Each time when we are off season at the COC I indulge in the illusion of having more time, but in fact, off season usually means that we're just differently busy. Instead of taking care of rehearsals and productions we prepare upcoming productions, try to make progress on the programming of our future seasons, work on season calendars and - last, but not least - budgets.
At least, since I don't have to spend time at our own rehearsals and performances, I get to see what the others do, e.g. the National Ballet's astounding mixed program at the Four Seasons Centre on Wednesday evening with Wayne McGregor's powerful Chroma, Balanchine's ultra-elegant Serenade and Crystal Pite's Emergence which must by now be a true classic of Canadian contemporary dance. There are more performances today and on the weekend.
At the McMillan Theatre the Faculty of Music at the University of Toronto puts on a charming production of Humperdinck's Holiday classic Hansel and Gretel (in English), directed by Michael Albano and conducted by our COC Chorus Master Sandra Horst. I spent a delightful evening there yesterday and there are more performances until Sunday.
For your daytime activities you should consider seeing the Tim Burton Exhibition at the tiff. Bell Lightbox, the first exhibition in the new building. I had seen this show at the MOMA in the spring, but somehow it seems to be better organized here. If you like Tim Burton's movies this is a must-see.
I am off for a few days of crazy travels that will lead me to Winnipeg, Los Angeles, New York and Chicago for opera performances with great Canadians and honorary great Canadians.
Posted by Alexander Neef / in Toronto / comments (0) / permalink
I love my job as General Director of the COC, every moment of it. But today was one of those days when I love it even more than usual and feel humbled and privileged by what it allows me to do, experience and participate in.
The day started with a meeting of arts leaders at the AGO with our Mayor-Elect in attendance as a surprise guest, with positive and encouraging results. After the meeting I decided to stay at the AGO to spend more time at the Julian Schnabel Exhibition which I had seen a few weeks ago for the first time. In my opinion, it is the most exciting thing the AGO has done since I arrived in Toronto, a truly amazing display of great works by an amazing, multi-talented artist. One just has to see the many facets of his work and the huge canvasses on the 5th floor of the AGO's new building. Suddenly, a group of people entered the exhibition. It was Schnabel himself with a group of friends from New York and one of the AGO's curators who was kind enough to introduce me and I got to enjoy a tour of the show by the artist himself. A real pleasure and privilege, you can imagine how lucky I felt! I believe the show is on until early January and certainly worth seeing.
As if this weren't enough for a really good day I spent the rest of it with the final group of applicants for our Ensemble Studio. As with every year, we had been holding auditions in Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver and New York and invited the best young singers to Toronto for working sessions and the final round of auditions. I can already say that the level this year is extremely high and the choices for the few available positions will be really tough tomorrow.
I first came to New York in 2003, invited by the New York International Opera Auditions (NYIOP), then a new company that organized auditions for casting directors from Europe. David Blackburn, the founder and CEO of NYIOP (he is now also the Director of Artistic Operations at Palm Beach Opera) and I have been friends ever since, but I hadn't attended one of his audition sessions in years. Since I was also interested in seeing the new production of Monteverdi's L'incoronazione di Poppea at the Juilliard School, I travelled to New York yesterday to spend the day with David and a few of my European colleagues at Merkin Hall on 67th Street, probably the best audition space in New York at the moment. Hearing more than 30 singers in one day is a bit of a challenge, but there were a few that I hadn't heard before and a few others that I hadn't heard in a while, so my time was well spent.
In the evening I met with Matthew Epstein, another good New York friend, now officially retired from Columbia Artists but otherwise as active as ever, for the Juilliard Poppea. Monteverdi's operas are long and we had contemplated leaving at intermission but conductor Harry Bicket (at the COC for Idomeneo last season and coming for Orfeo ed Euridice in the spring) did such an exceptional job with Juilliard's new period orchestra Juilliard415 and a cast of Juilliard opera students that we were captivated until the end of the evening. It was a delight to see Monteverdi's masterpiece so stylishly and lovingly performed.
Between the audition and the performance I was lucky enough to make it to Chelsea through rush hour traffic to see the Anselm Kiefer exhibit at the Gagosian Gallery. Kiefer is one of my favourite living artists and apart from the great installation at the AGO a few months ago we don't get to see a lot of his work in Toronto, so I was happy to catch up on his latest creations. If you happen to be in New York before December 18 the show is well worth seeing. My dream would be to get him to design sets and costumes for a COC production. Maybe one day.
Posted by Alexander Neef / in Travel / comments (0) / permalink
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