ooh la opera

poster for the 2015-16 season There’s usually a reason a work is “rarely performed”. Usually it’s awful. And so it was with some reluctance I accepted Marshall Pynkoski and Jeanette Zingg’s invitation to attend their Opera Atelier’s Toronto premiere of ‘rarely perfromed’ Lucio Silla. Marc Minikowsli had originally commissioned them to stage and choreograph this piece for Mozartwoche. The performance received such rave reviews that both the Salzburg Festival and  La Scala in Milan added it to their seasons. We too were properly wowed!

the beautiful elgin theatreMozart wrote this opera when he was 16. (Talk about feeling like an under achiever?) It is classic opera seria. A style I had never heard of but was the most fashionable type of opera starting around 1710; renowned for its many and long arias. This genre’s popularity was fading by the time Lucio Silla debuted in 1772.

Opera seria dovetailed with the age of the castrati (cross your legs, boys). Gifted male singers were castrated before puberty to retain a wider vocal range. At the peak of this era, 4000 young boys underwent the painful procedure each year. Parents hoped it was a route out of poverty and onto the stage. Several roles in each opera were written for this specific vocal flexibility. Castration is no longer legal; women now sing these parts. Though rumour has it, not as well as these men once did.

the sign on yonge streetAlthough I love opera, I am not an aficionado. Philistine that I am, I often find long arias challenging. I’m eager to get on with the story. When Marshall warned the audience about the lengthy opera seria arias I decided I would duck out at the intermission expecting to be bored. I wasn’t at all. The performers were vibrant and the staging creative and energetic. Literally, never a dull moment. The costumes were gorgeous. I was enthralled!

Returning to the old wonderful ornate Elgin Theatre was a trip down memory lane for us… John had sat on Opera Atelier’s board 20 years ago. It was the perfect background for the magnificent, lush and creative sets designed by Gerard Gauci. These sets alone are worth the price of admission.

Lucio Silla is  moving, political, funny and ultimately has a happy ending. I loved it. It’s playing in Toronto until April 16. Go go go!!!one of the stage sets courtesy of the program guide


  1. Julie, let us once again tell you how much we enjoy your posts. First off, they are so masterfully written – the detailed setting, followed by a short relevant history, then your experience/adventure told with your unique insights. It leaves one with the urge to cry out “ More !; More !; More !” In short, you are a great author awaiting publication and fame. It’s out there waiting for you. . . You have it all ! And we were more than delighted to learn that John was so connected with Opera ! It gives us yet another reason to admire this remarkable man who so fully shares your life.

    If you are a budding afficionado of Opera Seria, give Opera Buffa a try. It’s great fun; music is splendid, and there’s always a happy ending !

    We must get together soon. Brian said he thought he’d be in Toronto in May. Wouldn’t it be great to have a long leisurely evening ( Chez Fitzpatrick ) of great conversation, and perhaps a libation or two The last time he graced our table was when he was a very homesick student at Queen’s. ( He was just as charming then too ). If you should be talking to him in the interim, find out if the TO trip is still in the offing.

    Love you guys

    Bernie and Irene

  2. Amazing! I’m actually working on an upcoming musical, rehearsals at the Elgin right now! One of the dancers in the company was part of the opera.

    Date: Sat, 9 Apr 2016 21:26:57 +0000 To: keanu_uchida@hotmail.com

  3. Thanks Julie, this was a lovely review and update. Hope to see you both soon, it’s been way too long. Cheers from Brussels which is on the way back up.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: