Parlando: The COC Blog


The Big COC Podcast - Episode 23

By Gianmarco Segato, Adult Programs Manager

For Episode 23, the “Winding down with Dignity and Grace” edition, we welcome back opera journalist Joseph So, Ali Kashani, the COC’s Associate Director, Institutional Gifts (and opera aficionado) and, for the first time, Toronto-based arts journalist Catherine Kustanczy. Gianmarco Segato, the COC’s Adult Programs Manager is your host.

As one would expect in the opera world, not all the drama happens on the stage:

Are you listening? Let us know your thoughts, opinions and suggestions by commenting here, or on Facebook, Twitter or by e-mail (

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Free Concert Series Highlights in April

Myriad 3 in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre

Spring is finally here! Well, at least that's what our calendar says. We're hoping that this month's line-up of classical, jazz and new music will help get you into the spring spirit, and maybe some real spring weather will follow!

Thursday, April 3, 2014
12 - 1 p.m.
Love Song Waltzes
Artists of the COC Ensemble Studio

2013/2014 Ensemble Studio

Artists of the COC Ensemble Studio (singers Gordon Bintner, Charlotte Burrage, Claire de Sévigné and Andrew Haji, with pianists Michael Shannon and Liz Upchurch) celebrate love, life and music in a performance of Brahms' tour-de-force for four voices and two pianists: Liebeslieder Walzer (Love Song Waltzes). The piece is paired with Canadian composer John Greer's whimsical modern answer to Brahms, the Liebesleid-Lieder on texts by Dorothy Parker and others.

Thursday, April 10, 2014
12 - 1 p.m.
Up Jumped Spring
Norman Marshall Villeneuve's Jazz Message Quartet

Montreal's Norman Marshall Villeneuve leads an all-star quartet (Norman Marshall Villeneuve, drums; Michael Shand, piano; Ron Johnston, bass; and Michael Stuart, tenor sax) in an uplifting and fun-filled hour of swinging jazz standards. This quartet's bebop tempos are sure to get your toes tapping and thinking of flowers in May!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014
12 - 1 p.m.
Music in the Time of War
Philip Chiu

As a parallel to the COC's mainstage spring production of Hercules, which explores the untold horrors of war and the unspoken complications of reunion, pianist Philip Chiu presents a program of music composed during, and in response to, the two world wars. The program includes Ravel’s Le Tombeau de Couperin, which can be heard in the video below, performed by Angela Hewitt.

Thursday, April 24, 2014
12 - 1 p.m.
Polar Bears and Lullabies

ArrayMusic’s artistic director Rick Sacks displays his inimitable artistry and showmanship in an eclectic and entertaining hour of solo percussion music featuring the MalletKat, a four-octave electronic percussion keyboard that triggers a vast palette of sounds. The program features the world premiere of Rick's own composition, entitled Necessary Outcome: A Meditation on Richard Dawkins, as well as three of his other works: Polar Bear, Journey, and Lullaby. See Rick's MalletKat improvisations in the video below! 

Tuesday, April 29, 2014
12 - 1 p.m.
Legendary Ladies
Shannon Butcher Quartet

Toronto vocalist Shannon Butcher and her powerhouse quartet celebrate the sophisticated ladies of song, from Ella Fitzgerald to Billie Holiday, who brought swing and style to the golden age of jazz. Shannon's distinctive style is steeped in the great tradition of these legendary ladies yet possesses a contemporary sensibility and sophistication all her own.

Which concert are you most looking forward to? Let us know in comments or on our Facebook page!


Credits: (top) Myriad 3. Photo: Chris Hutcheson; (bottom) Artists of the 2013/2014 COC Ensemble Studio. Photo: Karen Reeves

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Hercules Reading Guide

Soldiers in Hercules

While creating the libretto for Handel's Hercules, librettist Thomas Broughton created his composition from a variety of classic sources and, unlike other modern depictions of Hercules, the opera doesn't focus on his lineage as a demi-god, or his 'superhero' achievements, but the very human circumstances that surround his death. This spring, director Peter Sellars takes the tale and adapts it for a modern age, highlighting the emotional, and spiritual, drain of war on soldiers and the families they leave behind at home. To further your understanding of this opera, here are five book selections, some of which you can find in the Opera Shop.


Women of TrachisSophocles, Women of Trachis
Classic playwright Sophocles was a Greek tragedian who wrote over 100 plays in his lifetime (of which only seven remain intact), who also had a career as a treasurer and a strategoi (an official who commands armies), positions which provided him with an interesting perspective on war and soldiers. Written anywhere from 450 BC - 425 BC, his play Women of Trachis is summarily described as a play about Hercules' death, but it truly is a story about his suffering wife Dejanira. The play centres on Dejanira's heartbreak when she discovers that Hercules, who recently returned from many long years at war, took a prisoner with him, the beautiful princess Iole. Dejanira's conflicted emotions of betrayal and sorrow propel the story forward and it's through her rage and jealousy that Hercules' fate is sealed. You can find a translation of the Women of Trachis here.   

The Universe, the gods and menOvid's Metamorphoses
's epic collection of poems came out in 8 AD and took a great deal of inspiration from Hellenic and Classical period tales of Greek history and mythology, including a full chapter all about Hercules. He adapted the tale of Hercules' demise into a short but tragic poem that details how through the cunning of the long-dead Nessus, Hercules' infidelity is brought to justice by an act of unknown betrayal from his wife Dejanira. You can read the excerpt about the downfall of Hercules online here.

The Universe, the Gods, and Men: Ancient Greek Myths Told by Jean-Pierre Vernant
If Ovid isn't enough to satiate your need for Greek mythology, we have just the book for you in the Opera Shop! Rediscover your favourite Greek myths (or learn them for the first time) with Vernant's expansive book, all told with a refreshing storytelling that's attractive to classical history buffs to enhance their knowledge, and for neophytes to gain some interesting tales for the water-cooler. You can purchase the book for $19.00 at the Opera Shop.


RedeploymentRedeployment by Phil Klay
A major theme in director Peter Sellars' production of Hercules is the emotional transformation of Hercules from a demi-god to a modern American soldier who returns home from war to his family, suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 

Recently climbing up the bestseller list, Redeployment is a collection of stories from the perspective of soldiers fighting in, or returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, written by former marine Phil Klay. Described as a new voice for this generation of war stories, Klay pinpoints the absurdity and terror of war in his stories, while also highlighting the fear and bewilderment that many soldiers feel when they finally make their way back home when all is said and done. You can read more about Redeployment in this New York Times book review and it's available on Amazon


HandelFaber Pocket Guide to Handel
Perfect for the classical music lover who wants the quick essentials boiled down into one book, this pocket guide about George Frideric Handel is like a Cliff's Notes for opera composers. Great for dinner parties or even just a quick reminder about Handel's achievements, recommended books, websites, CDs and DVDs, this is a great starter for any collection. You can purchase this book for $11.75 in the Opera Shop.

George Frideric Handel
Written by the noted musicologist Paul Henry Lang, this biography is widely regarded as one of the greatest studies of Handel's life, his musical style, the history of his compositions and more. A great companion to the Faber book, this is a great study on Handel, as well as his role in the late Baroque period. You can purchase this well-regarded tome at the Opera Shop for $20.50.

Do you have any other recommendations that we may have missed? Let us know what you're reading lately in the comments below. 

Photo: (top) A scene from the Canadian Opera Company/Lyric Opera of Chicago (LOC) co-production of Hercules, 2011, LOC. Photo: Dan Rest

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