As I take up my position of General Director of the Canadian Opera
Company, one of the first things to strike me is the quality of singers
in this autumn’s operas. I wasn’t involved with the casting of these
singers, but I’m delighted with the talent displayed on stage as we
open our 2008/2009 season.
has a nearly all-Canadian cast, many of whom have either graduated from
the Ensemble Studio, like Virginia Hatfield and Jessica Muirhead, or
have had a long association with the company, like Brett Polegato,
Robert Pomakov and Gordon Gietz. Contrary to popular belief, there’s
nothing more difficult than casting a Mozart opera, and our singers are
doing a wonderful job with the challenging material.
War and Peace also features an exceptional cast of Canadian and international artists, but I must begin with Russell Braun.
is quite simply one of the most gifted artists on the world scene
today. Opera tells us about the human condition. When you have an
artist like Russell, you don’t need to explain anything, because you
have real life on stage. It’s not somebody singing a role—it’s a
transformation so total that you don’t think about anything else. The
emotion gets right to you.
also mention other Canadians in this cast, many of whom are also
graduates of our wonderful Ensemble Studio. Lauren Segal in particular
is a very sympathetic Sonya, and I will make a special mention of
another Sonya: Sonya Gosse. We regret very much that Judith Forst was
unable to be with us as planned to perform the role of Madame
Akhrossimova, but we’re very fortunate that we have singers of such a
high calibre in our chorus who can jump in at a moment’s notice.
the many talented Canadians in the cast is a broad array of very
distinguished Russian singers. Elena Semanova is a wonderful performer,
really embodying all of Natasha’s many passions. I don’t know if she
was ever a dancer, but she just seems to float around the stage.
Mikhail Agafonov is just a perfect Pierre. When I read the book, he is
how I see Pierre. And we’re delighted to have singers like Vassily
Gerello as Napoleon and Mikhail Kit as Kutuzov, who have performed
these roles all over the world.
makes a difference to be singing a role that is written in your native
tongue—especially when the piece has a complex libretto. The opera is
of course based on a very famous work of literature, so it’s a huge
advantage to know exactly what you’re saying and singing. The Russian
singers in War and Peace have a love of the repertoire that
Europeans and Americans just can’t have, because they’ve grown up with
the works and have a personal history with it.
All in all, we are very lucky to have two exceptional casts performing with us this fall.
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