Storified by CanadianOperaCompany· Fri, Jan 25 2013 12:52:42
The COC’s 13/14 season openswith one of opera’s favourite and most poignant love stories, Puccini’s La Bohème. This masterpiece of youthful flirtation,passionate love and heartbreaking tragedy was last performed by the COC in 2009and returns in a new company production directed by Tony Award-winning directorJohn Caird (Don Carlos,2007). One of the leading conductors ofhis generation, Italian Carlo Rizzi, leads the COC Orchestra andChorus. The sets and costumes thatcapture the romance of France’s BelleÉpoque are created by OlivierAward-winning and Tony Award-nominated designer David Farley. Making theirCOC debuts in the role of the fragile seamstress Mimì are two recent graduatesof the Metropolitan Opera’s prestigious Lindemann Young Artist DevelopmentProgram, already acclaimed for their renditions of this starring role: Italiansoprano Grazia Doronzio and Canadiansoprano Joyce El-Khoury. The role of the poet Rodolfo, Mimì’slover, is sung by tworising young tenors, Mexican DavidLomelí (Rigoletto, 2011) andRomanian TeodorIlincăi. Also appearing as the flirtatious singer Musetta, El-Khoury shares the role with COCEnsemble Studio graduate soprano SimoneOsborne (Gianni Schicchi, 2012; Rigoletto, 2011; The Magic Flute, 2011). In the role of the painter Marcello, Musetta’s lover, aretwo standout Canadian baritones: JoshuaHopkins (Carmen, 2005) and, in acompany debut, Phillip Addis. The role of the philosopher Colline is sharedby two celebrated bass-baritones: American ChristianVan Horn (Tosca, 2012) andCanadian Tom Corbeil (Death in Venice, 2010). Addisalso takes on the role of the musician Schaunard. This production of La Bohème is a COCco-production with Houston Grand Opera and San Francisco Opera.
Renowned Canadian film andstage director Atom Egoyan (directing Salome, 2013) returns to the COC with a new production of Mozart’s sublimemusical depiction of the frailties of the human condition, Così fan tutte. Egoyan’s concept takes its inspiration fromthe opera’s subtitle, The School for Lovers. He approaches the production as one wherelove is examined, dissected and manipulated, exploring the themes of love,temptation and deceit in this wry comedy about two couples gambling with oneanother’s faith and desire. Award-winningset and costume designer Debra Hanson makes her opera debut with Così fan tutte and, with Egoyan,creates a production that stylistically progresses through time from the18th-century to present day. Led by COCMusic Director Johannes Debus with the COC Orchestra and Chorus, thisnew production features a cast of up-and-coming opera talent in the roles ofthe young lovers, alongside distinguished veterans. Cast as the sisters are two Canadians:soprano Layla Claire in her COC debut as Fiordiligi and Ensemble Studiograduate mezzo-soprano Wallis Giunta (Annio in La clemenza di Tito, 2013) as Dorabella. Singing the roles of the sisters’ two suitorsare American tenor Paul Appleby in his COC debut as Ferrando and COCEnsemble graduate bass-baritone Robert Gleadow (Steersman in Tristan und Isolde, 2013; Publio in La clemenza di Tito, 2013) asGuglielmo. World-renowned Canadian sopranoTracy Dahl makes a highly anticipated return to the COC stage after a19-year-long absence, in the role of the conniving Despina. Sir Thomas Allen, one of the finestlyric baritones on the world stage, makes his COC debut as the wily DonAlfonso. COC resident conductor DerekBate leads the COC Orchestra and Chorus for one performance.
Incontrast with Mozart’s tale of young, uncertain love, the COC’s 13/14 winterseason continues with Verdi’s more mature and bittersweet story of forbiddenpassion, Un ballo in maschera. Requiring singers who can mine vast reserves of musical power andsensitivity, the COC has cast one of the world’s best dramatic sopranos,Canadian Adrianne Pieczonka (Tosca, 2012; Ariadne auf Naxos, 2011), and tenor Dimitri Pittas (Rigoletto,2011) as the opera’s two lovers embroiled in political intrigue beyond theircontrol. Pieczonka and Pittasmake their role debuts as Amelia and Riccardo. British baritone Roland Woodis Renato, Amelia’s husband, acclaimed Canadian mezzo-soprano Marie-Nicole Lemieux (Rodelinda, Tancredi, 2005) is the fortune-teller Ulrica, and rising sopranostar Ensemble Studio graduate SimoneOsborne is Oscar, the page. Notunlike the opera’s plot itself, political machinations have played a huge rolein Unballo in maschera’s history. Originally forced to change the opera’s setting to Boston from Sweden toquell censors’ fears of real-life assassination plots, Verdi and his opera areproof that his theme of “love in a dangerous time” is both a universal truthand historically fluid. In this samespirit, acclaimed directing duo JossiWieler and Sergio Morabito haverevealed a layer of political and historical relevance to the plot by placingthis Berlin Staatsoper production in the American South of the 1960s, with itsundertones of Kennedy-era tensions, assassinations and power plays. StephenLord (conducting Lucia di Lammermoor,2013), one of America’s most distinguished conductors of opera today, returnsto lead the COC Orchestra and Chorus. Unballo in maschera was last performed at the COC in 2003.
Internationallyrenowned director Peter Sellars(directing Tristan und Isolde, 2013)returns to the opera company with a new production of Handel’s Hercules. Sellarspropels the incendiary Greek myth of Hercules into the modern day, giving voiceto the untold horrors of war and the unspoken complications faced by veteransreturning home. With his frequentcollaborators, set designer GeorgeTsypin, costume designer DunyaRamicova and lighting designer JamesF. Ingalls, Sellars has createda minimalist production that evokes ancient Greece while still locating theaction clearly in the present. Thisco-production with Lyric Opera of Chicago earned unequivocal praise when itopened in Chicago in 2011. “An opera performance this great is plenty rare. Butopera capable of inspiring moral action is for the ages,” said the Los Angeles Times while the Chicago Sun-Times described it as a productionthat “will follow you home and keep you thinking as well.” The same star-studded cast from Chicago taketo the COC mainstage: American bass-baritone Eric Owens makes his COC debut as Hercules; British mezzo-soprano Alice Coote (Ariadne auf Naxos, 2011) is Hercules’s wife Dejanira; Americancountertenor David Daniels (Xerxes, 1999) returns to the COC as Hercules’strusted aide, Lichas; American tenor RichardCroft (Così fan tutte, 1991)returns as Hercules’s son, Hyllus; and British soprano Lucy Crowe makes her COC debut as Iole, the princess whose fatherdied at Hercules’s hand. ConductingHandel’s glorious music is internationally renowned Baroque specialist and COCfavourite Harry Bicket (Orfeo ed Euridice, 2011; Idomeneo, 2009; Rodelinda, 2005).
ItalianFerruccio Furlanetto, the world’spre-eminent bass, makes his COC debut in the title role of Massenet’s intenselymoving Don Quichotte, which closes the COC’s 13/14 season. Massenet’s autumnal outpouring of lushmelody, based on Cervantes’ iconic novel about the idealistic dreamer, DonQuixote, also stars Metropolitan Opera star, Russian mezzo-soprano Ekaterina Gubanova, in her COC debut asDulcinée. American baritone Quinn Kelsey, acclaimed for his COCperformances as Rigoletto in 2011, returns to makes his role debut as SanchoPanza. American director Linda Brovsky makes her COC debut withthis enchanting production where characters spring out of giant leather-boundstorybooks and windmills are fashioned from oversized quills. COC Music Director Johannes Debus leads the COC Orchestra and Chorus through a scorethat represents Massenet’s tribute to the last days of chivalry, but also hisown poignant farewell to a soon-to-be-lost golden age of FrenchRomanticism.
The COC’s new production of La Bohème has been generously underwritten by Jerry and Geraldine Heffernan
The COC’s new production of Così fan tutte has been generously underwritten in part by BMO Financial Group
Un ballo in maschera Production Sponsor: CIBC
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
Official Media Sponsors: CTV and The Globe and Mail
Digital Marketing Sponsor: Delvinia
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 and other generous
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The Tales of Hoffmann has completed its run and there are only a handful of performances left of A Florentine Tragedy/Gianni Schicchi and Semele. But when our season is over, there's still some more opera to see - and we recommend you check out this production of Britten's The Turn of the Screw, mounted by Against the Grain Theatre.
The Turn of the Screw is an unsettling ghost-story classic based on the novella by Henry James, with a Britten score that is by turns chilling and ravishing. The cast and creative team features lots of Ensemble Studio alums and COC favourites, including Joel Ivany (director), Christopher Mokrzewski (piano), Miriam Khalil (The Governess), Megan Latham (Mrs. Grose), Michael Barrett (Peter Quint), and Betty Allison (Miss Jessel). The performances will take place May 24 to 27 at the intimate Helen Gardiner Phelan Playhouse on the UofT campus.
You can buy tickets here. For a sampling of the music, check out this video from LA Opera:
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Sara Fulgoni in the COC production of Bluebeard's Castle. Photo: Michael Cooper © 2001