Pygmalion

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Pygmalion
Jean-Philippe Rameau
Opera Atelier production, May 1990
with Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Artists of Atelier Ballet
Macmillan Theatre, Toronto

Rameau’s opera or acte de ballet Pygmalion premiered in 1748 at the Paris Opera. The story of Pygmalion and Galatea comes from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, in which the celebrated sculptor Pygmalion falls in love with the beautiful marble statue he has created. Desolate with longing, he prays to Venus to give the statue life. Touched by his passion, Venus grants his request. The opera allows for an elaborate display of the ballet, which plays such an important role in French 18th-century theatre.

Opera Atelier’s production of Rameau’s Pygmalion was coupled with Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s scène lyrique of the same name. Resident music director, David Fallis, conducted the production.

Gerard Gauci: The sets for this opera featured the use of forced perspective scenery so integral to the baroque theatre. In order to give the audience a greater sense of depth on a frequently shallow stage, designers of the period invented the now common technique of diminishing the scale of painted flats and drops as they receded to the back of the stage. In this manner, the designs for Pygmalion depict a grand gold and white columned hall at the French court.


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Pygmalion
Jean-Philippe Rameau
Opera Atelier production, October 1999
with Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Artists of Atelier Ballet
Elgin Theatre, Toronto

Opera Atelier’s second production of Rameau’s Pygmalion was coupled with Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s scène lyrique of the same name and also included Roland Petit’s ballet Le Jeune Homme et la Mort. The entire program was presented under the title Pygmalion et Galatée: Three Acts of Creation and was conducted by resident music director David Fallis and Hervé Niquet.

Gerard Gauci: The new production of this work was inspired by Marie-Antoinette’s Petit Théâtre on the grounds of the Petit Trianon at Versailles. The French monarchy, particularly under the reign of Louis XIV, XV and XVI, were great patrons of opera, ballet and all manner of theatrical performance. Trained in singing and dancing, court nobles frequently performed on the stage of this tiny theatre where intimate performances were held for the royal family and their inner circle. These designs depict a charming Louis XVI style salon complete with all the accoutrements of the sculptor Pygmalion’s studio.