ORFEO by Claudio Monteverdi, directed by Marshall Pynkoski (Opera Atelier). Elgin Theatre (189 Yonge). To Apr 23. $30-$107. 416-872-5555. See Continuing Listings. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
The powers of music and passion are the twin engines of Claudio Monteverdi 's Orfeo , one of the earliest operas and the first presented, two decades ago, by the then-fledgling Opera Atelier.
To celebrate its 20th anniversary, the now internationally renowned company has revived the piece in a splendid production that shows off OA at its musical and dramatic best.
Monteverdi gives the story a surprisingly positive twist.
When the mournful musician Orfeo fails to bring his dead wife, Euridice, from the underworld (he breaks the rules by looking back at her), he's translated to the heavens by his father, Apollo.
Director Marshall Pynkoski brings rich drama to a work recognized for its musical inspiration, and Jeannette Zingg's choreography points up the story with elegance and colour. As in the company's previous shows, Gerard Gauci 's painted sets and Dora Rust-D'Eye 's costumes are lush complements to the show.
But it's the fine musicians onstage and in the pit who fill out this myth-inspired celebration of the magic of music. David Fallis leads Tafelmusik in an alert, energetic reading of the score, using silences to underscore its range of emotions, relying on tempo changes to great effect.
There's lots of fine work by the singers, too, including Monica Whicher 's magisterial La Musica, Stephanie Novacek 's dramatically powerful Messenger and Carla Huhtanen 's brightly sung Euridice.
But the rightful star of the show is baritone Daniel Belcher , whose fresh-voiced Orfeo combines musical skills and heartfelt acting. Travelling from happiness to misery to madness and back to joy, his Orfeo is emotionally truthful, proving, as Monteverdi intended, that music and drama are intimately connected.