Parlando: The COC Blog


Alexander Neef Introduces CinéTFO+'s Sunday Opera Series

Stefano Secco as Roméo and Nino Machaidze as Juliette in Arena di Verona's 2011 production of Roméo et Juliette.

This fall, spend your Sunday nights at the opera in your own living room with COC General Director Alexander Neef and CinéTFO+'s Sunday opera program! At 8 p.m. each Sunday, from September 22 to October 20, watch as Alexander introduces each of the late 19th-century French operas featured below and shares his insights about the productions, history and cast.

Natalie Dessay and Rolando Villazon in the Gran Teatre de Liceu's 2007 production of Manon

Sunday, September 22, 2013, 8 p.m. - Massenet's Manon, Grand Teatre del Liceu, 2007

This production of Massenet's tragic opera features superstars Natalie Dessay and Rolando Villazón as the two devoted but suffering lovers who are never quite on the same page as they desperately try to hold on to their romance. Director David McVicar uses an amphitheatre-like setting and features dancer-actors in complex choreographies, reflecting the action and inner thoughts of the leads. Not a production to miss, you can watch a clip from Manon and the Chevalier’s cheerful Act II duet on YouTube.

A scene from the Opera Comique's 2008 production of L'etoile

Sunday, September 29, 2013, 8 p.m. - Chabrier's L'étoile, Opéra Comique, Paris, 2008

This classic opéra bouffe by Emmanuel Chabrier has encountered a new popularity of late. The late 19th-century opera deals with a menacing monarch, a series of mistaken identities, botched romantic entanglements and not one, but two marriages at the end! The Opéra Comique production is colourful and whimsical to match the fantastical tone of the opera, and lends itself nicely to the light-hearted plot.

Josè Maria Lo Monaco as Carmen in the Opéra de Lyon's 2012 production of Carmen

Sunday, October 6, 2013, 8 p.m. - Bizet's Carmen, Opéra de Lyon, 2012

This popular production of Bizet's Carmen wowed and stunned the opera world last year, with a very Moulin Rouge-inspired staging that turned an opera about revolutionaries into an opera about the bourgeois lifestyle and those who fight against it. José Maria Lo Monaco plays a stunning Carmen, a woman who wants to be watched but will control exactly how you see her, a woman with no qualms about shifting her affections from the soft-hearted Don José (Yonghooon Lee) to the exciting Escamillo (Giorgio Caoduro.)

Clémence Tilquin as Clairette and Mathieu Abelli as Ange Pitou in the Opéra de Lausanne's 2011 production of La fille de Madame Angot

Sunday, October 13, 2013, 8 p.m. - Lecocq's La fille de Madame Angot, Opéra de Lausanne, 2011

One of the most successful French light operas around, La fille de Madame Angot deals with orphan Clairette who is bethrothed to an honest wig-maker but has her sights set on a dashing young revolutionary writer instead. After she makes her intentions known by publicly reciting one of the poet's controversial pieces, she's arrested and discovers that her writer may not be what he seems! The Opéra de Lausanne production reveals a bright and colourful France, reflecting the ambitions and dreams of the young people at the heart of the story.

Sunday, October 20, 2013, 8 p.m. - Gounod's Roméo et Juliette, Arena di Verona, 2011

What could be more perfect for Gounod's popular adaptation of Shakespeare's beloved romantic tragedy, than a performance in fair Verona? The two star-crossed lovers, played by Nino Machaidze and Stefano Secco, charm each other and the audiences in this 2011 performance set in Verona’s ancient arena with a large cast, fleshing out Shakespeare's story about two warring families. Check out the trailer above for a preview of this extravagant production. 


Photos: (top) Stefano Secco as Roméo and Nino Machaidze as Juliette in Arena di Verona's 2011 production of Roméo et Juliette. Photo by ENNEVI; (middle) Natalie Dessay as Manon and Rolando Villazón as des Grieux in Grand Teatre del Liceu's 2007 production of Manon; (middle) A scene from the Opera Comique's 2008 production of L'etoile. Photo by Eric Mahoudeau; (middle) José Maria Lo Monaco as Carmen in the Opéra de Lyon's 2012 production of Carmen. Photo by J. Louis Fernandez; (middle) Clémence Tilquin as Clairette and Mathieu Abelli as Ange Pitou in the Opéra de Lausanne's 2011 production of La fille de Madame Angot. Photo by Jacques Croisier.

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The Three Tenors: Meet Dimitri Pittas, Eric Margiore and Michael Fabiano

(l – r) Vuyani Mlinde as Colline, Michael Sumuel as Schaunard, Dimitri Pittas as Rodolfo and Joshua Hopkins as Marcello in the Canadian Opera Company/Houston Grand Opera (HGO)/San Francisco Opera co-production of La Bohème, 2012, HGO. Photo: Felix Sanchez

When the Canadian Opera Company's 2013 production of La Bohème premieres this October at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, do you know who your Rodolfo will be?

You have a choice between three charming tenors: Michael FabianoEric Margiore and Dimitri Pittas.

Toronto audiences may be familiar with American tenor Dimitri Pittas from his recent and memorable appearance with the COC for 2010's Rigoletto as the smarmy Duke of Mantua. Before he made his role debut at the COC, Dimitri was an apprentice artist with the Santa Fe Opera, Pittsburgh Opera, and was a member of the Metropolitan Opera’s Lindemann Young Artist Development Program. Since then he has performed at the Met in many romantic and tragic lead roles. The popular young tenor was also cast as Rodolfo by one of our co-producers, Houston Grand Opera, in its performance of this production last year (see photo above.) Dimitri returns to the COC this winter, making his role debut as Riccardo in Un ballo in maschera alongside Adrianne Pieczonka's role debut as Amelia. Learn more about Dimitri on his website, or follow him on Twitter and Facebook. You can also meet Dimitri in our Artist Basics post. 

Dimitri will be performing on October 3, 6, 9 and 12, opposite Italian soprano Grazia Doronzio as Mimì.

Italian-American tenor Eric Margiore makes his COC debut as the romantic Rodolfo this fall after recently performing the same role at the St. Margarethen Opera Festival and Central City Opera. Professionally trained at the Opera Theatre of St. Louis, Glimmerglass Opera and Chautauqua Opera young artist programs, Eric is also an accomplished recitalist, having recently performed in Verdi's Requiem twice this year, once alongside celebrated soprano Angela Meade at the Grand Teton Music Festival, and another with the Stockton Symphony Orchestra. Learn more about Eric on his website

Eric performs on October 18, 22, 25 and 29, opposite Italian soprano Grazia Doronzio as Mimì.

Making his COC debut is American Michael Fabiano, an internationally recognized tenor and graduate of the Academy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia. Michael won the Grand Prize in the Metropolitan Opera's National Council Auditions in 2007 and quickly went on to debut around the world at La Scala, the English National Opera, Teatro San Carlo, San Francisco Opera and more. This busy tenor joins us as Rodolfo this October, a week after he finishes his run as Edgardo in L'Opéra national de Paris's production of Lucia di Lammermoor. Learn more about Michael on his website, and follow him on Twitter and Facebook

Michael performs on October 16, 19, 27 and 30, opposite Canadian soprano Joyce El-Khoury as Mimì.

La Bohème runs from October 3 to October 30 at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts. Visit our La Bohème performance page for more information and to purchase tickets. 

Photos: (top) (l – r) Vuyani Mlinde as Colline, Michael Sumuel as Schaunard, Dimitri Pittas as Rodolfo and Joshua Hopkins as Marcello in the Houston Grand Opera's 2012 production of La Bohème. Photo by Felix Sanchez; (middle) Dimitri Pittas. Photo by Kristin Hoebermann; (middle) Eric Margiore; (middle) Michael Fabiano.

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Remembering Lotfi Mansouri

By Alexander Neef, General Director

I was very saddened to learn of Lotfi Mansouri’s death two weeks ago. I knew he had been ill, and the prognosis wasn’t good, but I wasn’t quite prepared for the loss I felt when I heard he’d passed away.

As everyone who came into contact with him knows, Lotfi was full of life. His enthusiasm for life, and especially opera was infectious. A simple recounting of his many accomplishments while at the head of the COC paints a clear picture of how he communicated his love for this company and his community.

Lotfi implemented a longer performance season, programmed more adventurous repertoire and productions, instituted advance artistic and financial planning, established the COC Orchestra and invigorated the Chorus, enhanced the COC’s international reputation by bringing in singers of world-renown, and created the country’s first and premier training program for young artists, the Ensemble Studio.

Perhaps Lotfi’s single most important innovation at the COC – one that transformed the way the public interacts with opera today – was the creation of SURTITLESTM. Unveiled at the COC’s 1983 production of Elektra, it was the very first time any opera house in the world had projected simultaneous translations for its audience. SURTITLESTM completely revolutionized the live opera experience, and it is very rare to find any opera house in the world that does not use a version today.

These accomplishments – and many others – laid the foundation for the company we are today.

Personally, Lotfi was just as generous. He was very supportive of me and my new role here from the moment I started. Over the years we would make a point of visiting each other and spending evenings over dinner and spirited conversation – there was never any shortage of topics! Although we may not have always agreed on everything, he realized that we shared the same passion for the art form, and that’s what brought us close.

The last time we saw Lotfi at the COC was when we hosted a special event for the launch of his book Lotfi Mansouri: An Operatic Journey in September 2010. He kindly sat down with me in front of an audience to answer questions about his time at the COC and all that he had accomplished since leaving.

I am privileged to have known him, and proud to have considered him a friend.

Photo credits: (top) Lotfi Mansouri, 1986. Photo by Tony Hauser; (middle) Lotfi Mansouri and the Canadian Opera Company van. Photo by Gary Beechey; (middle) Joan Sutherland and Lotfi Mansouri, 1980; (middle) A scene from the Canadian Opera Company's 1983 production of Elektra; (bottom) Lotfi Mansouri and Alexander Neef.

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