IPHIGÉNIE EN TAURIDE by Christoph Willibald Gluck, directed by Marshall Pynkoski, conducted by Andrew Parrott, with Krisztina Szabó, Daniel Belcher, Colin Ainsworth, Olivier Laquerre and Jackalyn Short. Presented by Opera Atelier at the Elgin (189 Yonge). October 30 and November 1 at 7:30 pm, November 2 at 3 pm. $25-$99, stu $15. 416-872-5555. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
Who knew that neoclassical opera could be so exciting? In the hands of Opera Atelier , Gluck 's rarely presented 1779 Iphigénie En Tauride is a thrilling piece of theatre as much because of its score as its performance. Based on a play by Euripides , the tale has Iphigénie, supposedly sacrificed by her father, Agamemnon, so he could wage the Trojan War, instead spirited away to the island of Tauride, where the savage king establishes her as priestess and requires that she perform human sacrifice. Washed ashore, her brother Oreste and his bosom buddy, Pylade, are the next in line for the altar; the siblings don't recognize each other.
From the tense thrust of the opening storm music to the happy end - bro and sis are reunited and sail back to Greece - Gluck's score moves with compelling speed, every bit of the excitement captured by conductor Andrew Parrott and the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra . Jeannette Zingg 's choreography takes some missteps, as in a faux-Olympic dance for the barbaric Scythians, but Marshall Pynkoski 's direction, which uses declamatory gesture, often captures characters' moods sympathetically.
Surprisingly, the one performer who's not comfortable with those gestures is Krisztina Szabó , whose Iphigénie is well and movingly sung but seems hampered by the poses she strikes.
Far better - in fact, the most striking part of the production - are Daniel Belcher and Colin Ainsworth as Oreste and his pal Pylade. Sensuality is rare in an Opera Atelier production, but here Pynkoski emphasizes the text's homoeroticism and turns the pair into an effective physical and musical twosome. These guys are healthy Greek boys who clearly believe in Greek love.