The Opera Exchange



Delve into the social, political and artistic implications of selected COC operas with international academics and members of the COC’s artistic and production teams.

April: Hercules

Coming Home: Handel's Hercules

The ancient Greek tragedian Sophocles was also a war general who knew first-hand the devastating psychological traumas that imperiled returning veterans. Celebrated director Peter Sellars’ new COC production of Hercules – Handel’s take on Sophocles’ play - confronts the untold horrors of war and the unspoken complications of reunion. Join us as we explore Hercules and examine music’s role, both historical and contemporary, in the rehabilitation and re-integration of those touched by war. Peter Sellars will be joined by former CBC war correspondent Brian Stewart, musicologists Kip Pegley and Susan McClary, 18th-century literary/drama scholar Brian Corman as well as veterans from World War II and the wars in Korea, Bosnia, and Afghanistan.

This event is part of the Munk School of Global Affairs’ series, 1914-1918: The Making of the Modern World which explores the effects of the First World War through the century.

Brian Corman is Professor of English and Dean of the School of Graduate Studies at the University of Toronto. He has published widely on British theatre of the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the theatre on which Handel based most of his dramatic works. His publications include essays on Henry Purcell and on the history of Handel’s theatre. He is currently working on theatre in the age of Queen Anne, the theatre that first welcomed Handel to London early in the eighteenth century.




Susan McClary is Professor of Music at Case Western Reserve University; she has also taught at the University of Minnesota, McGill University, and UCLA. Her research focuses on the cultural analysis of music, both the European canon and contemporary popular genres. In contrast with an aesthetic tradition that treats music as ineffable and transcendent, her work engages with the signifying dimensions of musical procedures and deals with this elusive medium as a set of social practices. Best known for her book Feminine Endings: Music, Gender, and Sexuality (1991), she is also author of Georges Bizet: Carmen (1992), Conventional Wisdom: The Content of Musical Form (2000), Modal Subjectivities: Renaissance Self- Fashioning in the Italian Madrigal (2004), Reading Music: Selected Essays (2007), Desire and Pleasure in Seventeenth-Century Music (2012), and editor of Structures of Feeling in Seventeenth-Century Expressive Culture (2012).  

Dr. Kip Pegley is an associate professor in the School of Music at Queen's University and a researcher at the Canadian Institute for Military and Veteran Health Research. In 2011, she began a research program funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada in which she explores the relationship between music, war and Canadian identity. She is also the co-editor of a volume entitled Music, Politics and Violence (Wesleyan University Press, 2012) that examines the role of music in both advancing and opposing a range of 20th and 21st-century  political conflicts.


American opera, theatre, and festival director Peter Sellars made his COC debut in 2013 with his production of Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde and returns this spring for Hercules. He has staged productions at the Glyndebourne Festival, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Dutch National Opera, Amsterdam, Opéra national de Paris, Salzburg Festival, Santa Fe Opera, and San Francisco Opera, among others. Inspired by the compositions of Kaija Saariaho, Osvaldo Golijov and Tan Dun, he has guided the creation of productions of their work, expanding the repertoire of modern opera. Collaborations with composer John Adams include Nixon in China, The Death of Klinghoffer, El Niño, Doctor Atomic, and A Flowering Tree. Their latest work, The Gospel According to the Other Mary, appeared in the U.S. and Europe in 2013. Recent projects include an acclaimed concert staging of Bach’s Saint Matthew Passion (Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra), stagings of Nixon in China (Metropolitan Opera), George Crumb’s The Winds of Destiny (Ojai Music Festival) and new productions of Handel’s Hercules (Chicago) and Vivaldi’s Griselda (Santa Fe).

Brian Stewart is a former foreign affairs reporter and senior correspondent for CBC TV News. He is currently a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Munk School of Global Affairs. Mr. Stewart is one of this country’s most respected foreign correspondents, and a past Gemini winner as Canada’s Best Overall Broadcast Journalist. For over three decades Mr. Stewart has covered many of the world's humanitarian crises and political conflicts.  His work has taken him into 10 war zones, from El Salvador to Beirut and Afghanistan. He was the first North American reporter to focus the world’s attention on the 1984 Ethiopian Famine. He has filed award-winning reports from Sudan, where he covered child slavery during their Civil War; and from Rwanda, where he exposed advanced warnings of the mass murders. Though now retired from daily journalism, Stewart continues to write a regular column for on international affairs and frequently contributes to CBC documentary and news reports. In 2012 he was awarded the Queens Diamond Jubilee medal and this year the Order of Ontario.

Friday, April 4, 2014, 9:30 a.m.-4:00 p.m.

Vivian and David Campbell Conference Facility, Munk School of Global Affairs
1 Devonshire Place (Trinity College location)
Toronto, ON M5S 3K7


This event has finished, but please feel free to watch the entire event in the video below.

The Opera Exchange is presented in partnership with the Munk School of Global Affairs.

Alice Coote as Dejanira and Eric Owens as Hercules in the Canadian Opera Company/Lyric Opera of Chicago (LOC) co-production of Hercules, 2011, LOC. Photo: Dan Rest


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