World Famous in Canada

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On Friday April 22, I attended "the first period production of Mozart’s La Clemenza di Tito in North America." It was presented by Toronto’s Opera Atelier, and it was excellent. (You can read my review, for Toronto’s Globe and Mail newspaper, here.)

Do you know the company? Opera Atelier has been around for 25 years, presenting historically informed productions of operas from Monteverdi to Mozart. This makes them one of the first – and still one of the few – opera companies in the world committed to baroque and classical staging.

Oddly, Opera Atelier is run by a husband-and-wife team with a background not in opera or singing, but in dance: Marshall Pynkoski and Jeannette Lajeunesse Zingg. Throughout the company’s quarter-century history, they’ve maintained a strict quality-over-quantity policy, producing just two visually sumptuous productions a year.

They’ve been just lucky in some ways: they’ve tapped into a rich vein of Canadian vocal talent; and Toronto is home to the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra, which serves as Opera Atelier’s pit band. As well, there’s a beautifully restored 1500-seat theatre in Toronto – the Elgin – that suits the company’s productions to a tee.

But I don’t think the company has had as much luck with is establishing a solid international reputation with opera audiences. They should be much better known – but unfortunately, Opera Atelier seems to be "world famous" only in Canada.

It would help if the company got out more. Over the years, they’ve staged a few productions in New York, Houston, Paris, London and several other cities, and they once toured to the Far East. Most of the time, however, Opera Atelier is virtually invisible to the rest of the world.

But at Friday night’s performance, Pynkoski made a welcome announcement, just before the curtain went up: Opera Atelier’s Armide (by Lully) will be presented by the Glimmerglass Opera, in Cooperstown, New York, next summer. That, I assure you, is something to look forward to.