Just in case you wondered I did come back from Beijing with a draft of our 2015/16 season and even a pretty good idea how I would like our 2016/17 (when we will be celebrating ten years at the Four Seasons Centre) to look like. When I develop ideas for a season I always try to balance artistic ambition with financial reality. I believe there are a few things we need to be able to do, among them, first of all, our capacity to create new productions, but also the ability to program big pieces ("big" meaning a large orchestra and chorus, overtime etc.). In my three years with the COC we've embarked on a lot of promising projects for the future and as we move forward with planning our seasons four to five seasons ahead it has been very satisfying to see (at least most of) them take shape.
Speaking of my three years with the COC, I was very happy to celebrate the third anniversary of my announcement as General Director (GD) last week, and even happier that I was honoured with a cocktail party in the garden of a former Board Chair, that both (the garden and the Chair) had a great importance in bringing me here. When I came to Toronto in May 2008 for my interviews as a candidate for the vacant GD position a cocktail party in the same garden was a crucial part of the interview process. Probably never before had I been observed by so many eyes, everybody knowing that I was a candidate and observing how I would interact with members of the arts community, Board members and other COC stakeholders. Being back in that same garden just to celebrate brought my third season to a wonderful end.
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We ended our 2010/11 season with a brilliant performance of Ariadne auf Naxos this afternoon. I'm very proud of this production, the wonderful cast with mostly Canadian singers (there were moments in the opera when there were only Canadians on our stage, up to eight or nine) and a few stunning guests, our fabulous orchestra and Andrew Davis' inspired leadership. Actually, the whole spring season with Ariadne, Orfeo and La Cenerentola made me feel that the COC has reached a new level of achievement. The increasingly enthusiastic reactions of our public after each performance and many, many standing ovations seem to confirm my perception. If I just speak for myself, I found Lawrence Zazzo's performance as Orfeo heartbreaking each single time and Robert Carsen's essential production totally captivating. Not to speak of the period sound and dramatic energy that Harry Bicket got from our chorus and orchestra. Or Lawrence Brownlee's high C's and Elizabeth DeShong's beautifully coloured "Una volta c'era un ré" in Cenerentola, etc. etc. You see I have trouble naming all the things I liked about our spring season and should refrain from trying to review my own productions.
Taking a breath this evening I realize that this already is the end of my third season with the COC. While people still call me the new General Director I feel I have my feet firmly on the ground now and we have done some amazing work together over the past three years. It's important for me to stress that I couldn't have done it alone. We've done it all together. Thank you.
Now, I'm looking forward to the summer with some quiet time and quite a bit of travelling, as always, to some of the usual places, but also to places I haven't been to in quite some time or ever.
Soon enough, we'll be in rehearsals for the 2011/12 season. The journey continues.
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One of the biggest dangers in our business is that singers can get sick and aren't able to perform. This is what happened to Adrianne Pieczonka, our Ariadne. Half way through the dress rehearsal on Wednesday she had to cancel and the virus she caught was so persistent that yesterday at 8:30am she called in sick for the opening of Ariadne auf Naxos as well. It is particularly disappointing for a singer not to be able to sing the opening night of a production and I hope Adrianne will be in great form for the second performance on Tuesday.
For financial reasons we don't have a cover system with understudies for every single role, some of them are taken care of by the members of the Ensemble Studio, if appropriate, and we always try to make sure that we cover the most important or difficult cast. As an understudy for Ariadne we are fortunate enough to have Amber Wagner from the Ryan Opera Center at Chicago Lyric Opera. She mastered taking over the dress and performing Ariadne for yesterday's opening night with admirable confidence. What a great voice. Thank you, Amber.
This isn't exactly a calm weekend. After yesterday's opening I started today at the residence of Sabine Sparwasser, the German Consul General, then went to the Four Seasons Centre to do my intermission duty at the third performance of La Cenerentola. Now, I'm at home and will soon leave for dinner with Lotfi Mansouri, my pre-pre-predecessor as General Director of the COC. Lotfi will be with us for a week to pass on his wealth of knowledge to our young artists of the Ensemble Studio.
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