Orfeo

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Orfeo (Orpheus)
Claudio Monteverdi
Opera Atelier production, October 1986 (Acts I & II)
with Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Artists of Atelier Ballet
Walker Court, Art Gallery of Ontario

Monteverdi’s Orfeo premiered at the Gonzaga Palace of Mantua, 1607. The opera recounts the Greek myth of Orpheus, the gifted poet and musician who created such beautiful music that he was able to charm his way into Hades and win the release of his beloved wife, Eurydice.

Opera Atelier’s production of Orfeo (Acts I & II) was coupled with excerpts from Il Sant’ Alessio (S. Landi) and performed at the Art Gallery of Ontario as part of the Vatican Splendour exhibition. This production was subsequently invited to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and brought the company to international attention.

Artist Gerard Gauci comments on the design:
The original production of this opera took place in a grand reception room before the invention of the proscenium stage. Similarly, the elegant Walker Court at the Art Gallery of Ontario was adapted with the installation of painted flats. Trompe l’oeil (trick the eye) designs of Renaissance-style architecture and cascading banks of water were installed in the open archways and adjacent steps.

The Toronto Reference Library’s circulating picture collection was the source of much of the resource material used in the creation of these and all the following designs.


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Orfeo (Orpheus)
Claudio Monteverdi
Opera Atelier production, May 1989
with Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Artists of Atelier Ballet
Macmillan Theatre, Toronto

Opera Atelier’s production of the complete Orfeo was a Canadian premiere, and the first full-length opera performed by the company, which went on to play in Stuttgart (Festival of Ancient Music), Houston (Houston Grand Opera), Cleveland (Apollo’s Fire); Acts I & II played at Versailles (Centre de Musique Baroque de Versailles).

Gerard Gauci: This complete version of the opera provided an opportunity to create stage machinery in the manner of the early Italian designers. The periaktoi (three-sided flats that rotate on a central axis and depict different scenes painted on each side) effected the scene change from earth to Hades, followed by a mechanical boat with churning waves and a billowing sail that carried Orpheus over the river Styx, and finally, Apollo made a spectacular entrance in a flying chariot complete with a spinning sunburst and prancing horses.