Medea at Opera Atelier

Director: Marshall PynKoski
Choreographer: Jeanette Lajeuness Zingg
Conductor: David Fallis
Set Designer: Gerard Gauci
Dancers: Atelier Ballet
Opera Atelier
Elgin Theatre
April 22-29 2017
Reviewed by Ted Fox
Medea is  a gripping and visually arresting Opera Atelier production of Marc-Antoine Charpentier's opera, Medea.
The opera begins after Medea and Jason flee to Corinth. She has murdered her father and enabled Jason to capture The Golden Fleece. She is obsessively and madly in love with Jason. After all she has done for him, Jason betrays her for the hand of Creuse, daughter of King Creon. Creon deceives Oronte, Prince of Argos, also promising him Creuse in marriage, while doing the same to Jason. Creon banishes Medea on the grounds that it is the will of the people.
All these circumstances combine for Medea, including living in a foreign country unsupported by those around her, with their plotting, lies and betrayals. Her internalized rage will eventually erupt, transforming her into a supernatural entity. Being a sorceress, she calls up demons to help her. They drive Creon to suicide. She saturates the golden gown of Creuse with poison and murders her. Then Medea slaughters Jason's children.
The characters circle, move in on, and confront each other throughout, all with their egocentric agendas. Conflict intensifies; they are caught in the web of the gods.
Soprano Peggy Kuka Dye gives an intense performance as Medea. She sings her lyrically tragic harmonic arias with force and passion. Her physical movements become more and more frenzied. When she brings Jason to his knees, we feel like she is clutching him like a devouring mantis. Dye forcefully conveys the disintegration of her humanity.
Tenor Colin Ainsworth creates a not very sympathetic character in Jason. One who is arrogant, and a manipulative controller. At the end there is a sadness expressed in his bereavement and isolation. 
The only likeable character is Love, who descends in a golden chariot, a lovely young woman delightfully cementing the relationship of Creuse and Oronte. She leaves pleased with herself. Happy with getting them together. So it would appear. However there is emblazoned on the chariot's side a heart pierced by an arrow.  Perhaps she is mischievous or malicious, enjoying the after-effects of her matchmaking.
Choreographer Jeanette Lajeunese Zingg recreates dance styles of the seventeenth century with flair and beauty. The dancers come from a variety of backgrounds, including contemporary dance and ballet. Here they play Corinthians in Creon's court, and all the demons and furies. 
The female dancers at one point lure Creon to his fate by becoming seductive ghostly phantoms in white dresses with bands across their eyes. The men portray the guards. There are riveting choreographed sword fights, including one where under Medea's spells they turn on each other. All the dancers  leap about in black leotards as black divinities and furies.
Set designer Gerard Gauci uses painted backdrops of buildings and settings enveloped in mist and fog. One scene has a building imploding into itself. A tree fully leafed becomes defoliated and skeletal in a burnt-out apocalyptic landscape. Another has a fragmented unhinged look, reflecting Medea's state of mind.
When Medea's internalized rage erupts like a forest fire, destroying Corinth, the effect is created by a spectacular use of billowing red satin. The skilled lighting design gives the illusion of moving flames.
This production has a contemporary feel to it. It has all the ingredients of a soap opera melodrama cum horror parody. Films like Fatal Attraction and Carrie come to mind. And the BBC TV series The Musketeers.
Director Marshall Pynkoski  has made  a thoroughly engrossing, highly entertaining show that is strikingly visual and beautifully sung, filled with humour and pathos.