By Gianmarco Segato, Adult Programs Manager
As opera lovers the world over eagerly anticipate the return of live opera with the start of the fall season, increasingly, fans are also learning to anticipate a specific date each August: the day tickets go on sale for the Metropolitan Opera’s series of live HD transmissions.
This year those dates are Wednesday, August 14 (for Met Members, and for Cineplex Odeon SCENE cardholders) and Wednesday, August 21 for the general public. Many local HD enthusiasts still do things “old school”, lining up very early in the morning for tickets at venues across the Greater Toronto Area. You can also buy your tickets online, choosing the specific seat you want to sit in – but don’t dawdle as theatres sell out quickly.
The upcoming Met Live in HD season features a large number of artists and productions which have specific COC connections – here are some of the highlights:
Saturday, November 9, 2013: Tosca
When this Luc Bondy production premiered at the Metropolitan Opera in September 2009, it was greeted by boos. By the time it was revived in April of that season with a different cast, it was pronounced a triumph! This was in large part due to American soprano Patricia Racette who "brought a richly expressive voice and raw emotion to her wrenching portrayal of Tosca" (The New York Times). Racette is one of the world’s most riveting singing actresses whose artistry Toronto audiences will soon get to experience first-hand!
Saturday, December 14, 2013: Falstaff
Canadian director Robert Carsen’s new production has already appeared at Teatro alla Scala, Milan and Royal Opera House, Covent Garden where it was praised as “an intricate, closely observed Falstaff — witty, charming and human from start to finish.” (Opera News) This transmission provides hometown audiences with the rare opportunity to preview a future COC production which will arrive in Toronto with a spectacular all-star Canadian cast.
Saturday, February 8, 2014: Rusalka
This revival of the beloved Otto Schenk production features superstar soprano Renée Fleming in the title role. Appearing alongside her as the Water Gnome is the great Canadian bass-baritone John Relyea, one of the opera world’s most in-demand singers. He thrilled our audiences as the four villains in The Tales of Hoffmann in his 2012 COC debut and he will make a welcome return to the COC in a high-profile role in a future season.
Saturday, March 1, 2014: Prince Igor
This highly-anticipated new production of a Russian rarity features the spectacular Georgian mezzo-soprano Anita Rachvelishvili as Konchakovna. Ms Rachvelishvili was a thrilling Carmen for the COC in 2010.
April 26, 2014: Così fan tutte
Opera fans are excited about this revival since it marks the return to the podium of MET Music Director James Levine after a lengthy absence due to illness. The fresh, young cast features two recent COC stars: Isabel Leonard (Dorabella) received rave reviews as Sesto in our 2013 La clemenza di Tito (see above, in blue) and Rodion Pogossov (Guglielmo) has entertained Toronto audiences as Papageno in 2011’s The Magic Flute and as Figaro in 2008’s The Barber of Seville (see the top photo in this post).
As regular HD attendees will know, at each transmission the host reminds movie theatre audiences that no matter how spectacular these MET performances might be on the big screen, nothing can compare to experiencing opera live, in the opera house. We’re thrilled that so many of the artists and productions featured in this season’s MET HD transmissions will soon be coming to you live on our stage here in Toronto.
Photos: (top) Rodion Pogossov as Figaro in the COC’s production of The Barber of Seville, 2008; (middle) Patricia Racette as Tosca in the Metropolitan Opera's 2010 production of Tosca; (middle) Bryn Terfel as Falstaff in the Teatro alla Scala's 2013 production of Falstaff; (middle) John Relyea as Dr. Miracle in the Canadian Opera Company production of The Tales of Hoffmann, 2012; (middle) Anita Rachvelishvili as Carmen, and Jonas Kaufmann as Don José in the Teatro alla Scala's 2009 production of Carmen; (bottom) Keri Alkema as Vitellia and Isabel Leonard as Sesto in the Canadian Opera Company’s production of La clemenza di Tito, 2013. Photo Credits: (top) Michael Cooper; (middle) Ken Howard; (middle) Rudy Amisano; (middle) Michael Cooper; (middle) Marco Brescia; (bottom) Michael Cooper.
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What he's doing with us: American bass-baritone Eric Owens makes his COC debut in Peter Sellars' contemporary take on Handel's Hercules. Eric previously performed the role for the premiere of this new COC and Lyric Opera of Chicago co-production in 2011 to enthusiastic reviews, and is reuniting with the full cast at the COC this spring.
Where you might have seen him: Equally at home on the operatic stage and in recital, Eric is particularly well-known to Met Live in HD audiences for his performance as the scene-stealing Alberich in the Metropolitan Opera’s latest Ring Cycle. He is also a popular choice with composers looking to create new, contemporary operas! In addition to the acclaim Eric received for his performance of the title character in the world premiere of Elliot Goldenthal’s Grendel, composer John Adams created both the roles of General Leslie Groves in Doctor Atomic and The Storyteller in A Flowering Tree for Eric.
His background: Would you believe that this world-famous bass-baritone was almost a pianist, or an oboist instead? In his final year of high school, Eric switched his musical focus to vocal studies and went on to earn a bachelor of music in vocal performance from Temple University. He continued his studies in the graduate program at the Curtis Institute of Music and joined the young artist program at the Houston Grand Opera.
Interviews and profiles: NPR Music wrote about Eric just before the Met's production of Das Rheingold premiered in 2010; the New York Times interviewed Eric about his roles as villains and about his career trajectory; Eric opened up to the Los Angeles Times when he was performing as Sharpless in Madama Butterfly at LA Opera; and he received great praise from the Wall Street Journal for his performance in a recital last year.
What's next for Eric: In the fall of 2013, Eric performs as Alberich in Deutsche Oper Berlin's productions of Das Rheingold and Götterdämmerung, he returns to the Metropolitan Opera in the winter to perform as Sarastro in Julie Taymor's production of The Magic Flute and takes up the role of Vodnik in Rusalka at the Lyric Opera of Chicago just before joining us in Toronto for Hercules.
You can follow Eric on Twitter @EricOwensSinger, on Facebook, or on his website.
Watch Eric perform one of the most memorable arias from Le nozze di Figaro below.
Photos: (top)Eric Owens; (middle) Eric Owens as Hercules in the Canadian Opera Company/Lyric Opera of Chicago (LOC) co-production of Hercules, 2011, LOC. Photo credits: (top) Dario Acosta; (middle) Dan Rest.
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What he's doing with us: tenor Dimitri Pittas made his COC debut as the Duke of Mantua in our 2011 production of Rigoletto. This fall he performs as Rodolfo in La Bohème and in the winter he makes his role debut as Riccardo in Un ballo in maschera. (Fun fact: his co-star, Adrianne Pieczonka, also makes her role debut in Ballo as Amelia!)
Where you might have seen him: Dimitri earned rave reviews for his portrayal as the Duke of Mantua when he was last in Toronto. Recently, Dimitri performed as Rodolfo in La Bohème at Frankfurt Opera, Houston Grand Opera and at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. In June he made his role debut as the titular character in Don Carlo at Théâtre du Capitole.
His background: Dimitri's music studies took him to the Crane School of Music, McGill University and SUNY Potsdam, and he was an apprentice artist with the Santa Fe Opera and Pittsburgh Opera. Dimitri later joined the Metropolitan Opera’s Lindemann Young Artist Development Program and made his house debut with the Met as the Herald in Don Carlo.
Interviews and profiles: Classical Source has a long feature about Dimitri and his career prior to his performance as Macduff in the Royal Opera House's 2011 production of Macbeth, he was featured in Opera News, Dimitri and his fellow Rigoletto cast members were featured in this Toronto Star article and he received a glowing review for his role as Nemorino in L’elisir d’amore at Santa Fe Opera.
What's next for Dimitri: After his performances of La Bohème this fall, Dimitri performs Verdi's Requiem with both the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra and Amsterdam's Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, and performs as Oronte in David Alden's production of I lombardi alla prima crociata at the Hamburg State Opera.
You can follow Dimitri on Twitter @DimitriPittas, on Facebook, or on his website.
Watch Dimitri perform as Macduff in Macbeth in the video below.
Photos: (top) Dimitri Pittas. Photo by Kristin Hoebermann; (middle) Ekaterina Sadovnikova as Gilda and Dimitri Pittas as the Duke of Mantua in a scene from the Canadian Opera Company production of Rigoletto, 2011. Photo by Michael Cooper.
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Sara Fulgoni in the COC production of Bluebeard's Castle. Photo: Michael Cooper © 2001