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Toronto – The Canadian Opera Company presents a double bill of witty one-act operas as part of its 2012 spring season with the Canadian premiere of Alexander Zemlinsky’s A Florentine Tragedy and the return of Giacomo Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi, last seen with the COC in 1996.  The two operas are presented in a new COC production by the legendary soprano-turned-director Catherine Malfitano and world-renowned conductorSir Andrew Davis.  A Florentine Tragedy is sung in German and Gianni Schicchi is sung in Italian, both with English SURTITLES™.  The double bill of A Florentine Tragedy/Gianni Schicchi runs for eight performances at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts on April 26, May 2, 5, 12, 15, 18, 20 and 25, 2012


The COC’s double bill is one of the rare times that A Florentine Tragedy and Gianni Schicchi have been paired together.  The two works were written just a year apart, with Zemlinsky’s A Florentine Tragedy premiering in Stuttgart in 1917 and Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi at the Metropolitan Opera in 1918, and both use Florence as the backdrop for their respective stories of familial turmoil.


Catherine Malfitano makes her company debut directing the COC’s double bill, an opportunity that marks the first time in Malfitano’s illustrious career that she has had the chance to be involved in a production of A Florentine Tragedy.  Malfitano made her debut as stage director in 2005, following a career as America’s leading operatic soprano, having portrayed over 70 roles and given more than 1,400 performances at all the major opera houses of the world.  As a director, she has staged critically acclaimed productions for Central City Opera Festival, Florida Grand Opera, Washington National Opera, Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie, English National Opera and Lyric Opera of Chicago.


The COC’s new production uses Florence’s breathtaking cityscape as the canvas on whichMalfitano draws out the themes of class values, morality and excess of riches that underline both operas, with set designs by Wilson Chin, costume designs by Terese Wadden and lighting designs by David Martin Jacques.  Inspired by how A Florentine Tragedy and Gianni Schicchi are linked in time and subject but can feel representative of two very different worlds, Malfitano’s concept unites the two operas by having them take place within the same Italian palazzo but physically sets them in different time periods. 


Sir Andrew Davis makes a highly anticipated return to the opera company to lead the COC Orchestra, having delighted audiences with his conducting debut with the COC in 2011’s Ariadne auf Naxos.  With the double bill, Davis takes audiences on a musical journey starting with Zemlinsky’s ravishing late-Romantic score that shifts from the dark and sinister to the light and shimmery, and then through Puccini’s quick-fire composition, with harmonies and lyrical passages that echo the hilarity and solemnity of the opera’s twisted plot.


The Canadian premiere of Zemlinsky’s A Florentine Tragedy is a chance to discover a rare gem of the operatic repertoire.  Based on an unfinished Oscar Wilde play, the darkly satiric work tells the tale of a merchant who discovers his wife is having an affair and contains one of opera’s most unexpected endings with the murder of the wife’s lover and the married couple’s passionate reconciliation.  Alan Held, recognized internationally as one of the leading singing actors today and called “one of America’s best bass-baritones” (Opera News), makes his COC debut in the lead role of Simone, the cuckolded merchant.  Germansoprano Gun-Brit Barkmin, who has won great acclaim for her breathtaking voice and dramatically intense stage presence, makes her COC debut as Simone’s wife, Bianca.  German tenor Michael König, a regular artist with the opera houses of Frankfurt, Hamburg, Stuttgart, Vienna, Barcelona, Madrid and Paris, makes his COC debut as Guido Bardi, Bianca’s lover.


In Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi, American bass-baritone Alan Held sings the title role.  As the street-smart peasant Gianni Schicchi, Held is at the heart of this fast-paced comedy inspired by Dante’s Divine Comedy, in which a family frantically schemes to benefit their own greed when excluded from a wealthy relative’s will.  COC Ensemble Studio sopranoSimone Osborne, who has dazzled audiences and critics alike with her recent COC performances as Gilda in Rigoletto and Pamina in The Magic Flute, returns to the mainstage as Schicchi’s daughter, Lauretta, singing one of opera’s best-known arias, “O! mio babbino caro.” 


A host of new and familiar faces to the COC are cast as the grieving and greedy family members of the deceased relative, Buoso Donati.  American mezzo-soprano Barbara Dever, in demand throughout the world for her dramatic operatic and concert repertoire, and last with the COC for 2010’s The Flying Dutchman, returns as Zita, Buoso’s cousin.  In the role of Rinuccio, Lauretta’s love and Zita’s nephew, is American tenor René Barbera in his COC debut; a young artist on the rise, Barbera was awarded a First Prize for Opera at Operalia 2011, the Plácido Domingo World Opera Competition, and is a 2008 winner of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions.  Ensemble Studio graduate tenor Adam Luther, last heard in the COC’s The Nightingale and Other Short Fables, both in Toronto and on tour in New York at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, is Gherardo, Buoso’s nephew, and  German soprano Gun-Brit Barkmin follows her performance in A Florentine Tragedyby singing the role of Nella, Gherardo’s wife.  Young American bass-baritone Craig Irvinemakes his COC debut as Betto di Signa, Buoso’s brother-in-law.  Italian bass Donato DiStefano (2011’s La Cenerentola) is Simone, Buoso’s cousin, Ensemble Studio graduatebaritone Peter McGillivray (2008’s War and Peace and 2006’s Faust) is Marco, Simone’s son, and Ensemble Studio soprano Rihab Chaieb (2011’s La Cenerentola) is La Ciesca, Marco’s wife.

Rounding out the cast is COC favourite, and Ensemble Studio graduate, baritone Doug MacNaughton as Maestro Spinelloccio, Ensemble Studio bass-baritone Philippe Sly as Ser Amantio di Nicolao, Ensemble Studio bass-baritone Neil Craighead as Pinellino and American bass Valerian Ruminski (Luther in 2012’s The Tales of Hoffmann) as Guccio.


Single tickets for A Florentine Tragedy/Gianni Schicchi are $12 – $318 (includes applicable taxes).  Tickets are available online at, by calling 416-363-8231, or in person at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts Box Office, located at 145 Queen St. W., Monday to Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.


Standing Room

Sixty $12 Standing Room tickets are available at 11 a.m. the morning of each performance, in person only at the 
Four Seasons Centre Box Office.  Limit of two tickets per person.  Subject to availability.


Young People

Special young people’s tickets are priced from $22.50 to $107.50 (includes applicable taxes).  These ticket prices apply to those who are 15 years of age or under, accompanied by and sitting next to an adult.


Opera Under 30

Patrons between the ages of 16 and 29 may purchase $22 Opera Under 30 tickets as ofMarch 31, 2012 at 
10 a.m., online at or in person at the Four Seasons Centre Box Office.  Opera Under 30 is presented by 
TD Bank Group. 


Student Group Tickets

Student group tickets are $22 per student and may be purchased by calling 416-306-2356.


Rush Seats

   Rush seats, starting at $22 and subject to availability, go on sale at 11 a.m. on the morning of each performance at the Four Seasons Centre Box Office.


The COC’s double bill production of A Florentine Tragedy and Gianni Schicchi has been generously underwritten in part by Riki Turofsky and Charles Petersen.


Spring Season Supported by the Ontario Cultural Attractions Fund


Presenting Sponsor of SURTITLES™:  Sun Life Financial


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

Jaguar Land Rover Canada


Production Co-sponsors: CIBC and CIBC Mellon


Broadcast Partner:  CBC Radio 2


Official Media Sponsors:  CTV and The Globe and Mail


Digital Marketing Sponsor:  Delvinia


The COC Ensemble Studio 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 supported by the Government of Canada through the Department of Canadian Heritage, RBC Foundation and other generous donors.



BMO Financial Group Pre-Performance Opera Chats

Free to ticket holders, the COC offers 20-minute introductions to the opera and its themes in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts 45 minutes prior to every performance.


Opera 101: Florentine Tragedy/Gianni Schicchi

The COC’s popular, FREE discussion series, Opera 101, puts the spotlight on the company’s brand new production of two dark and witty one-act operas: Alexander Zemlinsky’s A Florentine Tragedy and Giacomo Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi on April 18, 2012 at 6 p.m. at the Duke of Westminster (77 Adelaide St. W.). Opera 101 host Brent Bambury (CBC Radio) welcomes conductor Sir Andrew Davis and COC EnsembleStudio soprano Simone Osborne – the love interest in Gianni Schicchi – for a discussion about the double bill.  Audience members are welcome to ask questions throughout the event, adding to the lively nature of the conversation.   Though the event is free, reservations are strongly recommended.  To make a reservation, contact the Duke of Westminster at 416-368-2761.


Opera Exchange: A Wilde Time – Zemlinsky’s A Florentine Tragedy

The COC’s renowned Opera Exchange series continues on April 22, 2012 with A Wilde Time: Zemlinsky’s A Florentine Tragedy at 10 a.m. at Walter Hall in the University of Toronto’s Edward Johnson Building (80 Queen’s Park Cres.).  Coming together for the occasion are local and international academics who lead multi-disciplinary explorations and analysis on the themes and music of Alexander Zemlinsky’s A Florentine Tragedy, a one-act opera based on Oscar Wilde’s unfinished play and set to a ravishing late-Romanticscore. The event concludes with an insightful conversation with A Florentine Tragedy’s director Catherine Malfitano, led by

Wayne Gooding, editor of Opera Canada.   Tickets for the Opera Exchange lecture are $23per person and are available online at, by calling COC Ticket Services at 416-363-8231, or in person at the 
Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts Box Office, (145 Queen St. W.). 


A Florentine Tragedy/Gianni Schicchi Interactive Features on COC Radio

Through COC Radio, visitors to can find, in one place, a variety of audio and digital features available for streaming, all aimed at exploring an opera and its background as well as the artists appearing with the COC.  Among the resources on A Florentine Tragedyand Gianni Schicchi, visitors will find a podcast series sponsored by Decca: The Opera Label.  Hosted by the COC’s Gianna Wichelow and Gianmarco Segato, the podcasts explore the opera and its background, and feature interviews with singers and members of the creative team. 


About the Canadian Opera Company

Based in Toronto, the Canadian Opera Company is the largest producer of opera in Canada and one of the five largest in North America.  The COC enjoys a loyal audience support-base and one of the highest attendance and subscription rates in North America.  The COC celebrates its 62nd anniversary during the 2011/2012 season.  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 and Schmitt Architects, the Four Seasons Centre opened in 2006, and is also the performance venue for The National Balletof Canada.  For more information on the COC, visit its award-winning website,

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