Time has been running since my return from Santa Fe more than a month ago. We have rehearsed our two fall productions and opened the first of them, Gluck's marvelous Iphigénie en Tauride, last Thursday.
Even though I've been doing it for ten years now opening a new season always feels very special to me. Having our audience back in the house and see them cheer our artists like they did on Thursday really gives all the sense to what we're doing. I was happy to have Robert Carsen back with another Gluck opera after Orfeo last spring and see his work being acknowledged so warmly in his hometown and, also, to welcome my old friend Susan Graham to our stage. Sitting there at opening night I couldn't stop myself from being proud of how wonderfully a great singer's voice showcases our magnificent hall.
On our free day between the opening of Iphigénie and today's piano dress rehearsal of Rigoletto I took my two conductors, Johannes Debus and Pablo Heras-Casado, to New York for a performance of Lully's Atys at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. It felt like a once in a lifetime opportunity to experience this groundbreaking production that started the renaissance of French baroque opera in the late 1980s so masterfully performed by William Christie and Les Arts Florissants.
In the meantime we've also fallen into city budget purgatory and it looks as if this will continue until November, at least. As a company that needs to program four to five years ahead in order to keep up with our international peers we deeply rely on a reliable funding horizon. We would be a very different company without the support we receive from three levels of government and I truly hope that we will find a way to work with the city that addresses budget constraints while maintaining a sustainable environment for the arts.
Posted by Alexander Neef / in Season / comments (5) / permalink
Just one of the great things about being the COC's General Director is that I get to represent my company at cultural events all over the world. So I went to Montreal yesterday afternoon for the inauguration of the new concert hall for the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, la Maison Symphonique de Montréal. Since my arrival in Canada this is the second opening of a new concert hall that I got to attend (the first being Toronto's splendid Koerner Hall at the Royal Conservatory) and I found myself sitting there last night thinking how lucky I am to live and work in a country that, against all odds, continues to grow its cultural infrastructure.
The hall itself has been designed by the same team that was responsible for our Four Seasons Centre, Diamond & Schmitt Architects, Sound Space Design and Fisher Dachs Associates, with the addition of Artec Consultants. Its shoebox shape has a functional beauty that reminded me of our R. Fraser Elliot Hall and, as one might expect, the acoustics are glorious: detailed, warm, rich and transparent.
There really is no better piece to open a new hall than Beethoven's Ninth Symphony and it was a real pleasure to see Kent Nagano and the musicians of the Montreal Symphony embrace the possibilities of their new home. Preceding the symphony was a marvelously showcase of Quebec composers and writers with pieces by Claude Vivier, Gilles Tremblay, a new commission by Julien Bilodeau and texts by Joséphine Bacon, Yann Martel, Marie-Claire Blais and Wajdi Mouawad that had also been commissioned by the orchestra for the inauguration.
Now, I'm just about to return to Toronto for our rehearsals of Iphigénie en Tauride and Rigoletto. In two weeks from today we will open our 2011/12 season.
Posted by Alexander Neef / in Travel / comments (0) / permalink
My festival summer should have ended with the performance of Vivaldi's Griselda in Santa Fe yesterday evening, but luckily David Holloway, the Director of the Apprentice Program, invited me to attend the dress rehearsal of the second program of Apprentice Scenes this morning. With excerpts from Jonathan Dove's The Flight, Béatrice et Bénedict, Manon, Così fan tutte, Sweeney Todd, Capriccio, Eugene Onegin and Rigoletto, the apprentices seemed even more impressive to me then in their first program last Sunday and some of the individual performances were truly outstanding, even at 11:00 a.m.! I'm grateful I could attend.
The performance of Vivaldi's Griselda yesterday evening was a true highlight of my festival summer. It actually was the first Vivaldi opera I've seen on a stage and I'm still astonished how masterfully he characterizes the roles with his music. The story of a queen of humble origins, repudiated and put through a series of trials by her king, just to be reinstated as the queen at the end of the piece is unbelievably moving. The production by director Peter Sellars and Los Angeles-based visual artist Gronk has been controversial with the public and some critics here, but, frankly, I don't quite understand why. Not only does it propose one of the most beautiful and suggestive sets I've seen in a while, it also treats the characters of the piece with so much tenderness and emotional depth that I was spellbound in my seat for the entire duration of the performance. I'm glad our Toronto audience will get to see Peter's work soon. Add to a marvelous production a superlative cast headed by Paul Groves (our Idomeneo in 2010) and Meredith Arwady (Death in our BAM tour of The Nightingale and Other Short Fables in March), Isabel Leonard (coming to the COC soon), Amanda Majeski (not coming yet, but I would love to have her) as well as countertenors David Daniels (also coming soon) and Yuri Minenko. Opera doesn't get much better.
Tomorrow I'll be back in Toronto and on Tuesday we will start rehearsals for our new Rigoletto. The COC's 2011/12 season will start on September 22.
Posted by Alexander Neef / in Travel / comments (2) / permalink
Follow Alexander Neef on
Follow the COC on Twitter