With the last performance of Maria Stuarda yesterday afternoon we closed our 2009/10 season. This was my second season with the COC and, by all accounts, I am satisfied.
Starting with my first encounter with Brian Macdonald's Madama Butterfly, still a true COC classic after 20 years, with Adina Nitescu and Yannick-Muriel Noah as completely different, but equally compelling Cio-Cio Sans, our fall season continued with Robert Lepage's outstanding production of The Nightingale and Other Short Fables, for which we filled our pit with water and put the orchestra on stage. Olga Peretyatko's Nightingale was as enchanting as the bird in Andersen's fairy tale that inspired Stravinsky and so big was the success that we had to add a performance at short notice.
Crisis and triumph can be close neighbours as we experienced for our Diamond Anniversary Celebration in November when Ben Heppner had to withdraw at short notice and we spent a few hectic days searching for a solution and adapting the program. In the end, the concert was a huge success thanks Ramón Vargas, John Treleaven and Russell Braun standing in for Ben and, of course, Johannes in his first appearance as the COC's new Music Director, who kept his nerves through all last-minute program changes. His deeply moving and powerful conducting of the Funeral March from Wagner's Götterdämmerung at the end of the concert is one of my unforgettable moments of 2009/10.
Two exceptional Carmens, Rinat Shaham and Anita Rachvelishvili, saved our winter season, replacing the originally cast Beth Clayton only a few days before the opening. Bryan Hymel's thrilling Don José and Rory Macdonald's wonderful conducting of Bizet's warhorse made this production memorable for me, and as a result Rory has been offered two engagements with two major North American opera companies. It is well deserved and I am very pleased for him. Verdi's Otello provided us with even more drama, but thankfully on stage, not behind the scenes. Clifton Forbis in the title role and Scott Hendricks in his debut as Iago were the most compelling advocates for Verdi's masterpiece.
The spring season opened with another COC classic, Christopher Alden's indestructible production of Wagner's The Flying Dutchman. I greatly admire Christopher's intelligent approach to the piece with an admittedly shocking ending that, however, does completely conform with Wagner's intentions. The musical trio of Evgeny Nikitin as Dutchman, Julie Makerov as Senta and Johannes Debus in his first opera as Music Director in the pit guaranteed world-class quality. Right after our last performance Evgeny flew to Europe for a working session with a very famous conductor and as a result he will sing Dutchman with this very famous conductor at a very famous festival in two years' time. Congratulations.
Kings and queens dominated the rest of our spring. A rare excursion into bel canto territory, Donizetti's Maria Stuarda became an instant favourite with our audiences, thanks to stylishly thrilling performances by Alexandrina Pendatchanska as Elisabetta and Serena Farnocchia as Maria. I have sung the praises of Idomeneo here before and it would be too difficult to single out any member of our wonderful cast, but I just have to say again how incredibly impressed I was with Harry Bicket's conducting, one of the finest accounts of Mozart's wonderful score I have ever encountered. Bravo, Harry! And then there was the special performance of Idomeneo, so impressively sung by the young artists of our Ensemble Studio. Bravi to all of them as well.
Throughout the season our COC Orchestra, led by concert master Marie Bérard, and our COC Chorus, prepared by our chorus master Sandra Horst (how lucky we are to have her!) gave one outstanding performance after the other. But opera doesn't only happen on stage and in the pit. There are many more people, our crew on stage, the staff at the Four Seasons Centre, our administrative staff in the offices on Front Street and many, many volunteers, without whom the COC would not be the great company it is. Everybody worked so incredibly hard to make our 2009/10 such a success. Thank you all and also thanks to our loyal patrons and donors for attending our performances and for your support. You are all part of the COC family and I believe that together we will be able to lead this wonderful company to even greater achievements.
I will take this week off before I embark on my summer travels again and by the end of August we will already be in rehearsal for 2010/11. After the season is before the season.
Posted by Alexander Neef / in Season / comments (5) / permalink
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