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.
Let's get one thing out of the way right at the beginning. Yes, Ben Heppner had a few problems in the second part of his recital at the Four Seasons Centre yesterday afternoon, but I can't tell you how moved and honoured I was to have this magnificent artist and his wonderful accompanist John Hess finally on our stage. Thinking about yesterday's program I wish there were more singers today like him with such uncompromising artistry, profound insight and, above all, humanity. And, if you allow me this little metaphor, even in its current state isn't Leonardo da Vinci's Last Supper still one of the greatest paintings of all time? I would like to add that our audience was fantastic yesterday, probably the warmest I have seen since my arrival at the COC. A memorable afternoon.
Also yesterday, we had a very special visitor. The great American director Peter Sellars had come up from New York for a day to see the opera house and get to know the company. During my time at the Salzburg Festival, ten years ago, Peter was the director of the first opera production I worked on. We have worked together a few times since, for theatre and opera, and I am so thrilled he will come to the COC for two projects, at least. More than anything, Peter is just such an unbelievable human being. Companies he has worked with speak of the transformative Peter Sellars-Effect. I think the people who have met him here on his short visit know what I am talking about.
The rest of the weekend was devoted to TIFF, first the opening party of the new Bell Lightbox at King and John, a stunning building that I am sure will transform the whole King West neighbourhood. Today, the building was open for visits and King Street was closed. Seeing all the people out on the street I couldn't help myself thinking how great it would be to have a pedestrian zone there every Sunday (not to talk about John Street, which would be ideal to become Toronto's first permanent pedestrian area). And just now, we came home from the French Ambassador's reception at the Hôtel Le Germain. Being in the same room with Catherine Deneuve and Marion Cotillard was quite special I have to say. I have yet to see a film at TIFF, but hope to get to that next week.
Posted by Alexander Neef / in Toronto / comments (2) / permalink
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