together, backs to us in a wall, back and forth. Their billowing dresses twirl splashing out bright resplendent shimmering color including yellow, green blue and yellow.

Closes with a rousing celebratory dance over which Jupiter (Kevin Skelton) appears on a mechanical cloud sprinkling sparkling confetti vaudeville-like over all.

Throughout are hilarious innuendos. One refers to the suitors as "shafts of love tipped with gold".

Many parts verge on absurdity, including the irritating yet funny reaction to Ulysses when he does return. Face to face with his undisguised presence Penelope expresses doubts that it is really him.

Kresimir Spicer as Ulysses tonally conveys pathos in the beginning, gradually opening up in emotional outbursts of joy. Mezzo-Soprano Mereille Lebel as Penelope vocally embodies her anxiety and frustration re Ulysses non-arrival and having to thwart her suitors' constant advances.

Soprano Meghan Lindsay excels as Minerva, her red lips ovalled into roboust voaclizations. Even at one point effectively transforming into a shepherd boy

Tenors Michael Taylor and Kevin Skelton provide comic relief as two of the suitors. The third Bass-Baritone Douglas Williams creates tension by his aggressively macho and threatening violent approaches to Penelope.

Set Designer Gerard Gauci's painted sets are evocative, becoming scarely present when sharp lightning flashes and loud claps of thunder announce the gods, as per usual in operas, meddling in these humans' affairs.

All is heightened by the nuanced interpretation of Monteverdi's score by the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra conducted by David Fallis.

Driector Marshall Pynkoski gives us a satisfying psychologically dramatic production fused with comic moments and tension.