A unique, filmed opera/ballet opened this week online after six years in development. ‘Angel’ is a riveting collaboration from Opera Atelier, Tafelmusik, The Nathaniel Dett Chorale, composer Edwin Huizinga and filmmaker Marcel Canzona. It is clear from this list of well-established Canadian institutions that this project will easily excite the arts community. Along with a superb cast led by soprano Measha Brueggergosman, the collaboration’s narrative follows John Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’ and the mystic poetry of Rainer Marie Rilke.
Atelier focuses on period productions while Tafelmusik likes to revive baroque music with original instruments. Having said that, the uniqueness here is how they create a contemporary product with baroque flavour (among other elements.) The music composition is superb and the choreography of Jeannette Lajeunesse Zingg takes full advantage of the talented Artists of Atelier Ballet.
The narrative generally follows Milton’s colossal story of the fall of Satan and the banishment of Adam and Eve from Eden. Art Director Gerard Gauci creatively guides us through the various scenes with a unique use of colour. Most of the film is black and white representing earth and humanity. Hell is bathed in red while a glimpse into Eden is full of rich colour. A star motif flashes through the film – even Gauci’s design for the dance floor is an actual rendering of the night sky as seen in Toronto. We ponder if the dancers are above heaven or below.
Many typical Miltonian themes drive the story – loss of innocence, good versus evil, and redemption among others. The powerful cast is what ultimately illuminates these themes. As mentioned, Ms. Brueggergosman’s rich soprano elevates her role of Angel. Douglas Williams’ robust baritone underscores the evil Lucifer. Meghan Lindsay and John Tibbetts support and complement each other as Adam and Eve.
As earlier mentioned, it is the collaboration of many moving parts that is the challenge of this production. All musicals have many moving parts, but this is unique in that the parts are from the many separate established organizations listed above. Layered on to that, the production must also be filmed, edited and transformed digitally. Rather than weighing down on top of itself, these various layers enrich the musical and visual landscape and boldly highlight, for a contemporary audience, the various themes and narratives earlier mentioned.
A highlight of this collaboration was among filmmaker Marcel Canoza, the choreographers, and the Artists of the Atelier Ballet. At one point, the dancers are marching, like dolls, back and forth against one another while the film blurs them into a whirling mass. A similar moment comes from a forest of arms waving themselves, again into a blended cacophony. Many crossfades delineate scenes and characters. The result is mystical and magical.
A digital house program numbered seventy pages! This, in itself, is a testimony to the many components involved and the skill of the team to turn them into unified art.
The result is an exalted work of music and dance worthy of Milton, Rilke, and a superb cast.
‘Angel’ produced by Opera Atelier
Cast: Colin Ainsworth, Mireille Asselin, Jesse Blumberg, Measha Brueggergosman, Meghan Lindsay, John Tibbetts, Douglas Williams, Artists of Atelier Ballet, Tafelmusik, The Nathaniel Dett Chorale.
Conductor: David Fallis
Choreographer: Jeannette Lajeunesse Zingg
Composer: Edwin Huizinga
Filmmaker: Marcel Canzona
Runs through November 12, 2021.
Tickets at www.operaatelier.com