By Gianmarco Segato, Adult Programs Manager
For Episode 24, the “Just what is opera worth to you?” edition, we welcome back Alia Rosenstock, Associate Artist Manager with Dean Artists Management; Jenna Douglas, a Toronto-based collaborative pianist and author of the increasingly-clicked-on opera blog, Schmopera and, COC Ensemble Studio baritone, Cameron McPhail. Also included in this podcast is a special report on San Diego Opera from arts journalist Catherine Kustanczy. Gianmarco Segato, the COC’s Adult Programs Manager, is your host.
Are you listening? Let us know your thoughts, opinions and suggestions by commenting here, or on Facebook, Twitter or by e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org).
You can subscribe to The Big COC Podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, or in your favourite podcast player with our RSS feed (http://feeds.feedburner.com/bigCOCpodcast).
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During our spring season, the Canadian Opera Company hosts an array of incredibly talented artists, both on stage and in the orchestra pit. And throughout May and June, you can also experience acclaimed mainstage singers, the Ensemble Studio's rising stars and COC Orchestra virtuosi in several Free Concert Series performances. You won't want to miss these final concerts that complete another spectacular season!
Tuesday, May 6, 2014
12 - 1 p.m.
Of Love and Longing
Allyson McHardy, Andrew Haji, Keith Hamm and Liz Upchurch
Canadian mezzo-soprano Allyson McHardy currently sings the role of Sara, Duchess of Nottingham, in the COC's production of Roberto Devereux. She teams up with pianist Liz Upchurch, tenor and COC Ensemble Studio member Andrew Haji and COC principal violist Keith Hamm in a poignant program of songs by Brahms, Britten and Canadian composer Robert Fleming.
Tuesday, May 6, 2014
12 - 1 p.m.
Journeys of the Soul
Russell Braun and Artists of the COC Orchestra
Internationally acclaimed baritone and COC favourite Russell Braun (the Duke of Nottingham in the COC's Roberto Devereux) is joined by pianist Carolyn Maule and artists of the COC Orchestra in Samuel Barber's profoundly moving Dover Beach and Fauré's La bonne chanson.
Thursday, May 15, 2014
12 - 1 p.m.
War and Peace: Handel and Albinoni
Artists of the COC Orchestra and Ensemble Studio
Baroque aficionados won't want to miss this moving performance featuring some of the most exquisite chamber works and arias of the era. Performed by artists of the COC Orchestra and graduating Ensemble Studio soprano Sasha Djihanian, the program includes works by Handel and Albinoni.
Tuesday, May 20, 2014
12 - 1 p.m.
Artists of the Ensemble Studio
It's a bittersweet day as we bid adieu to graduating artists of the COC Ensemble Studio: soprano Sasha Djihanian, baritone Cameron McPhail and pianist Michael Shannon. This musical farewell features their favourite art songs, including works by Debussy, Dvořák, Poulenc and Lee Hoiby.
Wednesday, June 4, 2014
12 - 1 p.m.
Artists of the COC Orchestra
In a resounding finale to the 2013/2014 season, the brass section of the COC Orchestra, accompanied by COC Music Director Johannes Debus on piano, fills the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre with the glorious strains of antiphonal music by Giovanni Gabrieli, and fanfares by Benjamin Britten and Paul Dukas. It also features rarely-heard chamber gems by Paul Hindemith, Francis Poulenc, Morten Lauridsen and COC principal tuba Scott Irvine, showcasing the magnificent sonic richness of brass instruments in various combinations.
Let us know which concerts you're most looking forward to in the comments or on our Facebook page!
Photos (top to bottom): Artists of the COC Orchestra. Photo: Chris Hutcheson; Allyson McHardy. Photo: Bohuang.ca; (l-r) Sasha Djihanian, Cameron McPhail and Michael Shannon.
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When superstar soprano Sondra Radvanovsky finished singing Aida’s great act III aria “O patria mia” in her 2010 COC and role debut, the audience response was unprecedented. Toronto had just experienced one of the most emotionally frank, technically superb, thrilling pieces of singing. The post-performance excitement in the lobby was palpable – her just-released CD of Verdi arias was selling out at the Opera Shop and patrons were simply abuzz with excitement, demanding to know when they would hear her again. They’re currently getting that chance with Radvanovsky’s rapturously-received return to the COC stage this spring as the “Virgin Queen” Elizabeth I (Elisabetta) in Roberto Devereux which, like Aida in 2010, represents another role debut.
Until recently, Radvanovsky’s repertoire was built on
early- and middle-period Verdi heroines such as Elena in
I vespri siciliani and Leonora in Il trovatore. It is only more
recently that she has begun to explore earlier Italian 19th-century
roles like Norma, Anna Bolena, Maria Stuarda and
now, Elisabetta in Roberto Devereux. Convention dictates
that big-voiced singers like Radvanovsky “graduate”
forward, taking on even greater decibel-demanding, thickly
orchestrated, post-Verdi roles like Puccini’s Turandot,
Madama Butterfly and Minnie in The Girl of the Golden
West. While Puccini’s Tosca is one of her staple, star turns,
Radvanovsky has, somewhat unexpectedly, headed in
the opposite direction, towards the earlier 19th-century
heroines of Donizetti. In this corner of the repertoire,
size of voice is not all that matters; instead, flexibility to
sing demanding coloratura (highly ornamental music
where several notes are sung on each syllable of the text);
sustained vocal lines sung perfectly smoothly; and, an
ability to colour the meaning of the text take precedence.
The soprano’s account of the path that led her to bel canto
is fascinating and revealing. “I am not one to lie about my
past. As a child I was intubated; I had pneumonia and my
doctor feels that the tube nicked one of my vocal chords
which resulted in the polyp I had all of my singing life. In
2002 I had it removed and had to learn how to sing all over
again. It opened up a new world for me, a world I never
thought or imagined musically I would be singing. That
really started with [the 2008 Washington National Opera
production of] Lucrezia Borgia but it was also my voice coach, Tony Manoli, who pointed me in that direction.”
Despite her many accomplishments as a Verdi singer, he
was convinced she had the potential to be even greater
in the bel canto repertoire. Together, they re-worked her
technique post-surgery and in the process, she feels she
became a better singer. “It was a godsend. No one else
heard it; Manoli was the only one.” The ultimate affirmation
of this vocal transformation was her recent fall 2013
Metropolitan Opera Norma (the summit of all bel canto
roles) – “it was a huge success…HUGE!”
With her COC Elisabetta, Radvanovsky will have sung
all three of Donizetti’s “Tudor queens” (Anna Bolena and
Maria Stuarda complete the trilogy), an undertaking few
sopranos have managed to achieve – or survive! Famously,
American soprano Beverly Sills, who performed all three
at New York City Opera during the early 1970s, admitted
they shortened her opera career. “Well,” says Radvanovsky,
“I think our voices are a lot different; she was more of a
lyric coloratura,” as opposed to Radvanovsky’s own fuller,
dramatic instrument. “But I guess she wanted to risk it
because it’s so exciting as an artist to perform all three.”
And now, having lived with the Tudor queens herself,
Radvanovsky can attest to their dangerous fascination.
“There is the common thread, of course, that they were all
queens and so possess a nobility that one has to keep in
mind in terms of stage deportment – with how they react
and deal with other characters. Vocally, however, they are
completely different. Donizetti chose to highlight earlier
stages of the other queens’ lives whereas Elisabetta is at the
end and she’s worn down; she’s a broken woman. She was
a very strong queen as we know, but here she’s angry a lot
and it shows in the vocal writing Donizetti gave her.
If you look at the length of the role, Elisabetta is the shortest,
especially compared to Anna Bolena which is a marathon.
In fact, Elisabetta doesn’t appear in quite a bit of the opera,
but she has the key moments and, by far, the hardest music.
In terms of vocal range, hers is the widest with a great
amount of dramatic coloratura that is just unrelenting.
It’s so easy to get caught up in the character’s temperament.
As singers we can play the emotion in our body or it can get
stuck in your voice… there’s good tension and there’s bad
tension and one has to learn the difference between the two
if you’re going to sing roles like Elisabetta and Norma – you
have to know where to put the tension in your body and
hopefully it doesn’t go to your throat.”
Radvanovsky will take on the Sills trifecta when she sings
all three Tudor queens in 2015/2016 at the Metropolitan
Opera. “I start in the fall with a new production of Roberto
Devereux and then come back later in the season and do
all three in a row. I’m not sure if I’m completely cuckoo or
sane for doing this!” Before that, however, she is particularly
keen on the COC’s Shakespearean Globe Theatre-inspired
production for Devereux. Our audiences will recognize
it from 2010’s Maria Stuarda but it was also the setting
for Radvanovsky’s Anna Bolena at Washington National
Opera in 2012. “I really like the whole concept of it being
in the round, of the Globe Theatre influence, and it’s great
for projecting the voice too – I don’t have to work as hard
because I have all this resonant wood around me!”
Roberto Devereux runs at the Four Seasons Centre until May 21, 2014. For tickets and more information click here.
Photos: (top) Sondra Radvanovsky as Elisabetta; (middle) (far right) Sondra Radvanovsky; (bottom) Sondra Radvanovsky, Leonardo Capalbo as Roberto Devereux and Matt Boehler as Sir Gualtiero Raleigh. All photos from the Canadian Opera Company production of Roberto Devereux, 2014. Photos: Michael Cooper
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Sara Fulgoni in the COC production of Bluebeard's Castle. Photo: Michael Cooper © 2001