I’ve just returned from Opera Atelier’s subscriber event toasting the upcoming 25th anniversary season. Since I attended the event alone, there was little for me to do at first besides renew my subscription, consume the consumables, and slink around suspiciously. But the afternoon took a turn for the delightful when the performances began, featuring two scenes (one vocal and one ballet) from The Marriage of Figaro.
Co-Artistic Director Marshall Pynkoski discussed Opera Atelier’s decision to perform Figaro in English, an issue he has previously discussed on the OA blog. Their production of Die Entführung aus dem Serail took a similar approach, with the dialog in English and the arias in German. I think it’s certainly true that surtitles harm the comedy – the mismatched timing of the singer’s delivery and the appearance of the surtitle often results in jokes that don’t quite work, especially in patter songs. The only downside of performing comedy in translation – and one of the fundamental difficulties of opera as a form, in my opinion – is that the words, when sung in operatic style, can often be difficult to make out. I’ve seen productions that try to solve this issue by performing in English translation and also providing surtitles, which can have the effect of highlighting the problem rather than resolving it. Perhaps this will be less of an issue in the intimate Elgin Theatre, where subtleties of vocal inflection (not to mention facial movements) are much easier to pick up.
I was also very pleased to have the opportunity to briefly meet both Marshall Pynkoski himself and the stylish Nancy Hitzig, the Manager of Education and Marketing who left a very kind comment on my last entry. My fledgling blog has a tiny readership, but already it’s making being an opera lover even more interesting!