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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 of Mirrors for their wedding photos and were refused!)

Opera Atelier in the Hall of Mirrors, Palace of Versailles, 2015. Photo by Bruce Zinger.

While the company was en route to the Hall of Mirrors, we passed Versailles’ Royal Chapel, designed for Louis XIV by Jules Hardouin-Mansart in 1699. It is one of the most spectacular pieces of architecture in the palace and is the location for a prestigious concert series featuring international artists invited by the Château. As we stood admiring the Chapel, Monsieur Brunner asked us if we would be interested in producing a Chapel concert on our return to Versailles in 2017. He gave us carte blanche in terms of repertoire, and this became the take-off point for the Royal Chapel Concert we produced in Versailles in 2017.

As a Canadian company producing French baroque repertoire in the Royal Opera House, we thought it would be interesting to present an all English programme for our Royal Chapel debut. We chose liturgical and theatre music by Henry Purcell, which included Hosanna in the Highest, Evening Hymn on a Ground, the Golden Sonata, Close Thine Eyes, Chacony in g minor, and Dances from King Arthur, The Fairy Queen and Dioclesian.

“Inception” rehearsal in the Royal Chapel at the Palace of Versailles. Photo by Bruce Zinger.

What made this concert particularly thrilling for all of us was our decision to commission Opera Atelier’s first original piece of contemporary Canadian music entitled Inception (for solo violin), composed and performed by Edwin Huizinga with contemporary choreography by Artist of Atelier Ballet Tyler Gledhill. Dancer and instrumentalist meld in a unique pas de deux in which both disciplines overlap and support each other. Mr. Huizinga’s composition acts as a sort of intervention – overlapping and complementing Purcell’s dramatic cantata – The Blessed Virgin’s Expostulation, sung by Canadian soprano Mireille Asselin.

Opera Atelier’s Royal Chapel Concert, entitled Harmonia Sacra, also included baritone Jesse Blumberg, six members of Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and – a first for the Royal Chapel – extensive baroque dancing choreographed by Jeannette Lajeunesse Zingg for Artists of Atelier Ballet Juri Hiraoka, Tyler Gledhill and herself.

Artists of Atelier Ballet perform in the Royal Chapel in the Palace of Versailles. Photo by Bruce Zinger.

Opera Atelier is thrilled to present Harmonia Sacra for members of our Toronto audience for one night only, February 15, in the Samuel Currelly Hall at the Royal Ontario Museum, a space which affords us similar proportions to those of the Royal Chapel. We will be joined by all of the original Harmonia Sacra artists.

Buy your tickets now!

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