John Abberger (oboe)
We have returned from Versailles, exhilarated by the enthusiastic reception that Armide received there. This is a grand moment for Opera Atelier, and we are all savouring their success. It is no small matter, of course, to transplant an entire opera production from one continent to another, but as far as I can tell things went about as smoothly as one could possibly hope.
To begin with, the production seemed, in a physical sense, to have been designed with the Palace Theater in mind. Of course I have no idea what had to happen to transplant the settings, but not only did they fit beautifully onto the stage, but the colour scheme worked perfectly with the colour palette of the interior of the theater. The orchestra pit is larger than the space we struggle with at the Elgin Theatre in Toronto; the orchestra did not have to spend extra energy jostling for adequate room to play our instruments in an unfamiliar space. As for the staging, the major adjustment that I am aware of (being, as I am, a participant on the music side of the production, rather than the theatre side) involved, interestingly enough, the retro-fitted lighting in the theatre. The space has of course been equipped with more modern theatrical lighting, but some important decisions were taken at some point to make these added lights as unobstrusive as possible. This has created a situation in which the front part of the stage (about 3 meters, I would guess) cannot be adequately lit, forcing the action on stage to the back. This increases the distance between the orchestra and the conductor and the performers on stage, adding to the challenge of keeping everything coordinated properly. A relatively small problem, but one with which everyone had to work.
On stage at Versailles
Nothing could have prepared us, however, for the rapture of the audience for our performances. The ovation seemed to go on and on, and this was repeated at each performance. At the close of the final performance, after the fifth or sixth company bow, Marshall Pynkoski himself appeared on stage and took a bow, something I have not seen in 25 years of working with Opera Atelier. Congratulations, Marshall and Jeannette! We are all so happy for you!