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

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

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 Ashlie Corcoran (Artistic Director, Thousand Islands Playhouse); Linda and Michael Hutcheon (University of Toronto); Joel Ivany (Artistic Director, Against the Grain Theatre); Lawrence Wiliford (tenor); William Germano (Cooper Union); 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 production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni including star baritone, Russell Braun and director, Dmitri Tcherniakov.


  Canadian baritone Russell Braun last appeared with the COC as Ford in Falstaff. Other COC roles include the Duke of Nottingham in Roberto Devereux, Conte di Luna in Il Trovatore, Jaufré Rudel in Love from Afar, Orestes in Iphigenia in Tauris, Prince Andrei Bolkonsky in War and Peace, Pelléas in Pelléas et Mélisande, Count Almaviva in The Marriage of Figaro, Guglielmo in Così fan tutte, Enrico in Lucia di Lammermoor and the title role in Billy Budd. Recent appearances include Don Giovanni (Teatro Real); Chou En-lai in Nixon in China, Olivier in Capriccio and Valentin in Faust (Metropolitan Opera); the Prince in Offenbach’s Fantasio (Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment); and Lescaut in Manon (Teatro alla Scala).

Ashlie Corcoran is Artistic Director of the Thousand Islands Playhouse for which she has directed The Ugly One, She Loves Me, Waiting for The Parade, Driving Miss Daisy, Third Floor, The 25th Annual Putnam County and Salt-Water Moon.  She is also the Artistic Producer and founder of Toronto’s Dora Award winning Theatre Smash for which she has directed Tiny Dynamite, Tijuana Cure, A Boy Called Newfoundland and The Ugly One and produced Norway.Today.
Ashlie’s freelance directing includes The Gay Heritage Project at Buddies in Bad Times.  Ashlie also directs opera, including The Magic Flute at Opera Philadelphia; Don Giovanni, Le Lauréat and Three Sisters Who are Not Sisters at the Glenn Gould School, RCM and, The Bear, Cinderella, Isis & The Seven Scorpions, The Brothers Grimm and The Bremen Town Musicians at the Canadian Opera Company. Ashlie is a past Ensemble Studio member at the COC and was a Shaw Festival Director Intern.  She was nominated for a Dora Mavor Moore Award (for The Ugly One), was short-listed for the Pauline McGibbon Award and is a past Urjo Kareda Emerging Artist at the Tarragon Theatre.

William Germano is professor of English literature and Dean of Humanities and Social Sciences at Cooper Union in a country very close to Canada. He is completing a book called "Shakespeare at the Opera: Music  Drama, Bardolatry, and a History of Impossible Projects". He has published two books on professional scholarly writing, as well as a study of the film version of The Tales of Hoffmann for the BFI. In connection with COC productions he has given talks in Toronto on Wozzeck, Siegfried, and Nixon in China. His essays on opera have appeared in UTQ, Opera Quarterly, and Opera magazine. 

 Wayne Gooding is a Toronto-based writer and editor of the quarterly magazine, Opera Canada. In his earlier incarnation as a business journalist, he wrote for such publications as The Financial Post, Report on Business, Policy Options and Far Eastern Economic Review, and served as editor of Canadian Business, Marketing Magazine and Financial Post Magazine. Over the past decade, he has increasingly focused on a lifelong interest in opera and music theatre. Besides Opera Canada, his byline has appeared in Playbill, Opera Now and The Wagner Journal, among other publications, and he has given lectures and presentations across Canada. As a member of the COC Speakers Bureau, he gives pre-performance talks, Opera Talks at the North York Central Library, and contributes frequently to The Big COC Podcast.

Michael and Linda Hutcheon are a married couple who collaborate, across their different disciplines, to work on opera. Michael is Professor of Medicine and Linda is University Professor Emeritus of English and Comparative Literature, both at the University of Toronto. Aside from their “solo” careers, they have written books together on the intersection of medical and cultural history, using opera as their vehicle of choice: "Opera: Desire, Disease, Death" (1996); "Bodily Charm: Living Opera" (2000) and, "Opera: The Art of Dying" (2004). Their fourth book, "Four Last Songs: Aging and Creativity in Verdi, Strauss, Messiaen, Britten" will be published by the University of Chicago Press in April 2015.

Stage director Joel Ivany is the founder and artistic director of Against the Grain Theatre (AtG). He recently won the 2013 Dora Mavor Moore Award for Outstanding New Opera/Musical for AtG’s Figaro’s Wedding, and is the new program director/stage director of "Open Space: Opera in the 21st Century" at the Banff Centre. Joel was a finalist and prizewinner at the European Opera-Directing Prize for his concept of Bellini’s I Capuleti e i Montecchi. Recent directing credits include new productions of Verdi's Macbeth at Minnesota Opera, Les Contes d'Hoffmann for Edmonton Opera,  Carmen at Vancouver Opera and the world premiere of Gavin Bryars’ Marilyn Forever, based on the life of Marilyn Monroe,  in Victoria,  BC.

Nina Penner is finishing a Ph.D. in musicology at McGill University. Her work brings together musicology, philosophy, and literary theory to explore the nature of operatic storytelling. Drawing on examples from Wagner to Britten, she probes such topics as the role of narrators in opera and how the music and staging can align spectators with characters’ points of view. Regieoper has been a longstanding interest, although she regards it with more scepticism than many others in the academy. She has an article on opera in the special issue on song and singing in The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism.

Russian director and set and costume designer Dmitri Tcherniakov is making his COC debut. A graduate of the Russian Theatre Academy, he has received numerous awards for his opera and theatre productions and was named “Director of the Year” at the 2013 International Opera Awards. His productions include The Rake’s Progress, Wozzeck, Eugene Onegin and Ruslan and Ludmila (Bolshoi Theatre); Tristan und Isolde (Mariinsky Theatre); Aida (Novosibirsk Opera and Ballet Theatre); Boris Godunov, The Gambler and The Tsar’s Bride (Staatsoper Unter den Linden/SUL); Khovanschina and Dialogues des Carmélites (Bayerische Staatsoper); Macbeth (Opéra national de Paris); Jenůfa (Opernhaus Zürich); La Traviata (Teatro alla Scala); Simon Boccanegra (English National Opera and Bayerische Staatsoper); Don Giovanni (Festival d’Aix-en-Provence, Bolshoi Theatre and Teatro Real); The Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh (Dutch National Opera and Gran Teatre del Liceu); Il Trovatore (La Monnaie); and Prince Igor (Metropolitan Opera). Upcoming productions include Parsifal (SUL) and Lulu (Bayerische Staatsoper).

Lauded for his luminous projection, lyrical sensitivity, and brilliant coloratura, American-Canadian tenor Lawrence Wiliford is in high demand in concert, opera, and recital repertoire ranging from works by Monteverdi to contemporary composers. Some recent operatic roles include Albert Herring (Britten’s Albert Herring), Francis Flute (Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream), Peter Quint (Britten's The Turn of the Screw), Roy (Rolfe's Swoon), Leo (Blitzstein's Regina) Ferrando (Mozart's Così Fan Tutte), Belmonte and Pedrillo (Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail), Don Ottavio (Mozart’s Don Giovanni), Myrtil (Rameau’s La Guirlande), Pygmalion (Rameau’s Pygmalion), Acis and Damon (Handel’s Acis and Galatea) and Mercure (Lully’s Persée). In addition to his performing schedule, Lawrence is Co-Artistic Director of Canadian Art Song Project.

The COC’s Opera Exchange series is presented in collaboration with the Faculty of Music, University of Toronto and the Munk School of Global Affairs.

Russell Braun as Don Giovanni in the Canadian Opera Company/Teatro Real Madrid (TRM)/Festival d’Aix-en-Provence/Bolshoi Theatre co-production of Don Giovanni, 2013, TRM. Photo: Javier del Real

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