One of the most ambitious works of art ever created, Wagner’s Ring is a monumental cycle comprising four interconnected operas. Siegfried is the third instalment of the saga, in which the title character undertakes a psychological journey towards self-understanding, attempting to piece together the story of his origins and grasp his place in the world. In the process, he forges the broken magical sword called Nothung, slays the dragon Fafner, and braves a ring of fire to reawaken Brünnhilde with a kiss, pushing the allegorical story of the Ring toward its inexorable conclusion in Götterdämmerung.
At five hours (including two intermissions), Wagner’s Siegfried develops themes over long arcs of time, as opposed to short bursts of melodic activity. Conventional operas in the late 1700s and early 1800s were structured around the alternating use of two distinct forms of musical writing: (a) lushly orchestrated individual arias, i.e. “set pieces,” and (b) recitative sections, which served to communicate plot information through dialogue to the audience and to link together the big arias of an opera. By the mid- to- late-19th century, however, composers like Wagner began to react against what they perceived as the artificiality of this approach, in which a pyrotechnic aria might suddenly burst out of the action without a dramatically coherent buildup to warrant its emergence. By being slotted in for its beauty rather than musico-dramatic function, the conventional aria runs the risk of being less-than-credible in advancing the story’s emotional stakes. By contrast, Wagner’s vision synthesizes drama and music into one continuously moving, momentum-gathering, emotionally textured whole. Because the score eschews the traditional separation of aria/recitative, the opera builds its tensions, conflicts, and revelations through much more organic, immersive means, fusing orchestra and voice into an indivisible musical experience.
That being said, each of the three acts in Siegfried contains a standout section that could be categorized as a “set piece”: the Forging Song in Act I, in which Siegfried hammers away at the magic sword to restore the broken blade; the evocative sequence in Act II known as Forest Murmurs, in which Siegfried, surrounded by the sounds of the forest, contemplates the parents he never knew and fixes on the song of a Forest Bird, who will eventually guide him to Brünnhilde; and the extended love duet of Siegfried and Brünnhilde that constitutes the opera’s finale.
“For an opera like Siegfried, I try to understand the ‘structure’ of the piece—the architecture of each act—trying to somehow connect the very beginning with the very end and, by doing that, build this arc over the whole evening.” With this production, Maestro Debus leads the 106-piece COC Orchestra through an electrifying score of unparalleled musical storytelling.
Our production of Siegfried is directed by critically acclaimed Canadian film and stage director François Girard. His production has been hailed as “intellectually incisive” and “dazzling” (Opera News); “psychologically rich and mysterious” (NOW Magazine), as well as “awe-inspiring” (Toronto Star).
The set designs by celebrated Toronto-born designer Michael Levine represent the fragmented state of Siegfried’s psyche and memory. There are several elaborate constructions that hold a whirling mass of “memory debris”—including people from Siegfried’s past, remnants of Valhalla, weapons, etc.—suspended above the stage. The use of this “memoryscape” (which changes its configuration in significant ways from act to act) opens the door to a multiplicity of interpretations about the reality of what is happening to Siegfried: is it his imagination, his desire, an actual journey, or the unravelling of a mind that we are witnessing?
Girard is aware of the challenges inherent in staging Wagner’s long spans of time. In response, he has opted to use very clear and precise on-stage movement, eliminating any unnecessary action to heighten the emotional impact of simple gestures and allow the audience to embrace a new impression of time. Assisting in the formidable task is the award-winning Canadian choreographer Donna Feore.
“Huge of voice, unflagging of stamina, imaginative and energetic on the stage.” Seattle Times
“she possess[es] everything a great Brünnhilde must have: dignity, stature, and a voice of molten gold.” Toronto Star
“A commanding performer.” NOW Magazine
See our production live onstage from January 23 - February 14, 2016. To learn more about the production, visit here.
Photo credits (top - bottom): A scene from Siegfried (COC 2006), photo: Michael Cooper. Susan Bullock as Brünnhilde lying on ground with Christian Franz as Siegfried in Siegfried (COC 2006), photo: Gary Beechey. Laura Whalen as the Forest Bird in Siegfried (COC 2006), photo: Michael Cooper. Christian Franz as Siegfried and Robert Künzli as Mime in Siegfried (COC 2006), photo: Michael Cooper.
Posted by Nikita Gourski / in Siegfried / comments (0) / permalink
Canadian Opera Company patrons will notice two additions to the Four Seasons Centre when they come to the opera this winter. This week, the COC welcomed two new sculptures to the opera house, on loan from the Art Gallery of Ontario: a Henry Moore sculpture, placed at the top of the Grand Staircase, and a Jacques Lipchitz bronze, on display in the Henry N.R. Jackman Lounge. While the AGO has loaned the COC several pieces from its collection over the years for display at the Four Seasons Centre, this particular occasion marks the first time the AGO has loaned the opera company two pieces concurrently.
An English sculptor and artist, Henry Moore is best known for his semi-abstract monumental bronze sculptures, which are located around the world as public works of art. Titled Upright Motive No. 5, the Moore bronze sculpture is from 1955-1956 and is part of a series of maquettes developed out of Moore’s visit to the Olivetti building in Milan. He made the trip in consideration of a request for a commissioned sculpture for the building and in visiting the site was inspired by a lone Lombardy poplar. Although the commissioning project was never realized, the maquettes became the impetus for the upright motive series.
Jacques Lipchitz was a Russian-born French sculptor whose style was based on the principles of cubism. He was widely considered to be an important and innovative figure in the formulation of nonrepresentational, abstract sculpture during the early 20th century. On display at the Four Seasons Centre is Lipchitz’s 1917 bronze sculpture Bather III. His method was working towards a recognizable subject from imagined, abstract forms. In Bather III, he built a figure from geometric shapes that are recognizable anatomical parts that help the viewer identify the subject as a bathing female: the head is round, an arc near the centre of the figure indicates a navel, three short, diagonal lines on the notched area that protrudes from the centre of the figure indicate fingers, and figure's legs are crossed. The overall composition seems to be governed by unstable, jostling diagonals that imply dynamism and movement.
Posted by Kiersten Hay / in Four Seasons Centre / comments (0) / permalink
The Canadian Opera Company Orchestra Academy welcomes five student musicians to its annual three-week intensive training program.
Led by COC Music Director Johannes Debus, and developed in collaboration with The Glenn Gould School at the Royal Conservatory of Music and the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Music, the COC Orchestra Academy offers its student musicians professional insight and experience in their pursuit of a career in an opera orchestra.
The five student players who join the Academy this year were selected from a pool of 12 musicians who auditioned in October 2015 for Debus, COC Orchestra Academy Director Nina Draganic and members of the COC Orchestra: GGS cellist Drew Comstock, GGS violinist Hua-Chu Huang, GGS violinist Yada Lee, GGS bassist Doug Ohashi and UofT violist Meagan Turner.
As part of the Academy experience, students are featured in multiple public performances. This year those appearances include playing with the COC Orchestra at the company’s 2016/2017 season launch event on January 13 and a recital in the COC’s Free Concert Series in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre on January 21, performing Fauré’s La bonne chanson with COC Ensemble Studio tenor Jean-Philippe Fortier-Lazure and Mendelssohn’s Octet with their COC Orchestra mentors. Academy students also join the COC Orchestra in the pit of the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts on January 23 for opening night of the COC’s winter production of Wagner’s Siegfried, playing one of the most complex and stirring scores in the operatic canon.
New to the 2016 Orchestra Academy program are additional public performances with the COC Orchestra and opera singers from the COC, and masterclasses and private sessions with opera singers, production personnel and visiting music staff.
“It’s wonderful to see how we’ve grown the COC Orchestra Academy since it began in 2014. Every year we build it up just a little more, moving from strength to strength,” says COC Music Director Johannes Debus. “This year we’ve added the season launch event to the program and we’ve been fortunate enough to have interest from great artists like Christine Goerke and Russell Braun on how they can get involved with the Orchestra Academy. These experiences, at such an early point in these musicians’ careers, are the opportunities of a lifetime.”
Watch Johannes talk about the Orchestra Academy in the video below!
The COC Orchestra Academy is an extra-curricular program that launched in January 2014 as a pilot program with the intention of growing the initiative to include more students and members of the COC Orchestra. There is no official credit attached to the students’ participation. Members of the COC Orchestra participate in the COC Orchestra Academy voluntarily.
2016 COC Orchestra Academy Members
Cellist Drew Comstock began cello lessons at the age of four. He completed his undergraduate studies at the New England Conservatory of Music, where he studied with Yeesun Kim, and recently finished his Master of Music at McGill University where he worked with Brian Manker. He has performed in masterclasses for Ralph Kirshbaum, Phillipe Muller, Laurence Lesser, and Raphael Pidoux. As a chamber musician, he has worked with members of the Takács, Alban Berg, and Miró string quartets. He has also performed with Boston’s critically acclaimed Discovery Ensemble, the North Carolina Symphony, and the McGill Chamber Orchestra. Comstock is currently pursuing an artist diploma at The Glenn Gould School under Desmond Hoebig and Andrés Díaz.
Violinist Hua-Chu Huang was born in Taiwan and moved to Canada in 2007. Since starting the violin at age nine, he has won numerous prizes from national competitions in Taiwan, the Nova Scotia Youth Orchestra Concerto competition, and recently placed silver in the 2015 Canadian Music Competition. Huang has performed as a featured soloist in the Dalhousie Concerto Night as well as with the Chebucto Symphony Orchestra and Symphony Nova Scotia. He studied with Philippe Djokic at Dalhousie University, where he received his bachelor’s degree in violin performance. Huang is currently pursuing an artist diploma under Paul Kantor and Barry Shiffman at The Glenn Gould School.
Violinist Yada Lee has won numerous competitions and awards. She has performed concerti with Mannes Orchestra at Alice Tully Hall, New York, as well as with orchestras in Thailand and around the world. She has been a member of Verbier Festival Orchestra and Bangkok Symphony Orchestra and has served as concertmaster and principal for both Oberlin and Mannes orchestras. Lee holds a master’s degree from Mannes School of Music and a bachelor’s degree in violin performance from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music. She is currently at The Glenn Gould School, studying with Paul Kantor, Barry Shiffman, Laurie Smukler and David Bowlin.
Bassist Doug Ohashi is currently completing the final year of his artist diploma at The Glenn Gould School, studying with Jeffrey Beecher, principal bassist of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. Ohashi aspires to perform in a professional orchestra and has participated in several training programs to serve that goal, including the National Youth Orchestra of Canada and Orford Academy. He is a recipient of the James Craig Opera Orchestra Award.
Praised for her imagination and musical instinct, Toronto-based violist Meagan Turner recently completed her undergraduate studies as a scholarship student at the University of Toronto. Turner has held principal positions with numerous orchestras and performed in masterclasses for renowned artists including Henning Kraggerud, Atar Arad, and the Brentano and Belcea quartets. In addition to her studies at U of T, Turner has studied chamber music with the St. Lawrence, Cecilia, and New Orford quartets and will continue her orchestral training at the New York String Orchestra Seminar this December. Turner is currently pursuing an advanced certificate in performance at UofT, in the studio of Eric Nowlin.
The COC Orchestra Academy is an initiative of the COC Orchestra with the agreement of the Toronto Musicians' Association.
Photo credit: (l-r) cellist Drew Comstock, violinist Hua-Chu Huang, violinist Yada Lee, bassist Doug Ohashi and violist Meagan Turner
Posted by Meighan Szigeti / in Orchestra Academy / comments (0) / permalink
Sara Fulgoni in the COC production of Bluebeard's Castle. Photo: Michael Cooper © 2001