For our new production of Aida this was the crucial week as we moved out of our rehearsal facilities on Front Street to the Four Seasons Centre for the final rehearsals on stage with orchestra. Verdi's opera hasn't been performed by the COC in more than twenty years and we were courageous enough to go for a new production, entirely built in our own workshops, rather than for a rented production from another company. Add to that three role debuts in three of the four principals roles and you get an idea of how exciting it was to see the sets and costumes finally on our stage and to hear the voices of our great cast in our auditorium. After the first full run-through with orchestra yesterday we now have only a few days left for the final corrections, but the hardest work is done.
Also in town this week was Lotfi Mansouri, General Director of the COC from 1976 to 1988. He has just published his memoirs (Lotfi Mansouri: An Operatic Journey) and we had offered to host the launch in Toronto at the Four Seasons Centre on Tuesday evening.
Amongst Lotfi's many achievements for the COC was the creation of the Ensemble Studio. Its 2010/11 members gave their first public recital at the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre on Tuesday at noon. I am very proud of this year's group and curious to see how they will develop in the course of the season.
This short recap of the week wouldn't be complete without a paragraph about the COC's intrepid Education Department. Activities from our first ever COC Youth Opera Lab on Wednesday to the public rehearsal of Aida on Saturday (as part of our programming for the first ever Culture Days) might serve you as just two examples how readily my wonderfully committed colleagues, and indeed the whole Company, always embrace new ideas and challenges in order to introduce new audiences to opera. It was especially impressive to see the huge line-up of people waiting for admission to the Aida rehearsal and the pre-rehearsal talk with Aida director Tim Albery, Classical 96.3's Alexa Petrenko and myself on Saturday.
This afternoon, we arrived in New York. I have a day of meetings tomorrow and then we will attend the Met's season opening of Wagner's Rheingold in Robert Lepage's highly anticipated production. There will be a lot to tell, I'm sure.
Posted by Alexander Neef / in Season / comments (2) / permalink
It only occurred to me during my first of two performances of La Traviata at the Teatro La Fenice that I had come to see Verdi's opera in the theatre where it had first been performed on March 6, 1853. Famously, the world premiere wasn't well received by the Venetian public, but ever since it was performed again at another Venetian opera house a year later La Traviata has become one of the most successful pieces ever written. And one of the best, I might add.
After a fire had destroyed the opera house a few years ago the Fenice had been rebuilt as a perfect copy of the old theatre and opened with a new production of La Traviata by Robert Carsen. It has been so successful here that it is now revived every season for a short run of performances.
There are too many great singers associated with La Traviata to name them all, but it is often underestimated what a difference a great conductor can make for the piece. If you listen to Arturo Toscanini, Carlo Maria Giulini (with Maria Callas) or Carlos Kleiber (with Ileana Cotrubas) you will understand what I mean. Myun-Wun Chung led a fluid performance, with great care to the details of Verdi's deceivingly simple, but highly efficient orchestration. I have always felt that it is not only Verdi's late operas that are conductor's pieces, and Chung's interpretation proved my point. On Sunday, the cast fully lived up to what you would expect from a Verdi performance at a major Italian opera house. Ekaterina Sadovnikova's Violetta was convincingly intense and vulnerable, but most of all extremely well sung. I am really looking forward to her debut with the COC. Stefano Secco, an Italian tenor whom we had put on the international map in Paris with roles like Rodolfo (Bohème), Gabriele Adorno (Simon Boccanegra) and Don Carlo, sang an ardent Alfredo with his usual musicality and great care for the text. As Giorgio Germont, Giovanni Meoni gave an extremely nuanced performance, a living example of the great Italian baritone tradition.
Now, I am just about to leave my hotel. This evening I will be back in Toronto.
Posted by Alexander Neef / in Travel / comments (4) / permalink
As you can see, the weather is not great (seems to have become a pattern for my visits to Europe), but Venice is still Venice. Once you've escaped the deafening noise of the vaporetto that takes you from the airport to the city the most amazing thing about Venice for me always is the total absence of noise (there are no cars), as if the city were floating on the water, suspended in time.
I am here until Monday morning to hear La Traviata twice in two days with two different casts and also hold auditions. Now, I'm off to my first performance.
Posted by Alexander Neef / in Travel / comments (0) / permalink
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