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Opera Atelier production, November 2005
with Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Artists of Atelier Ballet
Elgin Theatre, Toronto
Lully’s magic opera Armide premiered at the Palais Royal in Paris, 1686. The story is taken from Tasso’s Gerusalemme liberata. The action takes place in Damascus in 1066, during the first crusade. Two magnetic and equally powerful figures - Armida, the virgin warrior, sorceress and Muslim princess and Rinaldo, the Christian knight - fall hopelessly in love with one another. Rinaldo, who goes on to seek his own glory and that of the Christian church, eventually abandons Armida. In her despair Armida destroys her palace, the desert and everything within her grasp.
Opera Atelier staged Armide in celebration of the company’s 20th-anniversary season. This was the company’s fourth production of 17th-century French opera-ballet and its most ambitious undertaking to date. This production marked the North American premiere of Lully’s masterpiece and was conducted by Andrew Parrott.
Gerard Gauci: Described as a magic opera, Armide is a work that demands exotic locations and magical transformations. Each scene is designed as a page from an antique Persian manuscript, featuring brilliant colours, complex patterns and panels of Persian calligraphy. Even the house curtain becomes a massive expanse of script in the form of a tughra (the calligraphic emblem heading the decrees of Ottoman sultans) and names Armida, her uncle, the opera’s composer and his librettist. The stage maquette (or model) included in this display portrays the scene when the sorceress Armida magically transforms the desert into a lush and perfumed garden.