Parlando: The COC Blog


The Opera That Changed My Life: Wagner Lovers


We all know there are many different kinds of opera lovers and it definitely takes a specific type of person to fall in love with Wagner! As our production of Götterdämmerung comes to a close, we wanted to share the moments when two opera lovers became devoted Wagnerites.

Peter Hunt 

I was 22 and walking past the old amphitheatre entrance at the Royal Opera House in London. A guy waved a ticket and said "it’s a good seat and only 30 bob!" I had nothing better planned and had been to a few operas but didn't know any Wagner. It started five minutes later, which is why he was in a hurry to sell. No surtitles and I didn't know what it was about. Anyway, [Birgit] Nilsson, [Gottlieb] Frick, [Wolfgang] Windgassen with Rita Hunter and Gwyneth Jones as Rhinemaidens or Norns, or both. [Georg] Solti conducting with demonic power. It blew my mind, even if I understood nothing.

I have been going to opera ever since, all over the world and averaging nearly 100 nights a year recently, trying to include a Ring Cycle every year. [Last summer I saw] the beautiful [Die] Meistersinger [von Nürnberg] opening night at Glyndebourne [Festival] with top headliners Gerry [Gerald Finley] and Michael [Schade]. It is awesome to have such marvelous Canadians everywhere!

I have been a COC subscriber for around 35 years now.

Above: a trailer for Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg as a part of the 2016 Glyndebourne Festival.

Shant Alajajian

I was once cautioned against taking up with Wagner. Folks had talked of his ponderous works, his megalomania; his disregard for one’s demanding schedule and attention span, but perhaps it was exactly these qualities that attracted me to him. Tristan and Isolde opened up for me the metaphysics of music, the philosophies of Schopenhauer and Buddhism, and following from that, the realization that the folly of man arises from his insatiable desires, and that love, above all else, remains a redeeming quality in him. Tristan and Isolde is purely sublime. There is really no other way to describe it. This opera comes straight from the mind of an unquestionable genius, a man who undoubtedly succumbed to his prejudices, but who set music alight, and revolutionized it for the delight of modern audiences.


Photo credits (top - bottom): Ain Anger (left) in Götterdämmerung (COC, 2017), photo by Michael Cooper; Melanie Diener and Ben Heppner in Tristan und Isolde (COC, 2013), photo by Michael Cooper. 

Posted by Tanner Davies / in TOTCML / comments (0) / permalink


The Opera That Changed My Life: Mozart Magic

As our production of The Magic Flute closes, we wanted to share some life-changing operatic moments our patrons have had with the great Mozart, and more! From The Marriage of Figaro to The Magic Flute, where would the opera world be without this masterful genius?

Ernst Eder

Our most memorable so far: The Magic Flute, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, at the Vienna State Opera (Staatsoper) a few years ago. The music, acting and singing were superb. The costumes were fairly traditional: Papageno and Papagena in their usual feathered suits, Sarastro in a white flowing gown, and so on. The staging was unusual—the sets were almost surrealistic, but appropriate. For instance, the “cave” in the last act was a big cube box on a skewed angle, with entrance and exit on two opposing sides, flanked by sloping ramps on which the guards stood. Altogether, it was an inspiring and uplifting experience for the pair of us.


Tereza Coutinho 

The first opera I ever attended was The Magic Flute in Vienna on my 20th birthday (in 1981) during a year-long, post-secondary European trek. I knew nothing about opera but was mesmerized by the Queen of the Night and the ensemble singing. I became an instant, life-long fan of Mozart's operas. When I moved to Toronto that same year to attend university my sister was working for the costume department at COC. Through her I was able to attend Jenůfa in 1982 which was staged in English (these were pre-SURTITLES​TM days!) The opera spoke to me in a profound way. I became a devotee of opera in general and of the Eastern European composers in particular. I have been able to see Jenůfa at least one more time since then; it was just as powerful as I remembered it to be. 

I have been attending COC productions ever since and am a subscriber now. Thanks for the opportunity to share my story.


Leandro Pinero

At 15 years old, I did not have too much of an idea what opera was. My friend from Catholic school played for me some beautiful arias, so at a Sunday matinee I got a stand-up ticket in the fourth ring. There were no subtitles at that time. It was The Marriage of Figaro with Victoria de Los Angeles and Christa Ludwig still singing in my mind.

The opera that stood my hair up was Turandot with Montserrat Caballé and Birgit Nilsson. After that I spent the rest of my teen years and youth at the theatre—on my feet. I also spent a few years studying classical dance with one of the maestros of this opera house. I can't live without music and am now taking vocal lessons at the age of 67—discovering my strong bass. I have been a COC subscriber for a long time.


Above: Montserrat Caballé singing "Signore ascolta" from Turandot during a 1975 concert at the Gran Teatre del Liceu.  

Photo credits (top - bottom): Owen McCausland and Kirsten MacKinnon in The Magic Flute (COC, 2017), photo by Michael Cooper; Jacqueline Woodley and Joshua Hopkins in The Magic Flute (COC, 2017), photo by Michael Cooper; Ambur Braid in The Magic Flute (COC, 2017), photo by Gary Beechey.

Posted by Tanner Davies / in TOTCML / comments (0) / permalink


Flute Flashback: 65 Years of Magic at the COC

By Kristin McKinnon, Publicist & Publications Co-ordinator 

This season marks the 65th anniversary of the COC's very first presentation of The Magic Flute. Since 1952, the COC has presented at least seven productions of Mozart's final and most popular opera, including an exclusive Ensemble Studio production and a school tour adaptation for young people. Join us for a trip down memory lane as we revisit some of the COC's most memorable Magic Flute moments.


The COC's first ever production of The Magic Flute took place in February 1952 at the Royal Alexandra Theatre as part of the company's third season, back when it was known as the Opera Festival Association of Toronto. Directed by the COC's co-founder and, later, artist director Herman Geiger-Torel, the opera was sung in English and starred Mary Morrison as Pamina, Robert Price as Tamino, and Lois Marshall as the Queen of the Night. Don Garrard, one of the high priests, would also go on to enjoy an international career.



Left: the Three Ladies played by (l-r) Jean MacPhail, Carol Anne Curry and Claudette Leblanc, were an imposing presence in the COC's 1977 production directed by Bliss Herbert. Right: Peter Barcza's Papageno in 1977 was especially bird-like, while Patricia Wells' Pamina radiated 1970s glamour. Both photos are by Robert C. Ragsdale.



Celebrated illustrator Maurice Sendak, best known for the classic children's story Where the Wild Things Are, co-created the whimsical set and costume designs for the COC's 1982 production. This production also marked Ben Heppner's COC debut, then a member of the Ensemble Studio, as the First Armed Man. Left: Claudia Cummings as the Queen of the Night and Costanza Cuccaro as Pamina. Right: Theodore Baerg as Papageno with Shawna Farrell as Papagena and the Three Spirits. Both photos are by Robert C. Ragsdale.



This COC production was directed by Lotfi Mansouri, the company's then-general director, with majestic sets and costumes designed by Thierry Bosquet. This photo is by Michael Cooper.



This 1993 incarnation, directed by Martha Clarke, proved to be one of the COC's more polarizing productions, but brought together two long-time COC favourites, then at the beginning of their careers: tenor Michael Schade and baritone Russell Braun (far left), playing Tamino and Papageno. Also pictured are (l-r) Tanya Parrish, Norine Burgess and Monica Whicher as the Three Ladies, and Valerie Gonzalez (background) as Papagena. This photo is by Michael Cooper.


The 2005 Ensemble Studio production, which commemorated the 25th anniversary of the prestigious training program, got a little wild with a lion-taming Tamino, played by tenor Victor Micallef (now one of the three "Tenors"). At the time, this was the program's largest production to-date. It was directed by Andrew Porter, and performed in the MacMillan Theatre at the University of Toronto. This photo is by Michael Cooper.



After the 1993 production, The Magic Flute was not seen on the mainstage again until 2011, with Michael Schade returning to reprise the role of Tamino in the company's new production by Diane Paulus, revived this season. It was the first Flute to grace the stage at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts. This photo is by Michael Cooper.

The Magic Flute is on stage at the Four Seasons Centre until February 24, 2017. Click here for more information and tickets.

Banner photo: Owen McCausland as Tamino and Kirsten MacKinnon as Pamina in The Magic Flute (COC, 2017), photo by Michael Cooper.

Posted by Tanner Davies / in The Magic Flute / 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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