A Mozart classic as he might have staged itToronto-based Opera Atelier is in Seoul to perform “Don Giovanni,” the story of a licentious Spanish nobleman. Opera Atelier’s version premiered in 1996 and remains the world’s only fully staged period production of Mozart’s 1787 masterpiece. Though lauded for its “authentic” Baroque production, the Canadian opera company prefers the term “historically informed.”
“There is no genuine and authentic form of any Baroque opera,” Marshall Pynkoski, the director, said at a press conference in Seoul on Tuesday. “Even at that time, there must have been various interpretations. What we are trying to do is to revive the spirit of the period.”
That is not to say that Mr. Pynkoski and his wife and choreographer, Jeannette Zingg, have not done their homework. The couple has spent considerable time in France poring over original documents related to Baroque-period operas, ballets and dramas housed in the archives of the Bibliotheque Nationale and the Paris Opera. Thanks to their work, Opera Atelier has won international acclaim for its elaborate period costumes and other exquisite visual elements.
One challenge of recreating the experience of a Baroque opera is the size of today’s theaters. In the 17th and 18th centuries, even the largest theaters seated only around 800. The larger halls of today, often seating thousands, make it more difficult for performers to interact with the audience. “The singers should acknowledge the existence of the audience during the whole performance,” Mr. Pynkoski said. “Whether they do or not makes a huge difference.” The director said Opera Atelier’s singers’ willingness to address the audience has made its “Don Giovanni” a great success in front of as many as 5,000.
Often, gestures in Baroque opera blurred the line between singing and dancing. A particular movement must be made as the corresponding word is sung. It is an impressive balancing act.
“Baroque ballet is quite different from modern ballet, much easier,” said Ms. Zingg, the coreographer. “But for the singers with heavy costumes, especially for women who wear corsets, it is quite an ordeal.”
The Korean Symphony Orchestra, with David Fallis of Opera Atelier conducting, will play period instruments for this opera.
“Don Giovanni” runs from Nov. 25 to Nov. 29. Showtime is 7:30 p.m. Tickets cost from 30,000 won ($26) to 120,000 won. For more information, call (02) 580-1300.
by Kim Hae-young