COC Media Releases

3/16/2015

LOVE WITH A SENSE OF HUMOUR IN COC’S NEW PRODUCTION OF ROSSINI’S OPERATIC SHOWSTOPPER, THE BARBER OF SEVILLE

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Toronto – Audiences will discover love has a sense of humour with the Canadian Opera Company’s new production of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville from the Spanish theatre troupe Els Comediants. Scottish-born Rory Macdonald, one of Britain’s most talented and dynamic young conductors, returns to lead the COC Orchestra, Chorus and a cast of the most exciting young stars in opera today through Rossini’s veritable hit parade of a score, filled with showstoppers and sparkling tunes. Sung in Italian with English SURTITLESTM, The Barber of Seville runs for 13 performances on April 17, 19, 21, 26, 29, May 2, 7, 9, 13, 15*, 19, 21, 22, 2015 at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts.

The COC’s 2014/2015 spring season opens with one of the most popular and well-loved operas in the world. Last presented by the COC in 2008, Rossini’s The Barber of Seville returns in a new COC production, co-produced with Houston Grand Opera, Opéra National de Bordeaux and Opera Australia, conceived by Els Comediants. The group came to international prominence in 1992 with the spectacular fire ceremony they designed for the closing of the Barcelona Olympics, and they wowed Toronto in 2011 when they brought their unbridled vitality to the COC’s Cinderella. In The Barber of Seville, the Spaniards take on Rossini’s greatest comedy about a barber who helps a nobleman win the woman of his dreams. Cubism-inspired set plays with scale and proportion, while bursts of day-glo colour and innovative lighting conjure a fantasy world hovering between fairytale and vaudeville.

In the role of the wily barber Figaro is one of the definitive singers of his generation: Canadian Joshua Hopkins (2013’s La Bohème). Chosen by Opera News as one of 25 artists poised to break out and become a major force in the coming decade, Hopkins has been hailed as “an outstanding young baritone with a virile, vigorous yet velvety sound and an immediately evident dramatic authority” (Globe and Mail).

Singing opposite Hopkins as Count Almaviva, the young suitor that Figaro assists, is American Alek Shrader, “possibly one of the most exciting young tenors on the planet” (Seen and Heard International). He shares the role with Romanian tenor Bogdan Mihai, whose performances across Europe have proclaimed him “a great arrival in the field of Rossinian tenors” (Il Giornale della musica).

Two mezzo-sopranos poised on the threshold of international careers bring the character of the young and charming heroine Rosina to life. Italian Serena Malfi, called a “joy to watch” (New York Classical Review), comes to the COC for the first time on the heels of recent debuts with the Metropolitan Opera and Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. American Cecelia Hall, praised for how she “combines sincerity and rich beauty in her singing” (Chicago Sun Times), makes her COC debut.

As Bartolo, Rosina’s guardian, are Italian-born baritone Renato Girolami, a specialist in Rossini operas, and Russian bass Nikolay Didenko, acclaimed for his “seemingly effortless, subterranean voice and highly developed sense of character” (New York Sun). The singing teacher Basilio is Canadian bass-baritone, and Ensemble Studio graduate, Robert Gleadow, who recently delighted COC audiences with his comic-turn as Pistola in Falstaff. He shares the role with Turkish bass Burak Bilgili, last seen with the COC in 2008, where “his substantial, true buffo account of Basilio’s plum aria La calunnia…deserved its ovation” (Globe and Mail).

Members of the COC’s Ensemble Studio round out the cast with bass-baritone Iain MacNeil as Almaviva’s servant Fiorello, soprano Aviva Fortunata as Bartolo’s servant Berta and baritone Clarence Frazer as the Officer.

Rory Macdonald, lauded as one of the brightest stars of the younger generation of conductors, made his North American debut in 2010 with the COC’s Carmen. He returns with The Barber of Seville to lead the COC Orchestra and Chorus through a score that has delighted audiences the world over for its light-hearted tone, memorable overture, popular melodies and wit.

Els Comediants is led by director Joan Font, who works with set and costume designer Joan Guillén and lighting designer Albert Faura on this production of The Barber of the Seville. They are joined by choreographer Xevi Dorca and associate director Tanya Kane-Parry.

The Barber of Seville is based on Pierre-Augustin Beaumarchais’ satirical play Le barbier de Séville, and premiered in Rome in 1816. It quickly grew popular and Rossini’s comic masterpiece is now a mainstay of the operatic repertoire. The characters and melodies of The Barber of Seville are familiar to many as the inspiration for numerous television shows and cartoons, most notably the Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd cartoon, “The Rabbit of Seville.” The opera’s continued celebration in popular culture is a testament to its success and wide appeal.


*ENSEMBLE STUDIO PERFORMANCE OF THE BARBER OF SEVILLE ON May 15, 2015

The exciting young singers of the Canadian Opera Company’s Ensemble Studio perform the lead roles in their own performance of The Barber of Seville on May 15, 2015 at 7:30 p.m. This performance is generously underwritten in part by Roy and Marjorie Linden. Tickets are accessibly priced at $25 or $55.


TICKET INFORMATION

Single tickets for The Barber of Seville range from $49 – $424 and are available online at coc.ca, by calling 416-363-8231, or in person at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts Box Office (145 Queen St. W.). For more information on specially priced tickets available to young people under the age of 15, standing room, Opera Under 30 presented by TD Bank Group, student groups and rush seating, visit coc.ca.

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

The Barber of Seville is generously underwritten by The Catherine and Maxwell Meighen Foundation

The COC’s new production of The Barber of Seville is supported in part by the Ontario Cultural Attractions Fund

CIBC: Production Sponsor of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville

BMO Financial Group: Title Sponsor of Pre-Performance Opera Chats and Student Dress Rehearsals.

Sun Life Financial: Presenting Sponsor of SURTITLES™.

Mercedes Benz: Official Automotive Sponsor of the COC at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts

TD® Aeroplan® Visa Infinite Privilege: Preferred Credit Card

The COC Ensemble Studio, underwritten in part by Peter M. Deeb and The Slaight Family Foundation, is Canada’s premier training program for young opera professionals and provides advanced instruction, hands-on experience, and career development opportunities. The Ensemble Studio is also supported by the Government of Canada through the Department of Canadian Heritage, RBC Foundation, Hal Jackman Foundation, W. Garfield Weston Foundation and other generous donors.

About the Canadian Opera Company
Based in Toronto, the Canadian Opera Company is the largest producer of opera in Canada and one of the largest in North America. The COC enjoys a loyal audience support-base and one of the highest attendance and subscription rates in North America. Under its leadership team of General Director Alexander Neef and Music Director Johannes Debus, the COC is increasingly capturing the opera world’s attention. The COC maintains its international reputation for artistic excellence and creative innovation by creating new productions within its diverse repertoire, collaborating with leading opera companies and festivals, and attracting the world’s foremost Canadian and international artists. The COC performs in its own opera house, the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, hailed internationally as one of the finest in the world. Designed by Diamond Schmitt Architects, the Four Seasons Centre opened in 2006. For more information on the COC, visit its award-winning website, coc.ca.

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For more information, please contact:
Jennifer Pugsley, Media Relations Manager, tel: 416-306-2303, e-mail: jenniferp@coc.ca

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3/16/2015

COC BRINGS BACK “ONE OF THE GREATEST OF ALL NIGHTS AT THE OPERA” WITH ICONIC BLUEBEARD’S CASTLE/ERWARTUNG

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Toronto – The Canadian Opera Company’s iconic double-bill of Béla Bartók’s Bluebeard’s Castle and Arnold Schoenberg’s Erwartung returns to the company’s mainstage to close its 2014/2015 season. COC Music Director Johannes Debus conducts both operas for the first time, leading the COC Orchestra through these visceral and haunting scores, all brought to life in a mind-bending and gravity-defying production by world-renowned Canadian artistic visionary Robert Lepage. Bluebeard’s Castle is sung in Hungarian and Erwartung is sung in German, both with English SURTITLESTM, and runs for only seven performances on May 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, 23, 2015 at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts.

Audiences and critics in Toronto, New York, Edinburgh, Melbourne, Hong Kong as well as those in Geneva, Vancouver, Montreal, Edmonton, Cincinnati and Seattle have been dazzled and astounded by the COC’s double-bill production of Bluebeard’s Castle/Erwartung since its 1993 premiere. It’s been called “one of the greatest of all nights at the opera” (Globe and Mail), “one of the most exciting and inventive pieces of music theatre presented by an opera company anywhere” (Financial Post), “a stunning artistic vision” (Hong Kong Economic Journal) and “absolutely remarkable” (The Scotsman).

The 1993 premiere of Bluebeard’s Castle/Erwartung by director Robert Lepage (2009’s The Nightingale and Other Short Fables) was a watershed moment for the COC, establishing it as one of the world’s most visionary and compelling opera companies. The COC subsequently garnered worldwide acclaim in presenting this production on the company’s inaugural visits to the Brooklyn Academy of Music (1993), Edinburgh International Festival (1993), Melbourne International Festival (1994) and Hong Kong Arts Festival (1996). Bluebeard’s Castle/Erwartung was subsequently revived on the COC’s mainstage during its 1994/1995 and 2001/2002 seasons. It’s now presented for the first time at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts.

Bartók’s only opera, Bluebeard’s Castle, features superstar Canadian bass John Relyea as the inscrutable Duke Bluebeard whose castle holds untold secrets. Relyea is one of today’s finest basses and has appeared in many of the world’s most celebrated opera houses. He made his highly anticipated COC debut in The Tales of Hoffmann in 2012 and returns with his “menacing, black-toned basso” (Chicago Tribune) in a favourite role for which he has been praised for delivering a “vivid” (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) and “powerful but versatile” (Seattle Weekly) performance.

Russian Ekaterina Gubanova, one of the finest mezzo-sopranos in the world, is Bluebeard’s bride, Judith, who unlocks the rooms of her mysterious husband’s castle. A featured soloist at such houses as the Metropolitan Opera; Teatro alla Scala; Royal Opera House, Covent Garden; Bayerische Staatsoper; Lyric Opera of Chicago; Teatro Real Madrid; and Gran Teatre del Liceu, Gubanova brings her “large, darkly expressive mezzo” (Wall Street Journal) to the COC for the first time.

Schoenberg’s monodrama, Erwartung, about a woman who descends into madness, stars virtuosic Canadian mezzo-soprano Krisztina Szabó (2012’s Love from Afar, 2010’s Idomeneo, 2006’s Ring Cycle). A graduate of the COC Ensemble Studio, Szabó has become highly sought after in both North America and Europe as an artist of supreme musicianship and stagecraft, with critics praising “her rich, dark timbre and fullness of sound” (Chicago Tribune) and how she sings “with passion, beauty and power” (Opera News). Szabó makes her role debut as the Woman.

COC Ensemble Studio graduate François Racine stages the 2015 revival, based on Robert Lepage’s original direction. The production’s spectacular and surprising integration of movement, light and theatrical sleight-of-hand, features set and costume design by Canadian Michael Levine (2015’s Die Walküre, 2013’s Dialogues des Carmélites, 2011’s Rigoletto, 2006’s Ring Cycle), lighting design by Robert Thomson and media effects by Laurie-Shawn Borzovoy.

Symbolic settings replace more conventional, realistic sets of Bluebeard’s castle and the forest where The Woman of Erwartung wanders. Instead of literal depictions, the lighting and scenery are designed to highlight both operas’ emphases on the internal drama of the mind, resulting in stagecraft where “rarely have subconscious forces been so eloquently embodied on stage in image after image” (Globe and Mail).

Written within two years of each other, Bartók’s Bluebeard’s Castle (1909) and Schoenberg’s Erwartung (1911) broke new musical ground by opening the door for future operatic experimentation. Bartók’s score exemplifies a new, uniquely Hungarian music style where Schoenberg’s opera was the very first atonal work written for the operatic stage, paving the way for future 20th-century works.

 

TICKET INFORMATION

Single tickets for Bluebeard’s Castle/Erwartung range from $49 – $424 and are available online at coc.ca, by calling 416-363-8231, or in person at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts Box Office (145 Queen St. W.). For more information on specially priced tickets available to young people under the age of 15, standing room, Opera Under 30 presented by TD Bank Group, student groups and rush seating, visit coc.ca.

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

BMO Financial Group: Title Sponsor of Pre-Performance Opera Chats and Student Dress Rehearsals

Sun Life Financial: Presenting Sponsor of SURTITLES™

Mercedes Benz: Official Automotive Sponsor of the COC at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts

TD® Aeroplan® Visa Infinite Privilege: Preferred Credit Card

The COC Ensemble Studio, underwritten in part by Peter M. Deeb and The Slaight Family Foundation, is Canada’s premier training program for young opera professionals and provides advanced instruction, hands-on experience, and career development opportunities. The Ensemble Studio is also supported by the Government of Canada through the Department of Canadian Heritage, RBC Foundation, Hal Jackman Foundation, W. Garfield Weston Foundation and other generous donors.

About the Canadian Opera Company
Based in Toronto, the Canadian Opera Company is the largest producer of opera in Canada and one of the largest in North America. The COC enjoys a loyal audience support-base and one of the highest attendance and subscription rates in North America. Under its leadership team of General Director Alexander Neef and Music Director Johannes Debus, the COC is increasingly capturing the opera world’s attention. The COC maintains its international reputation for artistic excellence and creative innovation by creating new productions within its diverse repertoire, collaborating with leading opera companies and festivals, and attracting the world’s foremost Canadian and international artists. The COC performs in its own opera house, the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, hailed internationally as one of the finest in the world. Designed by Diamond Schmitt Architects, the Four Seasons Centre opened in 2006. For more information on the COC, visit its award-winning website, coc.ca.

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For more information, please contact:
Jennifer Pugsley, Media Relations Manager, tel: 416-306-2303, e-mail: jenniferp@coc.ca

Posted by Public Relations / in Press Releases / comments (0) / permalink

3/10/2015

CANADIAN OPERA COMPANY MAKES HEADLINES IN NEW YORK WITH PROVOCATIVELY PLAYFUL PRODUCTION OF SEMELE

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Toronto – The Canadian Opera Company is making headlines in New York on the occasion of its recent tour to the world-renowned Brooklyn Academy of Music. The COC’s theatrically transcendent production of Handel’s Semele, created by famed Chinese visual and performance artist Zhang Huan, was previewed in the early days of its New York residency by the Toronto Star as “looking like an opera we can be proud that Toronto brought to the Big Apple.” It went on to open on March 4 to popular and critical acclaim with Superconductor lauding the occasion as “a chance for this city to hear this excellent Toronto-based company in a rare American visit.”

The New York Times has nothing but praise for “this playful, colorful staging.” Maestro Christopher Moulds was singled out for conducting “the orchestra with winning vitality and feeling for the style,” and Canadian soprano Jane Archibald was admired for how she “brings a bright, technically agile and appealing voice to a demanding role.” Also applauded was “able, earnest” American countertenor Lawrence Zazzo as Athamus, American bass-baritone Kyle Ketelsen’s “vocally formidable Cadmus, the king of Thebes, the “dramatically resonant touch” of Welsh contralto Hilary Summers as Ino and Juno, “the sweet soprano” of Canadian Katherine Whyte as Iris, Juno’s willing messenger, and the “affecting” choice to eliminate the final chorus of the opera and hum “The Internationale.”

Zhang’s directorial vision and boldness has been equally hailed by critics. New York Classical Review says he “pushes Semele into a shape that is far more personal and unique than usually found on the stage, and his ambition is uneven yet fascinating” and “the production births a question, a rare and stimulating experience at the opera.” For New York Magazine’s Vulture, the COC’s presentation of Semele offers a “weird seductiveness,” and Out Magazine remarks how the production “is sure to raise a few eyebrows — and to command respect,” with Flavorpill Media noting that Zhang’s “Eastern embellishments transform this production into a balancing act between opera and performance art” and his Semele “is a true attempt at updating the age-old practice of opera into an innovative theatrical experience.”

The production’s musical achievements have been met with unabashed enthusiasm. In addition to the acclaim from the New York Times, Vulture says Archibald “sings the title role with insouciant glee, her voice shimmying up into the high register and scattering notes like confetti,” Summers has a “plush, iridescent alto,” and “conductor Christopher Moulds keeps all the opera’s wheels spinning and the pistons churning with aplomb….” Seen and Heard International was particularly taken with Canadian tenor Colin Ainsworth and found his “voice exceptionally warm and sweet, giving a positive spin to the role of Jupiter.” Bachtrack.com lauded Moulds for “an ideally paced, well played, energetic performance” and “the magnificent, vocally agile Jane Archibald in the title role, with her arias full of wild roulades, endless breaths and exciting (interpolated) high notes.” Ainsworth’s portrayal of the god Jupiter was called “smoothly sung,” Summers was complimented on her “marvelous, booming low notes, and cutting high ones,” Whyte described as “simply lovely” and Ketelsen called “excellent.”

Zhang Huan’s daring East-meets-West production blends the Greek myth of Semele with the contemporary true story of an ill-fated Chinese love triangle – all set within the walls of an actual 450-year-old Ming Dynasty temple, which is transformed into an altar, a palace, a crematory and heaven. With appearances by debaucherous Buddhist monks, a giant inflatable puppet and an overtly aroused donkey, Zhang layers cultural taboos and ribald humour with classical compositions, creating a bold and contemporary fable.

The COC’s 2015 tour to BAM marks the opera company’s third visit to the illustrious multi-arts centre that, for more than 150 years, has been a home for adventurous artists, audiences and ideas–engaging both global and local communities. The COC’s prior invitations to BAM were also to perform two equally ground-breaking productions: in 2011 with The Nightingale and Other Short Fables and, in 1993, with a double bill of Bluebeard’s Castle/Erwartung, both directed by Canadian visionary Robert Lepage.

This production of Semele is a co-production of Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie, Brussels and KT Wong Foundation. It had its North American premiere with the COC in spring 2012. Semele opened at BAM on March 4, 2015, and continues its engagement at the Howard Gilman Opera House through to March 10, 2015. For more information on this production and its U.S. premiere, visit coc.ca and bam.org.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
The Canadian Opera Company thanks the following donors for their support of the COC’s tour to BAM: Walter M. and Lisa Balfour Bowen, Philip Deck and Kimberley Bozak, David and Kristin Ferguson, Jerry and Geraldine Heffernan, Peter M. Partridge, Colleen Sexsmith, Kristine Vikmanis and Denton Creighton, Jack Whiteside and one anonymous donor.

The tour of Semele is made possible, in part, by the Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts.

The COC’s Semele is a co-production of Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie, Brussels and KT Wong Foundation.

About the Canadian Opera Company
Based in Toronto, the Canadian Opera Company is the largest producer of opera in Canada and one of the largest in North America. The COC enjoys a loyal audience support-base and one of the highest attendance and subscription rates in North America. Under its leadership team of General Director Alexander Neef and Music Director Johannes Debus, the COC is increasingly capturing the opera world’s attention. The COC maintains its international reputation for artistic excellence and creative innovation by creating new productions within its diverse repertoire, collaborating with leading opera companies and festivals, and attracting the world’s foremost Canadian and international artists. The COC performs in its own opera house, the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, hailed internationally as one of the finest in the world. Designed by Diamond Schmitt Architects, the Four Seasons Centre opened in 2006. For more information on the COC, visit its award-winning website, coc.ca.

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For more information or to request production photographs, please contact:
Jennifer Pugsley, Media Relations Manager, tel: 416-306-2303, e-mail: jenniferp@coc.ca

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