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Toronto – Richard Wagner’s Die Walküre is opera at its most epic with incredible vocal demands, a 110-piece orchestra and a story about gods and mortals, all played out to one of opera’s most powerful and iconic scores. This immense work returns to the Canadian Opera Company this winter with a critically acclaimed production by renowned Canadian director Atom Egoyan, with COC Music Director Johannes Debus conducting, and one of the most hotly anticipated role debuts of the opera world this season: Grammy Award-winning soprano Christine Goerke as the Valkyrie Brünnhilde. Die Walküre is sung in German with English SURTITLESTM and runs for seven performances at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts on January 31, February 4, 7, 10, 13, 19, 22, 2015.
The COC first presented Atom Egoyan’s production of Die Walküre in 2004 and then in 2006 as part of the company’s full Ring Cycle, a demanding four-part opera cycle considered to be Wagner’s defining artistic achievement. Egoyan’s internationally renowned production has been described as “powerful and moving” (Globe and Mail) and “as thoughtful and poetic as it is gripping” (National Post) with Canadian Michael Levine designing “striking to behold” (Opera, U.K.) industrial-themed sets along with elements of traditional, yet also deconstructed, Victorian-era costumes. Lighting is by David Finn. COC Music Director Johannes Debus conducts his first Die Walküre with this 2015 presentation, leading the COC Orchestra through a score that features some of the most powerful music ever conceived.
A star-studded cast is featured in this masterwork about a passionate, forbidden love igniting a war between gods and mortals, and a warrior goddess who risks everything to preserve the future. One of the most exciting dramatic sopranos in the world, American Christine Goerke makes her debut with the COC in her first fully staged performance as the mighty Valkyrie Brünnhilde. Recently named Musical America’s Vocalist of the Year for 2015, Goerke has been described as the Wagner-Strauss soprano the opera world has been waiting for, a multi-hued miracle of gale-force power, and pinpoint control, effortlessly riding over the most clamouring orchestra. Goerke goes on to sing Brünnhilde with Houston Grand Opera immediately following her Toronto engagement, with future plans to reprise the role in full Ring Cycles at Lyric Opera of Chicago, Metropolitan Opera and Houston Grand Opera. She also returns to the COC as Brünnhilde for Wagner’s Siegfried (2015/2016) and Götterdämmerung (2016/2017).
Highly sought-after Danish baritone Johan Reuter, “fast making a name for himself in the opera world as a singer of extraordinary versatility” (MusicalCriticism.com) makes his COC debut as Wotan, king of the gods. American tenor Clifton Forbis, “a robust and impetuous Siegmund” (New York Times), returns to the COC as the half-mortal son of Wotan – a role he sang to rave reviews with the company in 2004 and 2006. He’s paired with American soprano Heidi Melton in her COC debut as Sieglinde, Siegmund’s lover and his unknown twin sister, a role in which she’s been described to “[steal] the show with her huge, expressive voice and powerful singing…[bringing] across Sieglinde’s hope, fear, and grief” (Operapalais).
As Brünnhilde’s Valkyrie sisters, the COC has brought together an international roster of some of opera’s most exciting established and emerging voices in the Wagnerian repertoire. COC Ensemble Studio alumna mezzo-soprano Rihab Chaieb returns as Waltraute and current Ensemble members, soprano Aviva Fortunata and mezzo-soprano Charlotte Burrage, are Helmwige and Grimgerde respectively. They are joined by Swiss soprano Mona Somm as Ortlinde, British soprano Elaine McKrill as Gerhilde, American mezzo-soprano Laura Tucker as Siegrune, American mezzo-soprano Lindsay Ammann as Schwertleite and Canadian mezzo-soprano Megan Latham as Rossweisse.
Die Walküre premiered in Munich in 1870 and is the most popular of Wagner’s four Ring Cycle operas: Das Rheingold, Die Walküre, Siegfried and Götterdämmerung. The COC presented Canada’s first full Ring Cycle in 2006 to open the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts. The opera company previously produced Die Walküre in 1962, 1971, 1976, 2004 and 2006.
Single tickets for Die Walküre range from $59 – $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.). All evening performances
of Die Walküre begin at 7 p.m.
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.
Die Walküre was originally made possible by Kolter Communities.
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.
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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Toronto – The Canadian Opera Company’s 2014/2015 winter season opens with a game-changing new production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni. Internationally acclaimed Russian director Dmitri Tcherniakov defies convention with this dark and witty masterpiece inspired by literature’s most famous womanizer, Don Juan. His vision is brought to blistering life by a dream cast led by renowned Canadian baritone Russell Braun and German maestro Michael Hofstetter conducting Mozart’s glorious score of irresistible melodies. Sung in Italian with English SURTITLESTM, Don Giovanni runs for 10 performances on January 24, 27, 30, February 1, 3, 6, 12, 14, 18, 21, 2015 at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts.
Named Best Director at London’s inaugural International Opera Awards in 2013, Dmitri Tcherniakov makes his COC debut with a deeply considered, unconventional and piercingly honest production that the Financial Times hailed as “a thrillingly accomplished Don Giovanni that caught us off guard.” Described as “an artist whose work is on the edge of the cutting edge” (Opera News), Tcherniakov plumbs the psychological depths of this work about a driven and aggressive seducer, Don Giovanni, who goes too far and kills the father of one of his victims, while those whom he has hurt seek vengeance.
Deemed “the greatest opera ever written” by George Bernard Shaw, part of Don Giovanni’s enduring appeal in the years since its 1787 premiere is the scope for endless interpretation on the drives and meanings behind the story of Don Juan and Mozart’s opera. Originally, Don Giovanni takes place over a day or two and in several different locations. In this production, the tale unfolds over several weeks with the action confined to one room within a wildly luxurious home. Tcherniakov’s vision also reimagines the characters as one extended family who are, in one way or another, brought into the thrall of the mesmerizing title character. The result is a more tightly woven web where the characters’ relationships are intensified by their familial and physical closeness.
Renowned for his luminous voice “capable of the most powerful explosions as well as the gentlest covered notes” (Toronto Star), Canadian baritone Russell Braun rightfully claims his place on the concert, opera and recital stages of the world. As Don Giovanni, Braun reunites with Tcherniakov to reprise the role he sang for Teatro Real Madrid in 2013, and once again take on one of opera’s most intense and dramatically challenging characters. A regular at the COC in recent seasons (2014’s Falstaff and Roberto Devereux, 2012’s Il Trovatore and Love from Afar), Braun, as the mythical seducer, is the beloved baritone as COC audiences have never seen him before.
Internationally acclaimed Canadian Jane Archibald makes a role debut as Donna Anna, one of Don Giovanni’s conquests. The superstar coloratura soprano last appeared with the COC to popular and critical acclaim in 2012’s Semele and 2011’s Ariadne auf Naxos, delighting Toronto audiences with an “unbelievable mastery of singing, controlled with apparent ease… [and] technical ease combined with a remarkable dramatic presence” (Le Figaro, FR), that has won her admiration the world over.
Canadian Michael Schade, one of the leading Mozart tenors on the stage today, is Don Ottavio, Donna Anna’s fiancé. Last with the COC in 2013’s La clemenza di Tito, 2012’s Die Fledermaus and 2011’s The Magic Flute, Schade returns in a role that has won him international acclaim since delivering his first Ottavio in 1996 at the Vienna State Opera.
Lauded for her “nuanced dramatic impulses” (Opera News) and a “voice that is liquid, lambent, and lit from within” (Classical Review), American mezzo-soprano Jennifer Holloway makes her Canadian and role debut as Donna Elvira, Don Giovanni’s wife. American Kyle Ketelsen is Leporello, Don Giovanni’s relative. Last seen at the COC in 2011’s Cinderella, “the appealing and hardy-voiced bass-baritone” (New York Times) reprises the role following performances of this production with Teatro Real Madrid and Festival d’Aix-en-Provence.
Singing some of Don Giovanni’s most well-known and treasured music is young Canadian lyric soprano, and COC Ensemble Studio graduate, Sasha Djihanian as the flirtatious Zerlina, Donna Anna’s daughter. Rising American baritone Zachary Nelson is Masetto, Zerlina’s fiancé. Il Commendatore, Donna Anna’s murdered father, is sung by one of the most sought-after basses on the international stage, Italian Andrea Silvestrelli.
Leading the COC Orchestra and Chorus for the first time is highly lauded Munich-born conductor Michael Hofstetter. A multiple nominee for “Conductor of the Year” by Opernwelt magazine, Hofstetter has been met with acclaim conducting with the premier orchestras of opera houses and festivals around the world, repeatedly praised for his style and musical insight.
Don Giovanni was last presented by the COC in 2008 and returns in a new COC co-production with Teatro Real Madrid, Festival d’Aix-en-Provence and Bolshoi Theatre. Sets are by Dmitri Tcherniakov with costume design shared between Tcherniakov and Elena Zaytseva. The lighting design is by Gleb Filshtinsky, recreated in Toronto by Ayvar Salikhov.
Single tickets for Don Giovanni 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.)
The COC’s new production of Don Giovanni is supported by the Ontario Cultural Attractions Fund.
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
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COC’s Fundraising Gala, Centre Stage, Features Canada’s Biggest Opera Stars: Host Ben Heppner and Surprise Performance by Soprano Adrianne Pieczonka
Toronto – Tenor Charles Sy of Toronto took home first prize and the Audience Choice Award at the Canadian Opera Company’s Ensemble Studio Competition on November 25, 2014, at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts. The competition is the feature event of the COC’s annual fundraising gala, Centre Stage, an evening dedicated to the discovery and celebration of the next generation of opera stars. Sy was selected from seven finalists to receive the $5,000 award. Baritone Dimitri Katotakis of Toronto, won the second prize of $3,000, and tenor Aaron Sheppard of St. John’s, N.L.., was awarded the third prize of $1,500. In addition, Sy was selected by the audience as the winner of the Audience Choice Award, worth $1,500.
Canadian Ben Heppner, recognized worldwide as the finest dramatic tenor of his generation, hosted an exhilarating vocal showcase featuring singers selected from this year’s nationwide auditions for the COC Ensemble Studio – Canada’s premier training program for young opera professionals, of which Heppner is an alumnus. Further adding to the excitement of the evening was the surprise performance by one of Canada’s reigning opera stars, soprano Adrianne Pieczonka. As the judges deliberated the winners of the competition, COC Music Director Johannes Debus masterfully conducted the critically acclaimed COC Orchestra as Pieczonka sang "Ebben…Ne andrò lontana" from Catalani’s La Wally, “Pace, pace” from Verdi’s La forza del destino, and Zueignung by Richard Strauss.
“We heard from seven fantastic singers at Centre Stage this year, some of whom will go on to have careers like those of Ben Heppner and Adrianne Pieczonka, whose names are associated with the world’s foremost opera houses, festivals and performance halls,” says COC General Director Alexander Neef. “Canada’s emerging opera singers deserve to be heard and celebrated, and it’s an honour to be able to showcase the promise that these talented young artists represent.”
The seven finalists were chosen from a pool of 175 applicants for the 2015/2016 COC Ensemble Studio, of which 150 were invited to sing in preliminary auditions in Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal and New York. On November 25, the seven singers each performed two arias accompanied by the COC Orchestra, conducted by Debus, before an audience of more than 900 Centre Stage patrons and a five-person COC adjudication panel. This year’s judges included COC General Director Alexander Neef, COC Artistic Administrator Roberto Mauro, COC Music Administrator Sandra Gavinchuk and Head of the COC Ensemble Studio Liz Upchurch, as well as Ensemble Studio alumna and COC vocal consultant, Canadian soprano Wendy Nielsen.
In addition to competing for the four cash prizes, the finalists are also hoping to secure a highly coveted position in the 15/16 COC Ensemble Studio. The 2014 competition is a showcase of the opera talent the COC has scouted from across the country on its national audition tour and features those artists from the final round of auditions for the prestigious program.
COC artistic staff will confirm the lineup of the 15/16 Ensemble Studio over the next few weeks. The 15/16 Ensemble Studio members will join an illustrious program that, since its inception in 1980, has launched the careers of over 180 young professional Canadian singers, opera coaches, stage directors and conductors, including Heppner, Isabel Bayrakdarian, John Fanning, Wendy Nielsen, Joseph Kaiser, David Pomeroy, Lauren Segal and Krisztina Szabó.
The Ensemble Studio Competition finalists were generously outfitted by Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) for their onstage debut at Centre Stage, and have been gifted with their HBC gowns and suits for use in future performances. This is the second year that the COC has partnered with HBC as part of an initiative to help prepare the artists for their professional opera careers.
During the pre-competition cocktail reception, Centre Stage guests enjoyed a sumptuous cheese and charcuterie spread by Cheese Boutique and a selection of wines from Trius Wines. Following the competition, 330 Centre Stage Gala Dinner guests went on to enjoy an elegant formal dinner from the Four Seasons Centre stage, joined by competition finalists and winners, notable COC artists, Centre Stage host Ben Heppner, Canadian soprano Adrianne Pieczonka and key supporters of the opera company.
Among the highlights of the gala affair was a surprise performance by current members of the COC Ensemble Studio. Performing with piano accompaniment, the nine singers of the 2014/2015 Ensemble Studio launched into a rousing rendition of “Brindisi” from La Traviata while circulating through the gala dinner crowd before going on to sing “Brüderlein” from Die Fledermaus. The uniqueness of the evening was further highlighted with a culinary experience curated by critically acclaimed chef David Lee, a rare opportunity to enjoy his gastronomic creations outside of dining at Nota Bene where Lee is the executive chef.
Proceeds from Centre Stage on November 25 were raised in support of the COC and will go towards the company’s Ensemble Studio.
About the Winners
Charles Sy, First Prize ($5,000) and Audience Choice Award, ($1,500)
Arias performed: “Dies Bildnis ist bezaubernd schön” (Die Zauberflöte) and “Una furtiva lagrima” (L’elisir d’amore)
Toronto native Charles Sy currently studies at the University of Toronto (UofT), earning a master of music in opera performance. His UofT credits include Mr. Owen in Postcard from Morocco, Ralph Rackstraw in HMS Pinafore, Mayor Upfold in Albert Herring, Alamão in Pedro Malazarte, and covering the title role in Rob Ford: The Opera. Additional credits include Remendado in Carmen (Opera by Request); Lechmere in Owen Wingrave (Banff Centre); Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni (Opera NUOVA); Paolo in The Wings of a Dove (The COSI Connection); and Basilio and Curzio in Le nozze di Figaro (Toronto Summer Opera Workshop). In 2015, he will sing the role of Adolfo in La Rondine with Opera Theatre of St. Louis.
Dimitri Katotakis, Second Prize ($3,000)
Arias performed: “Hai gia vinta la causa… Vedrò mentr’io sosprio” (Le nozze di Figaro) and “Mab, la reine des mensonges” (Roméo et Juliette)
Born in Toronto, Dimitri Katotakis currently studies at McGill University where recent roles include Demetrius in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Lorenzo in Capuleti e i Montecchi. He earned his bachelor of music in vocal performance from the University of Toronto where he sang the roles of Belcore in L’elisir d’amore, Guglielmo in Così fan tutte, and M. Lacouf and Le Fils in Les Mamelles de Tiresias. Other credits include Escamillo and Le Dancaïre in Carmen, and Harlekin in Ariadne auf Naxos (Opera NUOVA); Le Podestat in Le Docteur Miracle (Stu&Jess Productions); Masetto in Don Giovanni (Centre for Opera Studies in Italy); Curio in Giulio Cesare (Aradia Ensemble); and Chorus in of Der Entführung aus dem Serail and Le nozze di Figaro (Opera Atelier).
Aaron Sheppard, Third Place ($1,500)
Arias performed: “Vainement, ma bien aimée” (Le roi d’Ys) and “Un’aura amorosa” (Così fan tutte)
A native of St. John’s, Newfoundland, Aaron Sheppard is currently a member of the Atelier lyrique de l’Opéra de Montréal (OdM). His OdM credits include Hadji in Lakmé, Pong in Turandot, First Philistine in Samson et Dalila, Kronprinz in Silent Night and Joe’s Brother in Dead Man Walking. Additional roles include Tamino in Die Zauberflöte and Bonario in Volpone (Opera McGill); Pedrillo in Die Entführung aus dem Serail and Monostatos in Die Zauberflöte (Salzburg Festival Young Singers Project); Ferrando in Così fan tutte (Jeunesses Musicales du Canada); the title role in Albert Herring and Prince in Rusalka (Opera NUOVA); and Brooklyn Boy in Lillian Alling (Banff Centre). Mr. Sheppard is also a recent winner of the Western Canada Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions.
Competition Supporters: RBC Foundation, Hal Jackman Foundation, Peter M. Deeb
Platinum Sponsor: Mercedes-Benz Canada
Opera Under 30 Sponsor: TD Bank Group
Gala Reception Sponsor: Maison Birks
Artist Sponsors: Earlaine Collins, Ninalee Craig, Patrick Hodgson Family Foundation, June Shaw and the late Dr. Ralph Shaw, Jack Whiteside
Prize Sponsors: First Prize – Colleen Sexsmith; Second Prize – ARIAS: Canadian Opera Student Development Fund; Third Prize – Tom C. Logan; Audience Choice Award – Classical 96.3 FM
Voting Technology Sponsor: Classical 96.3 FM and Turning Technologies
Event Supporters: Chair-man Mills, Cheese Boutique, Hilton Toronto, KnotPR, Lilium, Nota Bene, Trius Wines and Wellington Printworks
About the Ensemble Studio Competition
The Ensemble Studio Competition features singers from the final round of auditions for the COC Ensemble Studio, Canada’s premier training program for young opera professionals, competing for cash prizes ranging in value from $1,500 – $5,000. The competition was launched in 2011 by COC General Director Alexander Neef to showcase the opera talent the COC had scouted from across the country and create a public platform for celebrating the future of opera in Canada.
With the creation of Centre Stage, the COC opened the Ensemble Studio Competition to an audience of over
1,000 opera lovers and interested guests as it moved from the intimate setting of the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre at the Four Seasons Centre to R. Fraser Elliott Hall. In 2013, the competition finalists were showcased as never before as they performed with an orchestra led by a world-renowned conductor from the mainstage of the COC’s opera house.
The annual Ensemble Studio audition process, open only to Canadian citizens and permanent residents, takes COC artistic staff across Canada and into the U.S. for preliminary auditions in Vancouver, Montreal, Toronto and New York, followed by a final callback audition at the COC’s Joey and Toby Tanenbaum Opera Centre in Toronto. It’s from this pool of singers that finalists are selected for the Ensemble Studio Competition.
About the COC Ensemble Studio
The COC Ensemble Studio is Canada’s premier training program for young opera professionals. Since the inception of the program in 1980, over 180 young professional Canadian singers, opera coaches, stage directors and conductors have acquired their first major professional operatic experience through the Ensemble Studio. Former members include Ben Heppner, Isabel Bayrakdarian, John Fanning, Wendy Nielsen, Joseph Kaiser, David Pomeroy, Lauren Segal and Krisztina Szabó.
The members of the Ensemble Studio are the COC’s resident artists and important ambassadors for the company.
They receive a blend of advanced study and practical experience through an individually tailored, multi-year program, involving understudying and performing mainstage roles, intensive vocal coaching, language and acting studies, and career skills development, as well as participation in masterclasses with internationally renowned opera professionals.
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 Canadian Opera Company, please visit its award-winning website, coc.ca.
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