Since my arrival at the COC, hearing the young artists of the Merola Program in San Francisco has become a regular part of my summer. This year, it wasn't possible to combine the trip to San Francisco with other young artists' auditions in Santa Barbara (which I will sadly miss for once) and Santa Fe (later in August), so I just went for two days.
As always, Sheri Greenawald, the director of Merola, had selected a really interesting group of about twenty singers, four pianists and one director. The panel, a few colleagues from Seattle, Denver, Los Angeles and New York and I, hear two arias and then give our feedback, advising the young artists on general presentation, repertoire, vocal technique and almost any subject that might come up in our discussions.
I've never heard a bad singer at Merola. This year there was an abundance of good baritones, and also three young Canadians. I'm very proud that two of them will join our own Ensemble Studio at the end of August.
Now, I'm at San Francisco Airport waiting for my redeye flight to board. I have to be back in Toronto for an early morning meeting - and want to be home for Marnie's birthday!
Posted by Alexander Neef / in Travel / comments (2) / permalink
Just in case you wondered I did come back from Beijing with a draft of our 2015/16 season and even a pretty good idea how I would like our 2016/17 (when we will be celebrating ten years at the Four Seasons Centre) to look like. When I develop ideas for a season I always try to balance artistic ambition with financial reality. I believe there are a few things we need to be able to do, among them, first of all, our capacity to create new productions, but also the ability to program big pieces ("big" meaning a large orchestra and chorus, overtime etc.). In my three years with the COC we've embarked on a lot of promising projects for the future and as we move forward with planning our seasons four to five seasons ahead it has been very satisfying to see (at least most of) them take shape.
Speaking of my three years with the COC, I was very happy to celebrate the third anniversary of my announcement as General Director (GD) last week, and even happier that I was honoured with a cocktail party in the garden of a former Board Chair, that both (the garden and the Chair) had a great importance in bringing me here. When I came to Toronto in May 2008 for my interviews as a candidate for the vacant GD position a cocktail party in the same garden was a crucial part of the interview process. Probably never before had I been observed by so many eyes, everybody knowing that I was a candidate and observing how I would interact with members of the arts community, Board members and other COC stakeholders. Being back in that same garden just to celebrate brought my third season to a wonderful end.
Posted by Alexander Neef / in Season / comments (1) / permalink
Sitting at Beijing Capital Airport it seems a bit like madness to have come here for only three days. However, it was a beneficial and exciting trip, perfectly organized by our Chinese hosts.
On Monday morning, before the official start of the Forum (and before the summer heat got unbearable), I managed to do a short visit of the Forbidden City and alone this would have been worth the trip. On a quick traversal from the south to the north - which takes about 2 hours - it is impressive to see how the scale and grandeur of the official palaces morph into more intimate, but still splendid, living quarters with smaller palaces, pavilions and gardens, all buildings in the omnipresent imperial red with elaborately decorated roofs.
The Forum was held at the National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA) which was opened just three years ago. Imagine a gigantic dome of steel and glass with three independent buildings inside, a concert hall, an opera house and a theatre, plus a multifunctional space on a lower level, with a total capacity of 6.000 seats, a whole arts district under one single roof. A very impressive achievement whose acoustics and technical equipment match the best performance venues in the world, as we could experience on Monday night, when we attended the world premiere of a Western-style Chinese opera The Chinese Orphan.
I hadn't been aware that all the sessions of the Forum would be open to the public, which provided a great opportunity for inspiring discussions and unique insights. Even though of Western-European origin, opera emerged from these sessions as a truly universal art form, able to engage people of the most diverse cultural backgrounds. Indeed, looking at the fairly short, but incredibly successful history of opera in the world's most populated country one can only imagine what an important destination for opera China could become, and how it will shape the future of the art form. It could be very beneficial for a company like the COC to establish partnerships with the NCPA, reaching from the exchange of productions to co-productions or even tours. We're at the beginning of an interesting journey.
Posted by Alexander Neef / in Travel / comments (3) / permalink
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