It’s been a while since we’ve reported on the honeybees that live on the roof of the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t been as busy—really, really busy.
All that hard work has paid off and it’s official: COC bees produce the best honey!
Fred Davis, beekeeper to the hundreds of thousands of bees who live on our roof, entered this season’s harvest into the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair amber honey competition this year. The honey took first prize, with a score of 96 points out of a possible 100!
Congratulations to Fred, his volunteer assistant Vivien, and the many, many COC honeybees who worked their fuzzy behinds off all year.
Here’s the story in Fred’s words:
The bees at the COC produce a beautiful amber honey. So my enthusiastic and very eager beekeeping volunteer, Vivien (a real "newbee") encouraged me to enter the honey into the competition and I decided to enter this year's harvest in the amber category. (Other colour categories are white, golden and dark).
We learned that the Royal Winter Fair's judges scored each honey category based on 10 criteria; originally I thought the judges based the winner on flavour alone. I was reluctant at first to submit the honey because I expected that all of the entrants would be old hands at the competition circuit and have their own secret way to filter and present their honey. I truly thought that I would receive an "atta boy" e-mail from the judges. It was quite stressful trying to make the honey as clear as possible, as I am very reluctant to take anything away from the raw honey.
But, in the end, the most gratifying part of this experience for me was knowing that natural, unprocessed honey from downtown Toronto was the best according to the judges at the Royal Winter Fair, and how lucky I am to have a partner in the COC and the Four Seasons Centre where the honeybees can flourish!
The bees have been all wrapped up and fed for the winter, and are having a well-deserved rest. I have been peeking in on them from time to time and dream of opening up a healthy hive this spring.
P.S. My winning secret was to simply pass the honey once through a sieve and then once through cheesecloth. Very high tech!
Thanks Fred! You can read previous posts on our honeybees by clicking on the “FSCPA Honeybees” tag in the right-hand column. You can also purchase honey made by the COC honeybees at the main bar at the Four Seasons Centre during performances of the COC and the National Ballet of Canada.
Photos courtesy of Fred Davis
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Single tickets for the Canadian Opera Company performances are easier to purchase than ever before with our free new app, just in time for the spring 2016 productions of Carmen and Maometto II!
The Canadian Opera Company app is now available in Apple’s App Store and Google’s Google Play.
“Our vision for the Canadian Opera Company app is to create a platform for sustained engagement with the company’s work,” says COC Chief Communications Officer Steve Kelley. “In its current form, the app gives us a basic way for users to connect with the COC via their mobile device and elevate the already rich online COC experience. Features and objectives for the app will continue to evolve as we anticipate the needs of mobile patrons of the COC.”
To download the COC’s new free app, search Canadian Opera Company on the iTunes App Store (Apple devices) and Google Play (Android devices).
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By: Gianmarco Segato
Claus Guth’s production of The
Marriage of Figaro has had a
lengthier gestation period than most.
It premiered at the 2006 Salzburg
Festival, was quickly revived there in
2007 and 2009, and culminated in the
German director staging all three of
Mozart’s collaborations with librettist
Lorenzo da Ponte at the 2011 festival
(Don Giovanni being added in 2008
and Così fan tutte in 2009). Initially,
Guth resisted Mozart’s iconic comedy,
questioning whether it was possible
for him to confront the dangerous
elements in a work whose music
he had enjoyed with “uncontrolled
excess”* while growing up. It was the
Salzburg production’s first conductor,
Nikolaus Harnoncourt, who managed
to shift Guth’s focus away from
Figaro’s distractingly glittery musical
delights towards its intelligent,
witty exploration of real, human
relationships—the very elements that
pushed comic opera beyond its more
formulaic, slapstick Italian commedia
From this emerged an interpretation
that relocates the action from 18th-century
Andalusia to fin-de-siècle
Central Europe by way of the intense,
modernist stage dramas of Ibsen and
Strindberg, and the films of Ingmar
Guth’s concept for his Figaro was by no
means static, enmeshed as it became
with his simultaneous stagings of Don
Giovanni and Così fan tutte. He began
to identify fascinating crossovers
and linkages between specific character types within the Mozart/da Ponte trilogy. For example, Guth came to view Figaro’s philandering Count Almaviva as a double for the womanizing anti-hero, Don Giovanni. Accordingly, he portrays the Count as a middle-aged, sex-obsessed roué who despite carrying on an affair with his wife’s maid, Susanna, still struggles to maintain a degree of bourgeois domesticity. He constantly mops his sweaty brow with a white handkerchief, panic-stricken he will be caught in the act.
This production’s most striking directorial intervention comes in the form of a non-speaking character, Cherubim, costumed exactly like the page, Cherubino. His silent, trickster-like presence (he has been portrayed by dancer and champion unicyclist Uli Kirsch in all iterations of the production) functions a lot like the personification of Love/Eros in early Baroque opera; he is invisible to the other characters and frequently manipulates them, pushing them together or pulling them apart. Guth’s Cherubim symbolizes the engine which drives Mozart’s complex musicodramatic creation: Eros (love/lust), and therefore expands and magnifies the real Cherubino’s function. Within Figaro’s world, the randy young page stands apart as the only character not yet shoehorned into a clearly defined societal role; as one who wears his heart on his sleeve and manages to remind the women (the Countess, Susanna and Barbarina) of their buried sexual desires. As such, he is deemed an agent of chaos and his symbolic
threat is dispensed with when Guth has him killed by his alter-ego, Cherubim, at the end of the opera.
Guth notes a prevailing pessimism
that pervades Mozart’s world view—
in Figaro it has not yet completely
taken over and so, “the more amusing
elements are roughly equal to what
frightens and depresses human
beings.”* Darkness is always rumbling
just beneath the surface, even in
unexpected places like the opera’s
grand finale. In most stagings, this
moment is an excuse for general
rejoicing despite the betrayals, both
real and perceived, that have preceded
it. Guth “found it rather attractive to
add to this slightly mad jubilation,
something rather like slightly
hysterical laughter in view of the
If the happiness of Figaro’s all-too
recognizably human characters is not
a complete and outright lie, it is at the
very least, deeply conflicted.
* From an interview with Claus Guth by Monika
Mertl in the 2011 Salzburg Festival house
For more information on our current production of The Marriage of Figaro and to buy tickets, visit here.
Gianmarco Segato is Adult Programs Manager at the COC.
Photo credit: Russell Braun as the Count and and Uli Kirsch as Cherubim (top) in The Marriage of Figaro (COC, 2016), photo: Michael Cooper
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Sara Fulgoni in the COC production of Bluebeard's Castle. Photo: Michael Cooper © 2001