Jeannette Lajeunesse Zingg and Marshall Pynkoski
A 'life-changing' experience for these ultra-chic Co-Artistic Directors of Opera Atelier
Photo of Jeannette Lajeunesse Zingg and Marshall Pynkoski courtesy of Opera Atelier website
To have the opportunity to speak again with Co-Artistic Directors of Opera Atelier, Marshall Pynkoski and Jeannette Lajeunesse Zingg, was personally and highly energizing. I hold no background in opera or dance, yet these two art forms have intrigued me since I began reviewing. I'm grateful Marshall and Jeannette, two classy individuals, continue to reach out to me to attend Opera Atelier performances and encourage more audience members to become intrigued by opera and dance and their theatrical form. Pynkoski stated if audiences aren’t entertained, then the company must re-examine what they are doing since entertainment is the goal for all audience members and not just a select few.
I spoke with Marshall and Jeannette a couple of weeks before Christmas as they were quite excited to share some very important news about their ‘life-changing’ experience in Versailles, France.
In April 2022, when they were directing and choreographing a new production of Grétry’s 'La Caravane du Caire' for Opéra de Tours, Marshall and Jeannette received an email from Laurent Brunner, Directeur of the Opéra Royal and of Château de Versailles Spectacles, asking if they were familiar with Marc Antoine Charpentier’s opera, ‘David et Jonathas’. Marshall and Jeannette have listened to Charpentier’s opera for over a decade and have always marvelled at the invention and power of this example of the seventeenth-century biblical drama.
I smiled when Marshall said there must be some plans afoot with this simple request, especially with the proliferation of work he and Jeannette have accomplished with Opera Atelier.
What they might consider simple became uber mega wonderful for me in hearing what had happened.
Château de Versailles Spectacles had already planned and scheduled a major concert performance and CD recording of Charpentier’s ‘David et Jonathas’. However, due to the appearance of a very significant donor, the project had suddenly been catapulted into a fully staged production. The set was to be designed by the great French designer Antoine Fontaine and his son Roland, with lighting by the equally celebrated Hervé Gary. Perhaps most exciting of all, the costumes were to be designed by the greatest living French couturier, Christian Lacroix.
Additional donors came on board through the organization known as ADOR (Les Amis de l’Opéra Royal). A DVD deal was signed, and the set design grew in size and complexity as the project expanded to include eight dancers (including two of the Artists of Atelier Ballet), nine on-stage chorus, eight superb principals, including the internationally renowned tenor Reinoud Van Mechelen as David, soprano Caroline Arnaud as Jonathas, and bass-baritone David Witczak as Saül. They were joined by a forty-piece orchestra on period instruments (Ensemble Marguerite Louise) and a large off-stage choir under the baton of the young superstar French conductor Gaétan Jarry.
What’s more, this was the first time in its history that the Royal Chapel (still a consecrated space) was used as a theatre.
Marshall and Jeannette accepted this “enormous undertaking in a very, very short time but such an exciting project that it was out of the question that anyone would say no.”
Jeannette stated they had about twelve days to put together a two-hour opera. Normally there is a much longer rehearsal time (at minimum a four-week rehearsal), but over the years the two of them and Opera Atelier have learned to streamline the process with nine hours a day of non-stop rehearsal with short meal breaks. Everyone barely slept over this time.
I could hear a bit of nervous laughter in her voice as she recalled wondering if it would all come together.
It did as Jeannette added:
“It was a wonderful success. It was an over-sold-out house. Everyone performed beautifully, and the production was well received both by the public and the press. There was highly informed press from the United States, England, France, and Germany. People also flew in from Israel to see the production.”
Marshall also shared no one stopped working. Microphones could not be set until after 11 pm because there was so much natural light that came into the chapel because of the window. The creative team had to wait until it was night and then wait for the ambient light from the Chateau to be turned off and the rehearsals to finish.
And the piece de resistance for Marshall and Jeannette?
At the After Party in the Salon of Hercules, they received confirmation ‘David et Jonathas’ will now travel to Potsdam in addition to future performances in the Royal Chapel on a regular basis. There is the release of the CD and DVD of the production in 2023.
I sit here as I finish this article and am astonished at Opera Atelier’s tremendous worldwide influence gently steered and guided by Pynkoski and Lajeunesse Zingg. I continue to marvel at Opera Atelier performances and look forward to seeing what they have planned.
And so should all of you.
To learn more about Opera Atelier, visit www.operaatelier.com.