by Lynn on April 8, 2023

in The Passionate Playgoer

Live and in person at Koerner Hall, produced by Opera Atelier. Plays until April 9 (after a short run of April 6, 8 and 9)

By George Frederick Handel

Libretto by Carlo Sigismondo Capece

Conducted by David Fallis

Directed by Marshall Pynkoski

Choreography by Jeannette Lajeunesse Zingg

Set by Gerard Gauci

Lighting by Kimberly Purtell

Cast: Colin Ainsworth

Carla Huhtanen

Meghan Lindsay

Allyson McHardy

Douglas Williams

Plus the artists of Atelier Ballet

And the musicians of Tafelmusik

This being a week in which we have Passover and Easter, I think a perfect event to review is The Resurrectionby George Frederick Handel, in a production created by Opera Atelier.

Note: As with any opera I am not ‘reviewing’ the singing or dancing of The Resurrection because they have a different vocabulary that I would not presume to comment on with any justice.  I will be commenting on the theatricality of the piece.

Opera Atelier planned to produce The Resurrection as a staged production in 2020, but COVID-19 intervened and cancelled those plans. However, the co-artistic directors of Opera Atelier, Marshall Pynkoski and Jeannette Lajeunesse Zingg are fearless and determined. While they were forced to move their production out of the theatre, they decided to present it in the ballroom of St. Lawrence Hall and film it following safety protocols.  

The debut of The ResurrectionHandel’s liturgical opera in Rome in 1708 and Opera Atelier’s debut of the film in 2021 are echoes of each other. In 1708 in Rome, due to papal restrictions during Lent, Handel was forced to move his production to Palazzo Ruspoli in the main hall (the Marchese Ruspoli was Handel’s patron).

But here we are now in April 2023 and by sheer will and tenacity, Opera Atelier is in Koerner Hall live and in person again, presenting this lush opera-ballet as it was meant to be producer.

The Story. It takes place between Good Friday when Christ was crucified and Easter Sunday, the Resurrection of Christ.  It is the story of good vs evil, faith vs despair.  Lucifer (Douglas Williams) rages that he fell from heaven to hell and takes credit for Christ’s death. He is challenged by an Angel (Carla Huhtanen) who is as determined as Lucifer to thwart his intention to spread havoc on earth.

In the meantime, Mary Magdalene (Meghan Lindsay) and Cleophas (Allyson McHardy), who both loved Christ, lament and mourn his death, until Saint John the Evangelist (Colin Ainsworth) announces that Christ will rise again in three days.

The Production. As you would expect of Opera Atelier, the production is exquisite. The filmed version was wonderful but to see the detail of the live version is to be impressed all over again with the artistry of co-artistic directors Marshall Pynkoski and Jeannette Lajeunesse Zingg.

The production of The Resurrection shimmers with elegance, detail, artistry and beauty.  

Director Marshall Pynkoski, choreographer, Jeannette Lajeunesse Zingg and their design team have created the scope of the world of Handel’s opera with the simplest of furnishings that suggest elegance. Gerard Gauci has designed a stair formation with an imposing gold bird on the front to provide a place of power for both the Angel and Lucifer.

A sumptuous gold curtain of folds covers the tomb where Christ lay—Saint John touches it delicately in reverence. In person you can see the care and detail of the design. Each fold is exactly like the one beside it, perfectly balanced and it exemplifies the exacting sense of artistry of designer Gerard Gauci.  Kimberly Purtell uses a dappled lighting effect that illuminates the space both subtly and obviously.

In the filmed version there was proper distancing and each dancer wore facemasks that matched their white billowing gowns for the women and white tights and flowing shirts for the men. In the live version, no face masks were required. We could see the reverential gazes of the dancers along with their graceful athleticism.  Later to suggest the joy and celebration of Christ’s resurrection the dancers wave flags of huge swaths of powder blue billowing material. They wave them back and forth, creating a beautiful formation of the huge swaths of material. But then they twirl the swaths of material so that the material produces a funnel effect that is equally as beautiful. Kudos to choreographer Jeanette Lajeunesse Zingg for this creative variation of the show of joy and celebration.

Even if a viewer is not familiar with the ballet of the period, choreographer, Jeannette Lajeunesse Zingg makes you notice the stance, arm placement and formality of the dancing. I was struck by a hand formation of Lucifer played with power by Douglas Williams. At times he held out his hands, gracefully, with his index finger reaching out as one sees in “The Creation of Adam” in which Adam is reaching his finger out to touch God’s finger. I thought that an interesting image but the suggestion here is that Lucifer wants to destroy mankind because of being thrown out of heaven. It’s details like this that make this production such a joy.

While I won’t comment on the singing and dancing the acting is very effective in conveying the emotion and passion of the piece. I think that’s a beautiful thing here because you have singers who can act. Carla Huhtanen is the regal but forceful Angel who challenges Lucifer played by Douglas Williams. Douglas Williams is a proud, angry Lucifer.  He suggests danger and power as he struts around in his velvet tights and thigh-high boots. Interestingly, he is deliberately ungainly as he clomps around the stage—I think that a wonderful touch to show Lucifer is no match for the quiet elegance of the Angel.  Both Meghan Lindsay as Mary Magdalene, and Allyson McHardy as Cleophas, play women who love Jesus and are full of sorrow at his passing, and elated when Saint John tells them of the impending resurrection.

As Saint John, Colin Ainsworth is moving and buoyant as Christ’s devoted follower.

Again, I was mightily impressed with the drive, tenacity and determination of Marshal Pynkoski and Jeannette Lajeunesse Zingg to bring art and beauty to their growing audiences.

And that audience is eclectic. I saw people in stylish clothes and in jeans or sweatpants in the audience. There is a cross-section of ages, ethnicities, social strata all walks of life all made to feel welcome and all joined by their love of opera, dance and the artistry of Opera Atelier to bring them such quality as exemplified in The Resurrection.

There is a printed programme that is substantial, full of information on the cast, creatives, history of the piece and a synopsis. And on the dot of the announced starting time the lights dimmed to begin the proceedings. My subtext here to other theatre companies is obvious.

Opera Atelier Presents:

Played: April 6, 8 and closes April 9.

Running Time: 2 hours 20 minutes.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Katalin Schafer April 9, 2023 at 12:54 pm

Please include me in your mailing list.

With thanks


2 Lynn April 9, 2023 at 1:57 pm

Actually you just go to my blog at put your e-mail address in the place to the right of the post and you will then get a prompt sent to your e-mail asking if indeed you were the one who put your e-mail there, then you say yes, and after that you get my posts every morning at 8:02 am when I post. Easy….And thanks for signing up. Best, Lynn Slotkin