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Toronto – The Canadian Opera Company Orchestra Academy returns for its fourth year on January 8, 2017, welcoming five student musicians to its annual three-week intensive training program. This year’s instrumentalists perform opening night of the COC’s production of Götterdämmerung with the COC Orchestra, give public performances featuring members of the COC Orchestra and COC opera singers, and take part in masterclasses and private sessions with singers, members of the COC artistic administration and visiting music staff.
The 2017 Orchestra Academy auditions featured a wider pool of candidates than previous years with the Schulich School of Music at McGill University becoming one of the COC Orchestra Academy’s collaborating organizations, joining founding collaborators The Glenn Gould School at the Royal Conservatory of Music and the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Music.
“Having the Schulich School of Music come on board marks an exciting evolution in the development of the Orchestra Academy,” says Nina Draganić, Director of the COC’s Ensemble Studio and Orchestra Academy. “It allows the COC to go beyond the borders of Toronto when connecting with student players.”
"We are so pleased to offer our students the opportunity to acquire professional experience at the highest level through the COC Orchestra Academy,” says Stéphane Lemelin, Chair of the Department of Performance at the Schulich School of Music at McGill University. “Working in a top-level opera house with leading singers under the mentorship of experienced instrumentalists from the COC Orchestra promises to be a transformative learning experience for the program’s participants. We are indeed grateful to the COC for this precious collaboration.”
Led by COC Music Director Johannes Debus, and developed in collaboration with The Glenn Gould School at the Royal Conservatory of Music, the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Music and McGill University’s Schulich School of Music, the COC Orchestra Academy offers its student musicians professional insight and experience in their pursuit of a career in an opera orchestra.
“There’s a palpable excitement from these students about the opportunity offered through our program,” adds Draganić. “There are orchestra academies elsewhere in the world, in Toronto even. What distinguishes ours is the connection to the human voice. We give them opportunities and valuable hands-on experience that they can’t get elsewhere.”
The five students who join the Orchestra Academy this year were selected from a pool of 13 musicians who were recommended by the partnering institutions, and they were auditioned in October 2016 by Debus, Draganić and members of the COC Orchestra. The five Orchestra Academy members are GGS violist Madlen Breckbill, cellist James Churchill and bassist Jesse Dietschi, UofT violinist Heng-Han Hou and Schulich violinist Jung Tsai.
The student players will be paired up with mentors from the COC Orchestra, learning from them in a one-on-one capacity. This year’s mentors are Sandra Baron, first violin; Elizabeth Johnston, second violin; Sheila Jaffé, viola; Paul Widner, cello; and Robert Speer, bass. The COC Orchestra is the oldest opera orchestra in Canada, and has received worldwide acclaim for its musical versatility and range of expression. Created in 1977, the orchestra has a permanent membership of more than 50 instrumentalists.
As part of the Orchestra Academy experience, students are featured in multiple public performances. This year they play with the COC Orchestra at the company’s 2017/2018 Season Launch event on January 12. They’ll also perform a recital in the COC’s Free Concert Series in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre on January 26, alongside Orchestra Academy mentors in a program of chamber music from the Baroque era, featuring Canadian soprano and COC Ensemble Studio alumna Jacqueline Woodley. Orchestra Academy students join the COC Orchestra in the pit of the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts on February 2 for opening night of the COC’s winter production of Wagner’s Götterdämmerung, playing some of the most complex and riveting music in the operatic repertoire.
The 2017 Orchestra Academy continues to expand on the efforts of years past. This year, the students will have increased group sessions with COC Music Director Johannes Debus and with COC Concertmaster Marie Bérard. They’ll also have additional opportunities to go behind-the-scenes and experience a backstage tour, a concept discussion with a member of the Götterdämmerung creative team, and attend a piano technical rehearsal, as part of the Orchestra Academy’s larger objective to give its participants a deeper understanding of the art form and the role played by the orchestra within an operatic production.
Orchestra Academy students are exposed to all aspects of playing as part of an opera orchestra. They experience how an operatic performance comes together, how to prepare their part of a score, and the development and improvement of an orchestra over the course of rehearsals and performances. Additional opportunities include:
• studying rehearsal and performance etiquette, as well as developing the awareness, co-ordination, reaction, flexibility and listening skills required to play in an opera orchestra;
• learning endurance techniques and how to focus for long periods of time;
• gaining an understanding of sound production, articulation and blending as well as tuning within the orchestra, the section and with the singers, and the subtleties of balancing sound intensity;
• and studying different styles and levels of expressiveness in musicianship.
The COC Orchestra Academy is an extra-curricular program that launched in January 2014 as a pilot program with the intention of growing the initiative to include more students and members of the COC Orchestra. Members of the COC Orchestra participate in the COC Orchestra Academy voluntarily.
2017 COC Orchestra Academy Members
Violist Madlen Breckbill recently completed an artist diploma from The Glenn Gould School of the Royal Conservatory of Music, where she is currently studying as an orchestral fellow on viola. As an orchestral player, Breckbill has served as concertmaster and principal second of the University of Wisconsin Chamber and Symphony orchestras; principal second, assistant concertmaster and principal viola for the Royal Conservatory Orchestra; as well as concertmaster of the Kent/Blossom Chamber Orchestra. She has performed under the batons of Johannes Debus, James Feddeck, Leon Fleischer, Tania Miller, and Sir Roger Norrington. In the summer of 2016, Breckbill was a member of the fellowship quartet at Music by the Sea, and appeared in performance at the Madeline Island, Meadowmount and Kent/Blossom music festivals.
Cellist James Churchill is currently pursuing an artist diploma at The Glenn Gould School at the Royal Conservatory of Music, having previously earned an Honours Bachelor of Music degree from the National University of Singapore and graduating from the advanced performance program at the Australian National Academy of Music. His extensive orchestral and chamber experience includes engagements with Orchestra Victoria performing operas and ballets and with orchestras in the Melbourne Arts Centre addition to regional tours throughout Victoria, Australia. Churchill was principal cellist for the Australian tour of Les Misérables in Sydney and Melbourne and recently performed at Toronto’s Koerner Hall as principal cello with the Royal Conservatory Orchestra in presentations of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade and Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No.1.
Bassist Jesse Dietschi is currently pursuing an artist diploma at The Glenn Gould School at the Royal Conservatory of Music having previously earned a master’s degree in jazz performance from the University of Toronto and a master’s degree in composition from Brandon University. He performed for the premiere of Juliet Palmer’s opera Shelter with Tapestry Opera in Edmonton, and was part of the remounting of R. Murray Schafer’s Apocalypsis as part of the 2015 Luminato Festival. Dietschi has appeared in CBC’s Sounds of the Season and NBC’s Hannibal, and is a member of the contemporary jazz ensemble Tunnel Six, as well as the principal double bassist with Kindred Spirits Orchestra. He has performed, toured, and recorded with a wide range of artists, including The Headstones, the Gryphon Trio’s Jamie Parker, Robi Botos, the Canadian Tenors’ Ken Lavigne, Tapestry Opera, Richard Underhill, Brownman Ali, Irene Torres and the Sugar Devils, and Mexico’s Northern Lights chamber music festival. He has also performed in the Winnipeg Jazz Festival, the TD Toronto Jazz Festival and Toronto’s Beaches International Jazz Festival, among others.
Violinist Heng-Han Hou is pursuing a doctor of musical arts degree at the University of Toronto. An active and versatile musician, Hou has appeared in performance in Taiwan, Canada, Hong Kong, China, Japan, the United States, Israel and Argentina. While participating in the prestigious Orford Music Festival in 2014, Hou was appointed orchestra concertmaster and performed at Maison symphonique de Montréal. He returned upon invitation in 2015. Hou currently holds teaching assistant positions for Jonathan Crow at UofT as well as with the University of Toronto Symphony Orchestra.
Violinist Jung Tsai received a bachelor of music in performance from Mannes College in New York and a master’s degree in music performance from DePaul School of Music in Chicago. She is currently pursuing an artist diploma with Schulich School of Music at McGill University. In addition to solo performances, Tsai is an orchestral and chamber musician. She played with the Civic Orchestra of Chicago from 2012 to 2014, serving as assistant concertmaster from 2012 to 2013. Tsai has been invited to perform at the Schleswig-Holstein and Britten-Pears music festivals and in 2015, her string quartet was invited to Festival de Música de Santa Catarina in Brazil. She is also the recipient of the 2015 Luminarts Fellowship in the string category.
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 www.coc.ca.
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“Colourful, inventive and whimsical” – Opera News
“A wonderful production” – NOW Magazine
“Fanciful and pretty” – Globe and Mail
Toronto – It’s a fairytale start to 2017 with the revival of the Canadian Opera Company’s playful and whimsical production of Mozart’s beloved opera, The Magic Flute. Bernard Labadie, one of Canada’s pre-eminent conductors, makes his COC debut with one of the most popular operas in the world with a cast of international and Canadian rising stars. The Magic Flute was last performed by the COC in 2011 and returns for 12 performances on January 19, 28, 29, February 1, 3, 4, 7, 10, 16, 18, 19 and 24, 2017.
Canadian conductor Bernard Labadie is a specialist in Baroque and Classical repertoire who “moulds the phrases, plucks out all-important details in the texture and radiates an infectious joy in the music” (The Telegraph). An Officer of the Order of Canada and a knight of Ordre national du Québec, Labadie is a regular guest with the premier orchestras across North America and gaining increasing renown in Europe. He now brings his musicianship to the COC for the first time to lead the internationally acclaimed COC Orchestra and Chorus through some of Mozart’s most beautiful and infectious melodies.
The COC production was conceived by Tony Award®-winning director Diane Paulus with a purposeful sense of fun, playfulness and whimsy in this theatrical version of Mozart’s humorous, sometimes profound, exploration of the trials of growing up, seeking ideals and finding love. COC Ensemble Studio graduate and artistic director at the Thousand Islands Playhouse, Ashlie Corcoran, makes her COC mainstage debut staging the 2017 revival, based on Paulus’ original direction. The production is full of wonder and wisdom in following the adventures of Prince Tamino as he undergoes feats of heroism to rescue his love, Pamina, from the forces of evil.
The look and feel of the COC’s production evokes an 18th-century storybook sensibility in its costume and set design by acclaimed designer Myung Hee Cho with slight contemporary touches in colours and textures. The period feel carries through in the lighting design by Scott Zielinski who incorporates such 18th-century performance practices as candles, torches, and reflections off shiny surfaces and mirrors.
The production conjures up a play-within-a-play scenario with the guests of a young girl’s name day celebration finding themselves entertained by an opera to only become the characters themselves, with the line between performer and audience quickly blurring. The ensuing trials and tribulations of the play travel through the girl’s home and take place over the course of one night, beginning at evening and ending at dawn.
Leading the young cast are two breakout tenors from the COC’s own Ensemble Studio, recent graduates Andrew Haji and Owen McCausland, who share the role of Prince Tamino. They are matched with two sopranos to watch: Russian Elena Tsallagova and Canadian Kirsten MacKinnon, singing the role of Princess Pamina, in their Canadian and COC debuts, respectively.
Two of the finest baritones of their generation, Canadians Joshua Hopkins and Phillip Addis, return to the COC to share the role of the bird catcher, Papageno. COC Ensemble Studio graduate soprano Jacqueline Woodley, heard last season as the Forest Bird in Siegfried, brings her exceptional talent to the role of Papageno’s sweetheart, Papagena.
The Queen of the Night is brought to life by the thrilling coloratura of COC Ensemble Studio graduate soprano Ambur Braid.
The priest-king Sarastro is sung by Croatian bass Goran Jurić, in his Canadian debut, and American bass Matt Boehler. The roles of Monostatos and the Speaker are sung by two notable voices on the international opera scene, COC Ensemble Studio graduate tenor Michael Colvin and German baritone Martin Gantner, respectively.
Rounding out the cast are many new and returning Ensemble Studio members: graduate soprano Aviva Fortunata, mezzo-soprano Emily D’Angelo, in her COC mainstage debut, and graduate mezzo-soprano Lauren Segal are the First, Second and Third Ladies, respectively; tenor Charles Sy sings the First Priest and is joined by baritone Bruno Roy, in his COC mainstage debut, as the Second Priest. Performing the role of the First Armed Man is tenor Aaron Sheppard with graduate bass Neil Craighead as the Second Armed Man. Singing the First, Second and Third Spirits are members of the Canadian Children’s Opera Company.
The Magic Flute was Mozart’s final opera, receiving its premiere only three months before his death in December 1791. From the spectacular fireworks of the Queen of the Night to Pamina’s anguished lament and Papageno’s comic antics, the charm and profundity of Mozart’s music has made The Magic Flute a timeless classic in the years since with it consistently ranked as one of the most performed operas in the world.
The COC’s production of The Magic Flute is sung in German with English SURTITLESTM.
The COC performs The Magic Flute at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts. The COC’s 16/17 season marks the 10th anniversary of the Four Seasons Centre, Canada’s first purpose-built opera house, which opened in fall 2006 and has been hailed internationally as one of the finest in the world.
Single tickets for The Magic Flute range from $35 – $235 and box seats, when available, are $350. Tickets are now on sale, 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.
The COC Ensemble Studio, underwritten in part by Peter M. Deeb, Marjorie and Roy Linden, RBC Foundation 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, the Hal Jackman 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 coc.ca.
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For more information or to request photography, please contact:
Jennifer Pugsley, Media Relations Manager, tel: 416-306-2303, e-mail: email@example.com
Kristin McKinnon, Publicist, tel: 416-306-2383, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Toronto – The Canadian Opera Company enters the twilight of the gods with the revival of its acclaimed production of Wagner’s Götterdämmerung directed by Toronto-area resident Tim Albery. COC Music Director Johannes Debus conducts his first Götterdämmerung, at the helm of the internationally acclaimed COC Orchestra and Chorus with a cast of generation-defining voices led by powerhouse American soprano Christine Goerke in her debut as Götterdämmerung’s Brünnhilde. Götterdämmerung is sung in German with English SURTITLESTM and runs for seven performances on February 2, 5, 8, 11, 14, 17 and 25, 2017.
Wagner’s Ring Cycle is commonly described as “the Everest of opera.” The largest work in the history of Western music, the Ring Cycle includes four operas: Das Rheingold, Die Walküre, Siegfried and Götterdämmerung. In the fourth instalment of Wagner’s heroic Ring, after poisoned drinks, mistaken identities and much deception, Brünnhilde and Siegfried are reunited in love and death as the worlds of both men and gods go up in flames only to rise again in an unforgettable affirmation of rebirth and renewal.
Götterdämmerung is the most epic of Wagner’s tetralogy with some of the most complex and riveting music in the operatic repertoire. Many famous passages make up the final instalment of Wagner’s monumental musical journey, including Siegfried’s “Funeral March,” an orchestral showcase offering a musical retrospective of the Ring itself, and Brünnhilde’s “Immolation” scene, an immensely powerful aria in which she restores order to the world and joins Siegfried on his burning pyre in an act of love.
Director Tim Albery’s vision for the COC’s conclusion of Wagner’s masterpiece has been proclaimed as “the most inventive of all” (New York Times). First presented by the COC in winter 2006, and then in fall 2006 as part of the company’s full Ring Cycle, this Götterdämmerung is “as stunning a feat of staging as [has been] seen in Toronto” (National Post), with critics singling out that “the great virtue of Albery’s production is the urgency and absolutely clarity of the storytelling” (Opera News), while also noting the presentation as a whole represents “the COC’s proudest hour” (Globe and Mail). Production designer Michael Levine’s compelling interpretation of Götterdämmerung moves the action forward to the contemporary corporate landscape of the mortals who now rule the world and brings the cycle to a commanding and dramatic close. The lighting design is by acclaimed designer David Finn, who won back-to-back Dora Awards for his work in Die Walküre’s 2015 revival and the 2016 remount of Siegfried. Choreography is by Patti Powell.
Few roles in opera are more unique or challenging than those of Götterdämmerung’s Siegfried and Brünnhilde. They are among the most demanding tenor and soprano roles in all of opera, requiring voices of steel and sensitivity alongside super-human stamina to deliver the opera’s awe-inspiring musical drama. Austrian tenor Andreas Schager is establishing himself as one world’s leading heroic tenors and makes his COC debut as Siegfried—a role for which he’s been proclaimed a “discovery” (The Arts Desk) and “a big star in the making” (The Independent). American soprano Christine Goerke is the most sought-after Brünnhilde in the world today, her performances heralded for how her “gleaming tones sliced through the glittering orchestra” (New York Times) and possess “everything a great Brunnhilde must have: dignity, stature, and a voice of molten gold” (Toronto Star) as well as delivering “a once-in-a-decade experience” (Globe and Mail). Goerke returns to sing Götterdämmerung’s Brünnhilde for the first time, previously debuting each instalment of the character in the recent COC revivals of Die Walküre and Siegfried.
Internationally renowned German baritone Martin Gantner is Gunther, Siegfried’s rival. Estonian Ain Anger, “one of the great opera basses of our time” (The Guardian), makes his Canadian and role debut as Gunther’s half-brother, Hagen. Canadian bass Robert Pomakov, “a talent to watch” (Washington Post), is Alberich, whose greed for the Rhinegold began this epic saga. COC Ensemble Studio graduate soprano Ileana Montalbetti, whose performance as Ellen Orford in the COC’s recent Peter Grimes was “in the realm of greatness” (Toronto Star), returns as Gutrune, Gunther’s sister and Siegfried’s bride.
As the three Norns, daughters of Erda the Earth Goddess who are spinning the rope of destiny, is a trio of new and familiar voices. American mezzo-soprano Lindsay Ammann (Schwertleite in 2015’s Die Walküre) is the First Norn; Scottish mezzo Karen Cargill makes her COC debut as the Second Norn; and soprano Ileana Montalbetti takes on a second role as the Third Norn.
In their COC mainstage debuts as water-nymph Rhinemaidens are two COC Ensemble Studio singers, soprano Danika Lorèn as Woglinde and mezzo-soprano Lauren Eberwein as Wellgunde. Mezzo-sopranos Lindsay Ammann and Karen Cargill are also heard as the Rhinemaiden Flosshilde and the Valkyrie Waltraute, respectively.
The COC performs Götterdämmerung at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts. The COC’s 16/17 season marks the 10th anniversary of the Four Seasons Centre, Canada’s first purpose-built opera house, which opened in fall 2006 and has been hailed internationally as one of the finest in the world.
Single tickets for Götterdämmerung range from $35 – $235 and box seats, when available, are $350. Tickets are now on sale, 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.
This production of Götterdämmerung was originally made possible by Kolter Communities.
KPMG: Production Sponsor
BMO Financial Group: Season Sponsor
Mercedes-Benz Canada: Official Automotive Sponsor of the COC at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts
TD® Aeroplan® Visa Infinite Privilege*: Preferred Credit Card
TD Bank Group: Presenting Sponsor Opera Under 30