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.

September: Opera for Laughs: Verdi’s Falstaff and the Staging of Comedy

Saturday, September 27, 2014, 1:00 p.m.-4:00 p.m.

Walter Hall, Edward Johnson Building, Faculty of Music, University of Toronto,
80 Queen’s Park Cres.

Tickets: $20/person; $15 for university faculty and $10 for full-time students with i.d.; free for University of Toronto faculty and full-time students with i.d.

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The Canadian Opera Company’s renowned Opera Exchange launches its 12th season with an exploration of humour in opera, in honour of the COC’s new production of Verdi’s rollicking comedy, Falstaff. The afternoon event features engaging presentations by a Verdi scholar and an Italian comic opera specialist, as well as a roundtable discussion on comedy and opera with director Michael Albano, COC SURTITLES™ producer Gunta Dreifelds and music historian/ethnomusicologist Keith Johnston. Additional highlights include a performance by singers from the University of Toronto’s Opera Division of scenes from comic opera, and a panel discussion with members of the cast and creative team from the COC’s production of Falstaff including director, Robert Carsen.

As a bonus feature of this Opera Exchange event, each attendee will also receive an advance ticket to the COC’s Culture Days activity, running from 6:30 – 9 p.m. following the Exchange. The Culture Days event includes the opportunity to observe a working rehearsal of Falstaff at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts.


 Michael Patrick Albano is the resident stage director of the opera program at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Music, where he has staged over thirty operas. Additional directorial credits include Il barbiere di Siviglia for the New York City Opera, La belle Hélène for the Opera Theatre of St. Louis, and a new dialogue version of Die Fledermaus for the Kentucky Opera. For the Canadian Opera Company he has directed La Bohème, Gianni Schicchi, Swoon, Il barbiere di Siviglia and Così fan tutte. As a librettist, his Footsteps in Campbell House will be presented at Toronto’s historic Campbell House in January of 2015 as well as a full length opera, Fall River, the Legend of Lizzie Borden.

Canadian theatre and opera director Robert Carsen last appeared with the COC for Dialogues des Carmélites. Other COC credits include Iphigenia in Tauris, Orfeo ed Euridice, Mario and the Magician and Kát’a Kabanová. He recently directed The Queen of Spades (Opernhaus Zürich); Platée (Opéra Comique); From the House of the Dead (Opéra du Rhin);  Rinaldo (Glyndebourne Festival); Rigoletto (Festival d’Aix-en-Provence);  Elektra and Die Zauberflöte (Opéra national de Paris); The Turn of the Screw (also designer; Theater an der Wien); Don Giovanni (Teatro alla Scala), L'amour des Trois Oranges (Deutsche Oper); Ariadne auf Naxos (Bayerische Staatsoper) My Fair Lady and Candide (Théâtre du Châtelet). Future projects include Campra’s Les fêtes vénitiennes (Opéra Comique); Singin’ in the Rain (Théâtre du Châtelet); and the world premiere of Giorgio Battistelli’s CO2 (Teatro alla Scala).

Gunta Dreifelds has worked at the COC since 1980. She was part of the team, along with Lotfi Mansouri and John Leberg, who invented SURTITLES™ which had their world premiere at the COC’s production of  Richard Strauss’ Elektra in 1983. For the past decade, she has also produced surtitles for Théâtre Français de Toronto. Other surtitle credits include the Toronto Symphony concert versions of The Magic Flute, La Vida Breve, Porgy and Bess, and in the 2014-15 season, George Benjamin's Written on Skin. a previous life she was a research assistant to the now ex-president of Latvia, Vaira VIkis-Freibergs at L'Univérsité de Montréal.

Keith Johnston’s research seeks to reconstruct the contexts and meanings of Italian musical comedy.  His work on Molière, the commedia dell’arte, and the comic intermezzo has been published in Music & Letters.  Right now Keith is working on a research project that pieces together a potential poetics of early eighteenth-century comic opera.  Currently a Visiting Assistant Professor at Stony Brook University, Keith previously taught at Western University.  He received his Ph.D. at the University of Toronto.

Dr. Maria Anne Purciello is an assistant professor at the University of Delaware whose research focuses on the development of the operatic genre, with particular emphasis on the musical and dramatic manifestation of comedy.  Drawing on a host of classical and contemporary sources in intellectual history, literature, theater, and dance, she examines the literary and dramatic ideas commonly utilized by librettists and composers in order to better understand the ways in which comedy has historically functioned within opera.  She has presented her research in the U.S. and Europe and is currently working on a book entitled "Artificio o Naturalezza? Comedy and Verisimilitude in Seventeenth-century Opera".

Emanuele Senici is a music historian whose writings centre on Italian opera from Mozart to Puccini. He has focused on the cultural history of opera, especially questions of genre, gender, and nationalism. A few recent essays explore videos of live opera performances, and opera on Italian television. His article “Verdi’s Falstaff at Italy’s Fin de Siècle” was awarded the Jerome Roche Prize of the Royal Musical Association in 2002. He taught at Oxford for a decade, and is now Professor of Music History at the University of Rome La Sapienza.

Presented as part of the Jackman Humanities Institute series “On a Lighter Note: The Musical Performance of Humour.”

January: Directors Take the Stage: Debating Regieoper

Regieoper, or “director’s opera” is without a doubt the most polarizing topic in the opera world today. Join us for what promises to be a lively, engaging, and no doubt controversial afternoon of talks and discussion about the role of the stage director in contemporary opera production. Guests include Linda and Michael Hutcheon (University of Toronto); Jennifer Tarver (Artistic Director, Necessary Angel Theatre Company); Joel Ivany (Artistic Director, Against the Grain Theatre); Lawrence Wiliford (tenor); Nina Penner (McGill University) and, Wayne Gooding (editor, Opera Canada). The afternoon also features a panel discussion with members of the cast and creative team for the COC’s new, Dmitri Tcherniakov production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni including star baritone, Russell Braun.

Saturday, January 17, 2015, 1:00 p.m.-4:00 p.m.

Walter Hall, Edward Johnson Building, University of Toronto Faculty of Music,
80 Queen’s Park Cres.

Tickets: $20/person; $15 for university faculty and $10 for full-time students with i.d.; free for University of Toronto Faculty of Music faculty and full-time students with i.d.

Buy tickets now

The COC’s Opera Exchange series is presented in collaboration with the Faculty of Music, University of Toronto; the Munk School of Global Affairs; and the Jackman Humanities Institute Program for the Arts.

Ambrogio Maestri as Sir John Falstaff  in the Canadian Opera Company/Royal Opera House, Covent Garden (ROH)/Metropolitan Opera/Teatro alla Scala/Dutch National Opera co-production of Falstaff, 2012, ROH. Photo: Catherine Ashmore

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