We refer to Opera Atelier’s production of Charpentier’s Medea as a “period production” — but what we mean by that term requires some careful explanation.
Opera Atelier does not wish to be perceived as a “museum company” and we are in no way trying to reproduce a performance exactly as it would have happened in the past. Rather, we are taking references from the past as a take-off point or a threshold we cross in order to create something vibrant and new. Simply put, our ultimate goal is to tell the stories we have chosen in a balanced and coherent fashion.
Through the generosity of individuals, corporations, foundations, and the Canadian and French governments, we have enjoyed the luxury of studying, workshopping, and rehearsing Medea over the past decade.
But can one really “enjoy” an opera that so ruthlessly charts the hardening of a human heart in the face of relentless deception and lies? We believe the answer to be “yes”. Like so many of the characters of Greek mythology, Médée repulses us while drawing us to herself in the same breath. We find ourselves horrified but filled with pity. Charpentier and his librettist Thomas Corneille force us to confront a heartbreakingly human character who has been turned into a monster by circumstances and by people who should have been her support.
Charpentier’s Medea provides some of the most exceptional vocal, instrumental and dance music of the 17th century — all seamlessly blended to create a remarkably cohesive whole — music so inventive and poignant it literally takes us out of ourselves.
There is no salvation in this story. Jason and Médée’s final scene is one of rage, humiliation and fury. The opera is a truly cathartic event which leaves us feeling both devastated and cleansed.
We believe Charpentier’s opera has particular relevance today, as Europe and North America struggle to find ways to accommodate the flood of individuals displaced by war and political crises. Médée herself remains the quintessential refugee, a stranger whose customs and religion engender fear and distrust. When her support is removed, she finds herself unable to cope in a strange country which views her as an enemy alien.
- Marshall Pynkoski
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