Parlando: The COC Blog


The Opera That Changed My Life: Field Trips

Interacting with opera from a young age has proven to be an important factor in developing a lifelong relationship with the art. A person's first opera experience, whether as a family outing or a school field trip, should be profound and memorable.

Margarete wolfram

Growing up in a tiny hamlet in post-war Germany, I was fortunate enough to have had a teacher who took the initiative of bringing art to our rural community. He founded a "cultural society," invited itinerant theatre groups to perform in our gym, and organized trips to visit the opera house in the nearest city. I was eight years old when I first attended Wagner's The Flying Dutchman, an experience that ignited in me a passion for opera that I later passed on to my children. I remember attending a performance of Hansel and Gretel at Harbourfront with the three of them. I left the performance temporarily because my youngest, who was only a babe in arms at the time, insisted on joining the vocalization he heard coming from the stage. About nine years later, he joined the singers as a member of the Canadian Children's Opera Chorus [Ed. Note: Now the Canadian Children's Opera Company], and in 1993 he was given the role of the second boy in the COC production of The Magic Flute. He has always remained an ardent opera fan. I consider him a good example that one cannot start early enough sowing the seeds of appreciation for the arts. 


Above: a scene from the COC's 2016 production of Carmen featuring the Canadian Children's Opera Company

Gail Rutenberg

It happened when I was still in public school...probably the late 1940s. Our school took us to a concert version of La Traviata at Massey Hall. We hadn't had any experience with live operatic voices but I was taking piano lessons and loved serious keyboard music. When I heard what I now know was the aria "Sempre Libera," I was entranced, and carried the song in my memory for years. I am now a devoted opera fan, and have enjoyed the COC's productions for years, have been to operas in many countries, and seek out concerts and recitals featuring operatic voices. I count myself as most fortunate to have had this gift which continues to enrich my life.

Above: a scene from the COC's 2015 production of La Traviata

Tell us about The Opera That Changed Your Life by e-mailing your own 100 to 200 word story. It may be featured in an upcoming Parlando post! Learn more here (here for mobile version).

Photo credits (top - bottom): a scene from Carmen (COC, 2016), photo: Gary Beechey; Roberto Gleadow as Dr. Grenvil and Ekaterina Siurina as Violetta in La Traviata (COC, 2015), photo: Michael Cooper

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The Opera That Changed My Life: BACK TO SCHOOL


School starts next week (or may have already started for some), and a course in French literature at Queen's University started a "lifetime joy" of opera for one person. 

M.L. Thurling

When I was attending Queen’s University in about 1960 I took a course in French Literature from the late Dr. Shortliffe who was a wonderful teacher. He was playing La Bohème one day when we walked in for his lecture. It was beautiful and he responded to our interest by telling us about the opera, describing the characters and pointing out the recurrent musical themes. It was transporting, unforgettable. Now I am a psychiatrist, and finding the themes of opera everywhere in the stories I hear. I attend the COC as a loyal subscriber and make trips to the Met as well to listen to what I love. It’s a lifetime joy. 

Above: A scene from the COC's 2013 production of La Bohème 

Tell us about The Opera That Changed Your Life by e-mailing your own 100 to 200 word story. It may be featured in an upcoming Parlando post! Learn more here (here for mobile version).

Photo credits (top - bottom): A scene from ​La Bohème (COC 2013), photo: Chris Hutcheson

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The Opera That Changed My Life: A Handel Moment in Canada


As we continue closer to the opening of the 2016/2017 season, we have a story of how Handel's Rinaldo on CBC Radio’s Saturday Afternoon at the Opera made COC Adult Programs Manager Gianmarco Segato a true blue opera aficionado. 

Gianmarco segato

COC Adult programs manager

Like many Canadians of my generation (born in the '60s, grew up in the '70s, started listening to classical music in my early 20s), my introduction to opera was via CBC Radio’s Saturday Afternoon at the Opera. I can pinpoint the broadcast that really turned me onto the art form—it would have been Handel’s Rinaldo transmitted live from the now late-lamented Ottawa Summer Festival in 1982. I’m quite certain I knew next to nothing about opera at the time but there was something about Handel’s jaunty melodies that grabbed my attention. I remember (and boy does this date me!) subsequently finding a cassette tape of highlights from Rinaldo in my university’s bookstore and listening to it obsessively.

Those fantastic arias are still embedded in my brain, though after 25 years of opera-going, I’ve still not seen Rinaldo live! Little did I know at the time but that Ottawa production was historic: the great mezzo-soprano Marilyn Horne was singing the title role; Benita Valente, a soprano I later became a big fan of, sang the ingénue role of Almirena, and legendary bass Samuel Ramey was the villainous Argante.

The production became Canada’s gift to the Metropolitan Opera on the occasion of its 100th anniversary where it played in 1984 with much the same cast. As things have turned out, I wouldn’t choose baroque opera as my favourite style of opera [though there’s still hope!] but it was certainly what triggered my lifelong love of this fabulous art form. 

(l-r) Benita Valente as Almirena and Marilyn Horne as Rinaldo in the Metropolitan Opera production of Rinaldo. 

Tell us about The Opera That Changed Your Life by e-mailing your own 100 to 200 word story. It may be featured in an upcoming Parlando post! Learn more here (here for mobile version).

Photo credits (top to bottom): Getty Images. 

Posted by COC Staff / in TOTCML / comments (0) / permalink

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Sara Fulgoni in the COC production of Bluebeard's Castle. Photo: Michael Cooper © 2001



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