Opera Atelier’s Armide, the story of a Muslim warrior princess, opens Oct. 22 in an era of increased discussion of Muslim culture.
By: Trish Crawford Music, Published on Thu Oct 22 2015
Marshall Pynkoski could hardly believe the synchronicity between the news of the day and Opera Atelier’sArmide.
“It’s so timely, it couldn’t be better,” said the company’s co-artistic director of the rare opera that deals with a female Muslim protagonist.
With the federal election campaign igniting discussion of Muslim culture, Pynkoski seized the opportunity to reach out to the Muslim community for this story of a Muslim warrior princess who vanquishes a Christian knight in battle then spares his life. She suffers for this decision.
First, there was a lengthy display in September of Armide’s costumes and sets at the Aga Khan Museum, which promotes cross cultural co-operation and understanding.
Then almost 1,000 Toronto students were welcomed into “Making an Opera” workshops, including some Muslim schools.
Pynkoski said heated election discussions around accommodating other cultures were a perfect way into understanding Armide.
“It was the Christians who were the barbaric invaders (in the opera). Everyone thinks the other is a terrorist. What I find so thrilling is that there is love and hate on both sides.”
The opera “says that love is stronger than hate. It is very relevant to a modern audience.”
Asked how she feels about representing one of the few Muslim heroes onstage, Kriha Dye called it “a responsibility and an honour.”
“By the end of the day, this is about two people with the same vulnerabilities. It does speak to current events. We are addressing the issues the audience cares about.”
The Aga Khan exhibit included photos of the stage curtain, decorated with a Persian seal called a tughra and Armide’s name in Farsi. The curtain also functions as the title page of a book — each set is another page of the elaborate illustrated books used by both Christians and Muslims in the 17th century — with the names of composer Jean-Baptiste Lully and librettist Philippe Quinault in small rectangles.
After its Toronto run, Armide travels to Versailles, France.
It’s at the Elgin Theatre, 189 Yonge St., Oct. 22 to 31. Go to ticketmaster.ca or call 1-855-622-2787 for tickets.
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