Photo: Bruce Zinger / Peggy Kriha Dye & Michael Maniaci Opera Atelier's production of The Coronation of PoppeaOMG, I don't know where to start, as usual with Opera Atelier. Their production of Monteverdi's Coronation of Poppea is so spectacular--every season of OA's success brings larger corporate sponsorship and excellent subscription results, but really they do know how to put it on.... Last night I was treated to their latest offering; and I do love Monteverdi so....Okay, on to the kudos: loved the deus ex machina thing going on; LOVED the fact that this production brought back a bit more of the baroque stylized gesturing; the monochromatic layering of the sets, stage dressings and costumes in the amorous colour of red was very a propos; I continue to appreciate the subdued lighting (which I assume is intended to mimic the original candlelit productions); basically the whole thing was one big Big O, if you'll pardon the expression, although that may suit the original context also. However, a couple of little *hein*s (that's my attempt to express the vocalization-perhaps somewhat quebecois sounding-of the things I dare to suggest were so-so): while the audience seemed to love the portrayal of Poppea's Nurse by Laura Pudwell, I found it a bit slap-sticky or panto for this kind of art; and while I was not offended by what my companion called the homoerotic episode between Nerone and his pal, it did seem a bit misplaced, again for this art form.
However, here are my bravi: Carla Huhtanen as Drusilla and Fortune was, comme d'habitude, in excellent form and did not push her comedic interpretation over the top; Kimberly Barber's Ottavia was outstanding and completely sympatico; and I must say I am now a total Olivier Laquerre fan! We felt Cynthia Smithers' Amore was sensational, too. Of course the Artists of the Atelier Ballet were as delicious as ever (but what gives with the danse sans musique at the beginning? a patron behind me vocally expressed the perplexion of most of the audience).
Time to talk Michael Maniaci. I can't be very objective where he's concerned. I loved him as Orfeo and Idomeneo. This time he stole the show again. As David Perlman and Jack Buell of Wholenote Magazine commented (in paraphrase:), Maniaci seemed much more comfortable in his own skin this year, an even better actor; and we all agreed that he seemed past any need to justify to the uninformed his range as male soprano. The final scene was wrenching, particularly by its treatment by Maniaci and Peggy Kriha Dye. Ita vero: sometimes more is less. Absolutely gorgeous.
You can still catch the last two performances May 1 & 2 at 7:30pm at the Elgin, $30+. Various ticket packages and further info are available at 416 872 5555 or at www.ticketmaster.ca or www.operaatelier.com .
Photo: Bruce Zinger / Carla HuhtanenOpera Atelier's production of The Coronation of Poppea