*PERSEE, by Jean Baptiste Lully, directed by Marshall Pynkoski, choreographed by Jeannette Zingg, conducted by Hervé Niquet, with Rufus Muller, Nathalie Paulin, Monica Whicher, Alain Coulombe, Mark Stone, Laura Pudwell and Michael Chioldi. Presented by Opera Atelier at the Elgin Theatre (189 Yonge). Tonight (Thursday, November 2) and Saturday (November 4) at 8 pm. $25-$90. 872-5555. Rating: NNNN
It's 200 years or so since audiences have seen a full production of Lully's opera Persée, and the Opera Atelier production demonstrates that the wait was too long.
The tale of the hero Perseus (Persée) who slays the serpent-headed Medusa and rescues the princess Andromeda from a sea monster allows for lots of vocal fireworks, many of them right on target in an evening directed by Marshall Pynkoski, with Hervé Niquet briskly conducting Tafelmusik and members of Le Concert Spirituel.
The sumptuous production is costumed by Dora Rust D'Eye with enough glitter to require triple-strength Ray-Bans, and it beautifully integrates song, dance and acting.
Not every performer succeeds, though. By its nature, the opera never rises above a certain dramatic temperature, and some performers -- Rufus Muller's Perseus, for instance -- are vocally stretched and rather dull stage personalities. I'd like more from baritone Michael Chioldi's Medusa, too, either more comedy or more fearsomeness.
On the other hand, Nathalie Paulin as Andromeda, Mark Stone and Laura Pudwell as her parents and Alain Coulombe as her determined suitor sing and act in the French baroque opera tradition. Best of all is Monica Whicher's rejected lover Merope, who blends musical ornamentation with subtle emotion in the opera's most moving characterization.