Parlando: The COC Blog


The 2017 Christina and Louis Quilico Awards

On February 13, the rising stars of the Ensemble Studio competed in the fourth biennial Christina and Louis Quilico Awards. The singers were accompanied by Ensemble Studio pianists/intern coaches Hyejin Kwon and Stéphane Mayer, and the evening was judged by COC General Director Alexander Neef, COC Chorus Master Sandra Horst, and internationally acclaimed soprano Adrianne Pieczonka. Mezzo-soprano Emily D'Angelo and soprano Danika Lorèn shared the top prize, taking home $4,000 each, while tenor Charles Sy won $2,000. The event took place in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts as a part of the Free Concert Series. Here are some of our favourite photos from the evening!

Emily D'Angelo – Mezzo-Soprano

Emily D'Angelo, accompanied here by Stéphane Mayer, sang "Non piú mesta" from Rossini's La Cenerentola and "Coeur sans amour" from Massenet's Cendrillon.


Danika Lorèn, accompanied here by Hyejin Kwon, sang "Il primo ardor" from Handel's Ariodante and "Caro nome" from Verdi's Rigoletto.


Charles Sy, accompanied here by Stéphane Mayer, prepared "I must with speed amuse her" from Handel's Semele and "Ah! Lève-toi, soleil!" from Gounod's Roméo et Juliette.

Lauren Eberwein – Mezzo-soprano

Lauren Eberwein, accompanied here by Hyejin Kwon with Stéphane Mayer page-turning, prepared "Wie du warst" from Strauss' Der Rosenkavalier and "Sgombra è la sacra selva" from Bellini's Norma.


Bruno Roy sang "Oh! Oh! Qu'est-ce que c'est?" from Debussy's Pelléas et Mélisande and "Lieben, Hassen, Hoffen, Zagen" from Strauss' Ariadne auf Naxos.

This year's competition was generously supported by Burgundy Asset Management and Gluskin Sheff Asset Management and was administered by the Ontario Arts Foundation.

Banner photo: (l-r) Ontario Arts Foundation Executive Director Alan Walker, Christina Petrowska Quilico, Charles Sy, COC Chorus Master Sandra Horst, Danika Lorèn and Emily D'Angelo, Adrianne Pieczonka, and COC General Director Alexander Neef. All photos by Chris Hutcheson.

Posted by Tanner Davies / in Free Concert Series / comments (0) / permalink


Get to Know Andrew Haji!


Tenor Andrew Haji is certainly keeping himself busy at the COC lately. As if playing the role of Tamino in our current production of The Magic Flute was not enough, Andrew is also performing a recital of love songs on February 14 as a part of the Free Concert Series, returning this spring to sing Gabriel Dumont in Louis Riel, and preparing for the role of Nemorino in our production of The Elixir of Love next season! Why not get to know a little more about this former Ensemble Studio member who is becoming one of Canada's great opera singers?

What is your go to song for karaoke?

"Circle of Life" from The Lion King

What is the best advice you've been given?

Follow your heart

If you weren't an opera singer, you would be...?

An IT consultant

What is your dream operatic role, regardless of voice type?

Rodolfo from La Bohème

What book have you read again and again?

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

iPhone or Android?

iPhone up until now, but Android is growing on me!

You can only watch one movie/TV show for the rest of your life. What move/TV show would that be?

Star Trek: The Next Generation

If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?

New Zealand

What sequel to an opera would you like to see happen?

The Marriage of Figaro II: Basilio's Revenge

Who are three people, alive or dead or fictional, that you would like to have dinner with?

Luciano Pavarotti, Steve Jobs, and Captain Jean-Luc Picard

What is the farthest you have been from home?

Athens, Greece

What's your favourite sports team?

Any Toronto team, as long as they're winning

Any pre-performance or post-performance rituals?

Rest, water, and deep breathing

If you were in a boy band, what would the band's name be?

was in a boy band! We called ourselves "Shades of Black." Don't ask me why.

What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?

I have webbed toes.

What would be the title of your autobiography?

A Pirate's Life for Me—Living on the High Cs!

What's something that you have always wanted to try but you've been too scared to do?

Eating a durian.

What is one piece of advice for Tamino?

Start learning how to play the flute!

See Andrew Haji as Tamino in The Magic Flute, on stage now at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts until February 24! For more information and tickets, click here

Andrew is set to perform the role of Nemorino in Donizetti's The Elixir of Love during the 2017 Fall season! Click here for more information on subscribing to the 17/18 Season to see this and more.

Finally, Andrew is performing a solo recital of love songs, accompanied by Head of the Ensemble Studio, Liz Upchurch, on Valentine's Day! This recital is a part of the Free Concert Series in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre. For more information on attending this free performance, click here.

Photo credits (top - bottom): Andrew Haji in The Magic Flute (COC, 2017), photo by Michael Cooper; Andrew Haji and Elena Tsallagova in The Magic Flute (COC, 2017), photo by Chris Hutcheson; The members of Shades of Black; Andrew Haji and Elena Tsallagova in The Magic Flute (COC, 2017), photo by Michael Cooper.

Posted by Tanner Davies / in The Magic Flute / comments (0) / permalink


Nine Things About Götterdämmerung!

By Nikita Gourski, Development Communications Officer 

Deceit, betrayal, and revenge—assisted by magic potions—drive the drama in this final instalment of Siegfried’s journey. Do you need to brush up on your Ring Cycle knowledge or simply want to learn more about our upcoming production? Here are Nine Things About Götterdämmerung!

Wagner’s Far-reaching influence

Richard Wagner (1813–1883) is without a doubt one of the most important and controversial artists in human history. His influence extends far beyond music and has touched all aspects of modern culture, from literature, poetry, fine arts, and cinema, to literary theory, politics, philosophy, and more. Renowned music critic Andrew Porter has claimed that “No artist has been more influential than Wagner.”

The Ring Cycle comes to a close  

Der Ring des Nibelungen, Wagner’s massive cycle comprising four interconnected operas, took approximately 26 years to compose. Music critic Alex Ross has pointed out that the Ring’s entire score is “more than two thousand printed pages [and if the music were played from beginning to end] would last from morning until midnight… arguably, the most ambitious work of art ever attempted.” The COC opened its opera house, the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, with the Ring Cycle in 2006 and more recently presented three of the Ring’s four operas over consecutive seasons: Die Walküre (2015), Siegfried (2016), and Götterdämmerung (2017).

It’s the end of the world

In Götterdämmerung, which translates to “Twilight of the Gods,” the multi-generational epic that began with Wotan’s theft of a magic ring—precipitating a curse and prophesy of doom—comes to a stunning resolution that sees the world of gods and humans falling to the flames of destruction. Yet the end is also the beginning, as the opera leaves open the possibility of rebirth and renewal, and perhaps a better world to be remade from the debris of our faults.

Text backwards, music forwards

In one sense, Wagner wrote his Ring Cycle “backwards,” starting with the end of Götterdämmerung and elaborating the events that took place before its conclusion. Once he had the text of the narrative written, he began to compose the music going “forwards.” Yet the process wasn’t as linear or simple as the music fitting to an unchanging textual mould. Over time—more than two decades of work—Wagner’s philosophical outlook, musical style, and worldview all went through significant, sometimes intense, changes; the text was altered and revised, reduced and expanded, revised again, becoming layered with the accumulated history of a shifting psyche and an evolving personal and political consciousness. Most notably Wagner experimented with many variations on Götterdämmerung’s ending, which ran the gamut from uplifting optimism, in its initial incarnation, to later expressions of resigned fatalism. Ultimately he settled on an option of rich ambiguity, prioritizing musical expression over any definitive textual summation: “[Understanding the opera’s conclusion] is more a matter of feeling than of subtle arguments… I have once again realized how much of the work’s meaning is made clear only by the music.”

The pinnacle of Wagner’s art

Götterdämmerung features some of the most complex and riveting music in the operatic repertoire, including Siegfried’s “Funeral March”—an orchestral showcase which offers a musical retrospective of the Ring itself—as well as Brünnhilde’s famous “Immolation” scene, a powerful aria in which she restores order to the world and joins Siegfried on his burning pyre in an act of profound sacrifice.

A debut for Johannes Debus

With this production, COC Music Director Johannes Debus conducts his first Götterdämmerung. During our recent multi-season exploration of the Ring Cycle, Debus has been at the podium for both Die Walküre and Siegfried, earning extensive acclaim for his work. “A piece like Götterdämmerung is far more universal than I expected. That’s the thing that surprised me. We all know that Wagner was highly interested in Greek tragedy. And that’s what he goes back to—those really elementary everlasting human questions. At the end of the opera, as depressing as it has been, you can see a sign, I think, that says, ‘Hope. …’”  

A highly acclaimed production

Director Tim Albery’s vision for Götterdämmerung was first presented by the COC in winter 2006, and then in fall 2006 as part of the company’s full Ring Cycle. It has been called “as stunning a feat of staging as [has been] seen in Toronto” (National Post), with critics singling out that “the great virtue of Albery’s production is the urgency and absolutely clarity of the storytelling” (Opera News), while also noting the presentation as a whole represents “the COC’s proudest hour” (Globe and Mail).

Visual language of the modern

The production designer Michael Levine worked on all four COC Ring operas, acting as a unifying architect of the cycle and giving it a coherent visual progression from opera to opera. He sets Götterdämmerung in a world that is recognizably ours, sleekly corporate and computerized, with business suits and modern dress. Yet the use of space and shadow, the dramatic lighting by designer David Finn, also produces an undercurrent of strangeness, as if this is a world that touches ours but simultaneously remains of another realm entirely.

A generation-defining cast of voices  

American soprano Christine Goerke as Brünnhilde

“Everything a great Brünnhilde must have: dignity, stature, and a voice of molten gold” (Toronto Star); “a once-in-a-decade experience” (Globe and Mail)

Austrian tenor Andreas Schager in his COC debut as Siegfried

Establishing himself as one of the world’s leading heroic tenors: a “discovery” (The Arts Desk) and “a big star in the making” (The Independent)

German baritone Martin Gantner as Gunther

Internationally renowned at the world’s most important opera houses, such as Bayerische Staatsoper, Opéra National de Paris, Opernhaus Zürich, Metropolitan Opera, etc.

Estonian bass Ain Anger in his COC debut as Hagen

“One of the great opera basses of our time” (The Guardian) makes his Canadian and role debut

Canadian bass Robert Pomakov as Alberich

“A talent to watch” (Washington Post)

Canadian soprano Ileana Montalbetti as Gutrune

COC Ensemble Studio graduate, whose performance as Ellen Orford in the COC’s Peter Grimes (2013) was “in the realm of greatness” (Toronto Star)


Götterdämmerung is on stage at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts from February 2 to 25. For more information and to purchase tickets, click here.

Photo credits (top - bottom): (l-r) Robert Pomakov and Ain Anger in Götterdämmerung (COC, 2017), photo by Michael Cooper; (l-r) Lauren Eberwein, Danika Lorèn and Lindsay Ammann in Götterdämmerung (COC, 2017), photo by Michael Cooper; (l-r, foreground) Christine Goerke, Andreas Schager and Ileana Montalbetti in Götterdämmerung (COC, 2017), photo by Michael Cooper; Ain Anger (far left) in Götterdämmerung (COC, 2017), photo by Michael Cooper.

Posted by Tanner Davies / in Gotterdammerung / 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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