Parlando: The COC Blog


Don Quichotte: Meet the Suitors

In Massenet's Don Quichotte, the fair and lovely Dulcinée is wooed by a variety of suitors other than the aging knight himself. The suitors comprise of two tenors, a mezzo-soprano and a soprano, the latter two being 'pants roles'. But did you know that almost all of the suitors are COC Ensemble Studio graduates? Meet the singers who bring Dulcinée's entourage to life!

Sasha DjihanianPedro: Sasha Djihanian
Canadian soprano Sasha Djihanian is in her second and final year of the COC Ensemble Studio. After making her opera debut in Opéra de Montréal's 2009 production of The Magic Flute, she was a national finalist in the 2011 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. She also represented Canada in the 2011 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World and won the First Annual COC Ensemble Studio Competition that same year. During her time at the Canadian Opera Company, she appeared as Fiordiligi in the Ensemble performance of Così fan tutte, as Alisa in Lucia di Lammermoor, and she stepped in as Annio in a mainstage performance of La clemenza di Tito, in addition to playing the role in the Ensemble performance. Although Sasha is graduating from the program this year after completing Don Quichotte as Dulcinée's young suitor Pedro, she'll return to the COC as Zerlina next winter in Don Giovanni

You can follow Sasha on Twitter: @SashaDjihanian and watch her BBC Cardiff performance on YouTube

Ariana ChrisGarcias: Ariana Chris
A former member of the L'Atelier Lyrique de Montreal program, Ariana Chris makes her COC debut in the role of Garcias, Dulcinée's studious suitor. Ariana is a Greek-Canadian mezzo-soprano who represented Greece in the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Competition in 2005, and in 2010 she performed the Greek National Anthem for the 2010 Winter Olympics closing ceremony! Ariana has performed with companies such as Opera Hong Kong; Opéra de Montréal; Angers Nantes Opéra; Santa Fe Opera; Le Poisson Rouge; Carnegie Hall; Opéra Français de New York; New York City Opera, where she made her debut as Lola in Cavalleria rusticana; and has collaborated with Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. 

You can learn more about Ariana on her website, and watch her perform "Una voce poco fa" on Youtube.

Owen McCauslandJuan: Owen McCausland
Tenor Owen McCausland may only be finishing his second year in the Ensemble Studio program, but he has spent quite a bit of time on the mainstage this season. Recently Owen has appeared as the Servant in A Masked Ball, Ferrando in Così fan tutte (Ensemble Studio performance), Parpignol in La Bohème and Reverend Horace Adams in Peter Grimes, and he's currently doing double-duty this spring as Lord Cecil in Roberto Devereux. But audiences may know him best from when he stepped into the title role in La clemenza di Tito on the mainstage as well as the Ensemble performance. In Don Quichotte, Owen plays the hotblooded suitor Juan, who attempts to convince Dulcinée that the aging knight is not a suitable companion. In the 2014/2015 season, Owen returns to the Ensemble Studio program for a third year.

You can read a great review of Owen's La clemenza di Tito performance here.

Andrew HajiRodriguez: Andrew Haji
Andrew's role in Don Quichotte caps off his first successful year in the Ensemble Studio program! Previously Andrew was seen onstage at the Four Seasons Centre as Ferrando in the Ensemble Studio performance of Così fan tutte, and in a variety of Free Concert Series performances. Andrew holds a masters of music in opera from the University of Toronto (UofT) where his credits include Nemorino in L’elisir d’amore, Cecco in Haydn’s Il mondo della luna, Vanderdendur/Ragotski in Candide, Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni, Lacouf/Reporter from Paris in Poulenc’s Les mamelles de Tirésias, and the title role in Rob Ford: The Opera! In Don Quichotte, Andrew plays Rodriquez, the wise suitor who warns Juan to take Don Quichotte more seriously! 

You can learn more about Andrew on his website, and follow him on Twitter: @AndrewHaji


And before you go...
Sasha Djihanian as Pedro
Take a quick peek at Sasha Djihanian in costume as Pedro!

Don Quichotte runs until May 24, 2014 at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts. For tickets and more information visit here.

Photo: (top) A scene from the Canadian Opera Company's 2014 production of Don Quichotte. Photo by Michael Cooper

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10 Things to Know About Jules Massenet’s Don Quichotte

By Nikita Gourski, Development Communications Officer

Our final opera of the 2013/2014 season is the COC premiere of Massenet's rare opera, Don Quichotte! Learn more about the production history, cast and crew below.

1) The first novel
Published in two parts, in 1605 and 1615, Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote is arguably the first novel ever written. The plot deals with the adventures of an elderly Spanish gentleman who has been reading too many tales of medieval chivalry and declares himself a “knight errant.” He begins travelling throughout Spain with his sidekick, Sancho Panza, in order to right all wrongs and seek fame and honour.

2) Novel to play to opera
Cervantes’ novel has inspired adaptations, interpretations and homages across many different art forms. In 1904, Raoul Gunsbourg, the director of the Opéra de Monte Carlo, attended the opening night of a new play called Le chevalier de la longue figure (The knight of the long face) and liked the compressed, reinterpreted version of Cervantes’ novel so much he commissioned composer Jules Massenet to turn it into an opera, which subsequently premiered in Monte Carlo in 1910.

3) Lost and found
Jules Massenet was born on May 12, 1842 in Montaud, France. He started receiving piano lessons from his mother at a young age and, by 11, had been accepted into the Paris Conservatory where he impressed his teachers with his musicianship and work ethic. He travelled to Italy in his 20s, exploring the cultural and artistic charms of the Mediterranean, but returned to France a few years later. Eventually he secured a professorship at the Paris Conservatory and composed 25 operas over the course of his life. Though Massenet’s works were quite popular in his lifetime, they suffered a subsequent neglect in the 20th century. In recent years, however, a new-found appreciation has emerged for a number of Massenet’s operas, including Don Quichotte.

4) An intimate opera
For Don Quichotte, Massenet was working in an intimate compositional mode, somewhat like chamber music. Although he could write operas requiring huge orchestral and choral forces, he was able to downsize all of this in the interest of telling Don Quichotte’s more intimate, personal story. Much of its score is lightly orchestrated, accompanied by solo instruments such as the guitar; or, by solo instrumental sections (for example, cellos dominate Don Quichotte’s death scene). Listen to musical excerpts with our Listening Guide.

5) The fantastic Furlanetto
This production marks the COC debut for Italian bass Ferruccio Furlanetto, whose legendary 40-year career has established him as one of the greatest singing actors of his generation and the leading interpreter of Don Quichotte

 “Quichotte is eternally compelling because he is what every man should be… a man full of humanity, love, tenderness and appreciation for life.” Ferruccio Furlanetto

6) Linda Brovsky directs
American Linda Brovsky has worked extensively throughout North America as an opera and musical theatre director, writer and lecturer. Don Quichotte, a production originally created for Seattle Opera, marks her COC debut.

7) Love letter to literature
The sets designed by Donald Eastman are comprised of enormous books and quills and also feature projections that tower above the stage and replicate pages of Cervantes’ manuscript. In different configurations, the books can evoke a mountainside, or a bandit camp, thereby highlighting the profound connection between literature and the human imagination, as well as the very spirit that animates Don Quixote’s dream-like adventuring.

8) ¡Flamenco!
Complementing Massenet’s distinctive, Spanish-inspired melodies on stage are classical Flamenco dancers. Drawn mainly from local Toronto dancers, the performers also feature veteran Mexican flamenco star Raúl Salcedo and are led by master choreographer Sara de Luis.

9) Four-legged friends
Director Linda Brovsky has opted to use a live horse and donkey on stage, noting that the animals are integral characters in the story and their effect would be diminished with prop stand-ins. To ensure mutual comfort during live performances, the singers must bond with the animals during the rehearsal period, working to establish a relationship that has both the singer and the animal knowing and trusting each other.

10) In the lobby
For the duration of the opera’s run (May 9 – 24) we’re delighted to welcome a multi-part installation by Toronto artist Mitchell F. Chan into the opera house. Chan’s project explores the intangibility of truth with several elements located throughout the house, anchored by a large water vapour installation (on the main level) that spells out, letter by vanishing letter, the entirety of Cervantes’ novel. The art work thus dematerializes the novel’s content, while all at once affirming Cervantes’ central metaphor: truth is ephemeral. Chan’s pieces share the house with another Quichotte-themed display, this one at the Opera Shop, showing three authentic photographs of Feodor Chaliapin, the legendary Russian bass who originated the title role of Massenet’s opera.

Don Quichotte runs from May 9 to 24 at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts. For tickets and more information click here.

Photos: (top) Ferruccio Furlanetto as Don Quichotte and Anita Rachvelishvili as Dulcinée; (middle) Ferruccio Furlanetto as Don Quichotte and Quinn Kelsey as Sancho Panza in the Canadian Opera Company production of Don Quichotte, 2014. Photos: Michael Cooper

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Don Quichotte is a "stylish feast for the senses"!

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