As part of my ongoing effort to get to know the work of our Canadian peer companies I travelled to Ottawa yesterday afternoon to see Opera Lyra's production of Puccini's Turandot. Sitting in the performance I realized how long it had been since I had last seen the piece, probably the Met's magnificent Zeffirelli production back in 2005. Of all of Puccini's operas, I've always had a weak spot for two: La Bohème and Turandot, mostly because of Luciano Pavarotti and his unbeatable recordings with Mirella Freni, conducted by Herbert von Karajan (Bohème) and Joan Sutherland with Montserrat Caballé, conducted by Zubin Mehta (Turandot). The sheer pleasure of singing in these recordings always takes my breath away and if you don't know them I recommend them highly.
Opera Lyra had been able to hire a very impressive lead couple for their production. Lori Philipps sang a powerful Turandot and Richard Margison a terrific Calaf, with perfect style, great diction and thrilling high notes. I am glad he will be with the COC for Ariadne auf Naxos later this season.
On a different matter, if you're looking for something good to read try to find a copy of Jonathan Frantzen's latest novel Freedom. I've been living with it for a few days now and have increasing difficulties putting it down to do something else or even get some sleep. Exactly what you want from a great book.
Posted by Alexander Neef / in Travel / comments (0) / permalink
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
Posted by Alexander Neef / in Toronto / comments (0) / permalink
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