COC Media Releases

1/14/2015

CANADIAN OPERA COMPANY ANNOUNCES COMMISSION OF NEW OPERA BY COMPOSER ANA SOKOLOVIĆ AND PLAYWRIGHT MICHEL MARC BOUCHARD

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Toronto - Alexander Neef, General Director of the Canadian Opera Company, announced today the commission of a new opera for its mainstage by one of Canada’s most important composers, Ana Sokolović. Titled La Reine-Garçon, the libretto is by Quebec playwright Michel Marc Bouchard and based on his play of the same name. Inspired by Queen Christina of Sweden who ruled the country in the 17th century before abdicating her throne at the age of 27, La Reine-Garçon is currently in development and is scheduled to have its world premiere in the COC’s 2019/2020 season.

Sweden’s Queen Christina (1626-1689) sought to make her country the most sophisticated in Europe. She was an enigmatic, flamboyant and unpredictable individual with a passion for philosophy and the arts, leading an unconventional lifestyle by adopting masculine dress and behaviour. She was also obsessed with celibacy, which encouraged other royals in their romantic pursuit of her. Her personal aspirations and her unconventional sexuality, however, put her at profound odds with her court and her country. As the daughter of a Protestant champion in the Thirty Years’ War, Christina ultimately caused a great scandal when she abdicated her throne and converted to Roman Catholicism in 1654. La Reine-Garçon focuses on the visit of French philosopher René Descartes to the Swedish court, while Christina, newly in love with the Countess Ebba Sparre and under pressure from male pretenders, calls into question everything that defines what she has been to date.

“I am very proud to announce today a new opera commission by the Canadian Opera Company. Ana is one of Canada’s greatest composers and Michel Marc is one of this country’s greatest playwrights, and we take great pride as a company to have brought them together to create this new Canadian opera,” says COC General Director Alexander Neef. “I have long been an admirer of Ana’s work, especially her opera Svadba-Wedding, and have thought for a while that she was ready for a mainstage opera, and Michel Marc’s La Reine-Garçon is one of the best new plays that I’ve read. The subject of Christine of Sweden is one of Shakespearean proportion with universal relevance. I think it will make a fantastic opera, especially in the hands of Ana and Michel Marc.”

For the Serbian-born, Montreal-based Ana Sokolović, La Reine-Garçon allows the composer to chart new musical territory. “After writing three chamber operas for Queen of Puddings Music Theatre, I am back to Toronto for this amazing new project: a mainstage opera for soloists, chorus and full orchestra. For this important step in my artistic career, I am honoured to receive such an important Canadian opera commission, and working closely with one of the greatest Canadian authors, Michel Marc Bouchard, is a huge privilege for me,” says Sokolović. “As a woman and as an artist, I am particularly touched by this story about the Swedish Queen Christina. She was an inspiring woman ahead of her time.”

La Reine-Garçon is Michel Marc Bourchard’s second libretto. “The story of Christina of Sweden has taken me on a long journey, one that started with cinema and theatre and now continues with opera. La Reine-Garçon is my second adventure in the world of opera after Les Feluettes (Lilies) for l’Opéra de Montréal, which will be produced in 2016. Fascinating, demanding, oversized, it is a great world to explore,” says Bouchard. “It is an unexpected gift to have one of the most prestigious opera houses in North America ask me to write the libretto for La Reine-Garçon and to work with Ana Sokolović, whose own works are so compelling, inspiring and modern. Ana and I now enter the intimate alcoves of creation to offer you this new opera.”

Over the years, Sokolović has earned a steady stream of commissions and awards. Her works include orchestral, vocal, chamber, operatic and theatrical pieces. From 1995 to 1998, she was a three-time recipient of the SOCAN Foundation Award for Young Composers. In the 1999 edition of the CBC Young Composers Competition, she won the grand prize along with first prize in the chamber music category. In 2005, she won the Joseph S. Stauffer Prize presented by the Canada Council for the Arts, and in 2007 the Conseil québécois de la musique awarded her the Prix Opus for composer of the year. In 2008, she won the Jan V. Matejcek Award presented by SOCAN; in 2012, she was a repeat winner of the same award. In 2009, she won the prestigious National Arts Centre Award, which included commissions, residencies and teaching positions over a five-year period. In the summer of 2012, her opera Svadba-Wedding, commissioned and produced by the Queen of Puddings Music Theatre, received six nominations for the Dora Mavor Moore Awards and won for Outstanding New Musical/Opera. The opera then went on tour in Canada and Europe until 2013. Svadba-Wedding is next scheduled to be performed in summer 2015 at the Festival d’Aix-en-Province in France.

Bouchard has written more than 20 plays, which are translated into many languages and performed worldwide, with six adapted for film. Various productions, most notably Lilies or the Revival of a Romantic Drama, The Tale of Teeka, The Orphan Muses, The Coronation Voyage, Down Dangerous Passes Road, The Madonna Painter and Tom at the Farm, have garnered Dora Mavor Moore and Chalmers Awards (Toronto), the National Arts Centre Award, the Betty Mitchell Award (Calgary), the prix du Journal de Montréal, Primo Arte Candoni (Italy), the prix SACD (France), the Lamdba Literary Award (New York) and many international critics’ awards. Bouchard has received three nominations for the Governor General’s Award for literature, including for Christine, la reine-garçon, produced at the Stratford Festival in 2014. Tom à la ferme, adapted for screen by Xavier Dolan, won the International critics award at the Venice Mostra 2012, and Tom at the farm will be presented at Buddies in Bad Times in Toronto in spring 2015. Bouchard is currently working on The Divine, which will be presented at the Shaw Festival in 2015, then produced in Montréal as La Divine Illusion. The film The Girl King, based on the life of Queen Christian of Sweden and written by Bouchard and directed by Mika Kaurismaki, is scheduled for release in 2015. Bouchard’s first opera, based on Lilies, will premiere in 2016 with l’Opéra de Montréal. Bouchard is an Officer of the Order of Canada and Knight of the National Order of Quebec.

La Reine-Garçon will be the sixth opera commissioned by the COC that has had its world premiere on the company’s mainstage since 1950. The COC’s previous mainstage commissions are Hadrian, to premiere in 2018/2019 (composer: Rufus Wainwright; librettist: Daniel MacIvor); The Golden Ass, 1999 (composer: Randolph Peters; librettist: Robertson Davies); Mario and the Magician, 1992 (composer: Harry Somers; librettist: Rod Anderson); Héloise and Abélard, 1973 (composer: Charles Wilson; librettist: Eugene Benson); and The Luck of Ginger Coffey, 1967 (composer: Raymond Pannell; librettist: Ron Hambleton).

The COC is also the presenter of operatic world premieres. As part of the 15/16 season, the opera company presents the world premiere of Pyramus and Thisbe (composer and librettist: Barbara Monk Feldman). It also presented the world premiere of Louis Riel (composer: Harry Somers; librettist: Mavor Moore in collaboration with Jacques Languirand) in 1967, a work commissioned by the Floyd S. Chalmers Foundation, which it will revive in a new production for the COC’s 2016/2017 season.

For presentations off the mainstage, the COC has commissioned 14 operatic works that have premiered in concert, as part of its school tour initiative or as chamber opera productions featuring members of its young artist training program, the Ensemble Studio.

La Reine-Garçon will be sung in French. Information regarding the opera’s creative team as well as casting, design and sponsorship will be released as details become available.

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 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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1/6/2015

CANADIAN OPERA COMPANY WELCOMES FIVE PLAYERS TO 2015 COC ORCHESTRA ACADEMY

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Toronto – The Canadian Opera Company Orchestra Academy returns for a second year on January 12, 2015, this time welcoming five student musicians into its acclaimed COC Orchestra for an intense three-week period that offers them professional insight and experience in their pursuit of a career in an opera orchestra.

Led by COC Music Director Johannes Debus, the COC Orchestra Academy has been developed in collaboration with The Glenn Gould School at the Royal Conservatory of Music and the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Music. The five student players who join the Academy this year were selected from a pool of 14 musicians, from GGS and UofT, who auditioned for Debus and members of the COC Orchestra in November 2014: GGS double bassist Malcolm Armstrong, GGS cellist Tess Crowther, UofT violinist Eric Fujita, GGS violinist Brenna Hardy-Kavanagh and GGS violist Laurence Schaufele.

In joining the COC Orchestra Academy, these five student musicians will be mentored by players from the orchestra as well as gain valuable orchestral rehearsal and performance experience. This year’s Academy participants join rehearsals for the COC’s winter production of Wagner’s Die Walküre, an opera that features some of the most powerful music ever conceived. Their Academy experience culminates in two unique performance opportunities: on January 29, as part of the COC’s Free Concert Series in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre, members of the Academy perform a program of gems from the chamber music repertoire; and on January 31, Academy musicians perform with the COC Orchestra for opening night of Die Walküre.

“With the Orchestra Academy, we want to help bridge the gap between educational and professional life. It’s one thing to sit in a rehearsal room alone in a conservatory or school and practice your concerti, but sitting in the orchestra pit or on a concert stage is different,” says COC Music Director Johannes Debus. “This year, they will rehearse Die Walküre with us and perform on opening night. It might be a bit overwhelming at first, but this is good, and they will learn quickly. I’m incredibly thankful to our COC Orchestra members, who will work alongside these talented young players, sharing their expertise with Canada’s next generation of professional orchestra musicians.”

Over the three-week Academy session, the participating students experience how an operatic performance comes together, how to prepare their part of a score, and the expectations from a first rehearsal through to the development and improvement of an orchestra over the course of rehearsals and performances.

Through observation as well as working with their assigned mentors, COC Orchestra Academy students will be exposed to all aspects of playing as part of an opera orchestra. Opportunities include:

• studying rehearsal and performance etiquette, as well as developing the awareness, coordination, 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. There is no official credit attached to the students’ participation. Members of the COC Orchestra participate in the COC Orchestra Academy voluntarily. The inaugural year of the program took in three students who joined rehearsals for the COC’s 2014 productions of Così fan tutte and A Masked Ball. The three musicians also played with the COC Orchestra for the Ensemble Studio performance of Così fan tutte, a special presentation of the mainstage production that featured the singers of the company’s training program for young opera professionals.

Double bassist Malcolm Armstrong, from Ottawa, is a first-year artist diploma student at GGS. He’s been the assistant principal bass of the Ottawa Symphony Orchestra and a guest soloist with the Parkdale United Church Orchestra as well as played with the world-renowned National Youth Orchestra of Canada.

Cellist Tess Crowther, from Edmonton, is in her fourth year of the performance diploma program at GGS. She’s been principal cellist of the Edmonton Youth Orchestra, Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra and the National Youth Orchestra of Canada. In 2013, Crowther was invited to go to Bangalore, India to play with the Canada-India National Youth Orchestra.

Violinist Eric Fujita, from Toronto, is currently pursuing a doctor of musical arts at UofT. He was concertmaster of the University of Western Ontario and McGill Symphony orchestras, a violinist in the UWO Early Music Ensemble and concertmaster for opera productions at both institutions.

Violinist Brenna Hardy-Kavanagh, from Ottawa, is currently in her second year of the artist diploma program at GGS and is a member of the Royal Conservatory Orchestra, the Cadenza Chamber Duo, and the New Generation Chamber Orchestra. She’s also performed with the Art of Time Ensemble, the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Belle & Sebastian, and ABBAMANIA.

Violist Laurence Schaufele, from Bow Island, Alta., is a second-year artist diploma student at GGS. He’s acted as principal violist of the Royal Conservatory Orchestra and played with many other orchestras in the Greater Toronto Area. Schaufele has played with the Afiara Quartet as part of the Discovery Series at Toronto’s Mazzoleni Hall, and performed in BACHanlia, which kicked off Koerner Hall’s 2012/2013 concert series.

On January 29, 2015, from 12 – 1 p.m., the COC’s Free Concert Series presents “Introducing the Academy.” The performance is free and takes place at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts (145 Queen St. W.). Admission is on a first-come, first-served basis, and concertgoers are encouraged to arrive early as late seating is not available.

Richard Wagner’s Die Walküre is opera at its most epic and returns to the COC for seven performances at the Four Seasons Centre, from January 31 – February 22, 2015. For information on regular-priced single tickets as well as 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.

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

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12/15/2014

COC DELIVERS OPERA AT ITS MOST EPIC WITH DIE WALKÜRE AND THE HOTLY ANTICIPATED ROLE DEBUT OF CHRISTINE GOERKE

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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.

TICKET INFORMATION

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.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

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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For more information or to request production photographs, 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

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