Harmonia Sacra

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A Labour of Love

By Marshall Pynkoski

In 2015, Opera Atelier toured our production of Lully’s Armide to the Royal Opera House at the Palace of Versailles. The production was an enormous success – so much so that Laurent Brunner, the director of the opera house, invited us to conduct a photo shoot in the Hall of Mirrors following the final performance. This was a singular honour, as the Hall of Mirrors is seldom accessible to the media. (In fact, shortly before our performances the year prior, Kim Kardashian and Kanye West attempted to rent the Hall … Read more

Interview with Gerard Gauci

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Special Exhibit at the Aga Khan Museum – Interview with exhibition designer Gerard Gauci

Opera Atelier’s Resident Set Designer, Gerard Gauci, recently designed an exhibit for the Aga Khan Museum. Below is an interview with Gerard, conducted in advance of the exhibit opening, about his experience working on Arts of the East: Highlights of Islamic Art from the Bruschettini Collection. Enjoy!

From lavish textiles and intricately patterned carpets to paintings, Iznik wares, and metalwork: Arts of the East: Highlights of Islamic Art from the Bruschettini Collection is a choice selection, spanning the 13th to 17th centuries, from one of … Read more

Figaro Set Design Notes

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Beaumarchais’s controversial play The Marriage of Figaro was written in 1778 and is often credited with heralding the French Revolution. By ridiculing the accepted rights and privileges of the nobility it called for a social re-ordering that aroused the ire of government censors and was not performed in public until 1784 at the Comédie Française.

It premiered however in 1783 at a private performance supported by Marie Antoinette in the home of aristocrat Joseph Hyacinthe Vaudreuil (Vaudreuil was rumoured to be the lover of the duchesse de Polignac, friend and confidant of the Queen).

For Opera Atelier’s version of Mozart’s … Read more

Figaro Conductor’s Notes

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When Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro finally received its premiere on May 1, 1786 (some writers have remarked on the symbolism of the date, given that the opera revolves around conflicts between working servants and leisured aristocrats) it was an immediate success. By the time of the fourth performance, the Emperor had to order the Burgtheater’s manager to post a notice that “no piece for more than a single voice will be repeated”, in order to “prevent the excessive duration of operas”. Apparently at the third performance seven pieces had been encored, including the little duet between Susanna and Cherubino, … Read more

Figaro Director’s Notes

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History abounds with numerous examples of commedia dell’arte-based theatre running afoul of official critics and censors. Beaumarchais’ The Marriage of Figaro is no exception. This commedia-based play caused a scandal due to its irreverent critique of the social mores, hierarchy, and political institutions of late 18th century France.

What much of the ruling class found most shocking however was the implication that a female servant could successfully impersonate a member of the nobility by simply changing her clothes for those of her mistress. Consequently, it seems particularly ironic that just four months after the premiere of Beaumarchais’ play, a … Read more