There's only a week left of our 2012/2013 season and we have three spectacular productions running almost every day at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts! The critics are raving about our spring season, which is full of obsessive desires and gut-wrenching devotion. Read what they are saying and watch our exclusive behind-the-scenes videos for each production!
Atom Egoyan's dramatic interpretation of Strauss's dark opera was described as "one of the dark jewels of the Canadian Opera Company" and that the third time must be a charm because Stage Door said "if you have seen this production before, you will find that it has only grown in richness of interpretation".
With knock-out performances by Erika Sunnegårdh who performed with "power and beauty" and Richard Margison who sang "magnificently" in his role debut, the music left the Toronto Sun saying that "under the baton of Johannes Debus, the COC Orchestra is on hand to give a finely-etched and sensitive reading of Strauss’s complex score." Read more critical acclaim for Salome here.
Salome runs until Wednesday May 22, 2013. Learn more and buy tickets here.
Watch our Inside Opera video about the Dance of the Seven Veils below.
Director David Alden brought his dark vision of Donizetti's bel canto classic to the Four Seasons Centre and the production was described as "searingly intense" and "offered us a fresh and splendid approach" to the opera.
Anna Christy was hailed as "subtle, clear, immensely powerful" and "spectacular" while tenor Stephen Costello was called "strong, earnest and vocally dazzling as lover Edgardo". Baritone Brian Mulligan wowed with his "ferocious, angry, intense and captivating" performance, the COC chorus was lauded for strength and vibrancy, while John Terauds said that conductor Stephen Lord "made magic with Donizetti’s score, expertly shifting tempos and adding breaths in this rich dramatic stew." Read more critical acclaim for Lucia di Lammermoor here.
Lucia di Lammermoor runs until May 24, 2013. Learn more and buy tickets here.
Go behind the scenes of Lucia di Lammermoor in our Inside Opera video below.
NOW Magazine calls Dialogues des Carmélites one of the "COC's best productions", and the Toronto Sun says that "Carsen creates operatic magic. This is a work of such simple, soaring beauty that one suspects Poulenc has rarely been better served."
As the First Prioress, Judith Forst was described as "thrillingly brilliant", Adrianne Pieczonka was applauded for being "in glorious form", while Isabel Bayrakdarian was an "ideal Blanche de la Force". The Toronto Star said that "the major hero of the evening is Robert Carsen, who once again proves he is a master at bringing issues of spirituality onto the stage and making them real and gripping" and The Globe and Mail raved that "the members of the COC orchestra, under the direction of Johannes Debus, were really the musical stars of the evening. Every phrase, every dramatic turn of the score was rendered impeccably – a bravura performance."
Dialogues des Carmélites runs until May 25, 2013. Learn more and buy tickets here.
See what audiences have to say about our production below.
Photos: All photos by Michael Cooper unless otherwise indicated: Top row (l – r): Anna Christy as Lucia, Erika Sunnegårdh as Salome, Isabel Bayrakdarian as Blanche (photo: Chris Hutcheson); Salome image: A scene from the COC’s 2013 production; Lucia di Lammermoor image: Anna Christy as Lucia and Nathaniel Peake as Arturo in the COC’s 2013 production; Dialogues des Carmélites image: A scene from the COC’s 2013 production.
Posted by Danielle D'Ornellas / in 2012/2013 / comments (0) / permalink
By Nikita Gourski, Development Communications Officer
In 1994, Canadian film director Atom Egoyan won international recognition for his film Exotica, a provocative meditation on erotic obsession and psychological trauma explored through the relationship of a nightclub dancer and her male client.
Shortly after Exotica’s release, the Canadian Opera Company approached Egoyan with an offer to direct an opera, a story so thematically saturated with voyeurism it seemed ideal for the young filmmaker’s sensibility: Richard Strauss’s Salome.
Unveiled in 1996, Egoyan’s production simultaneously recognized the deeply disturbing matter of the opera – a work that has inflamed scandal since its 1905 world premiere – while offering a fresh reading responsive to our contemporary culture. Rather than a first-century palace in Judea, Egoyan set the action in an abstract and foreboding environment, something between a spa and a sanatorium. Derek McLane’s set design is built around a diagonal plane tilted at a dangerously steep angle, with Jochanaan (John the Baptist) imprisoned underneath the floorboards instead of the subterranean cistern in which he’s traditionally kept.
Egoyan’s approach focused on the complex circuitry of voyeurism, made explicit in the libretto, and followed it to its disconcerting psychological depths. From the first lines of the opera – “How beautiful the Princess Salome is tonight,” repeated obsessively by the young Syrian Narraboth – the process of looking is established as a dominant psychological theme in Salome. Characters are compulsively observing others, or else being looked at themselves, held visually as objects within a matrix of frustrated desire. “The Page is obsessed with Narraboth, who doesn’t return her gaze; Narraboth is obsessed with Salome, who doesn’t return his gaze; and Salome is obsessed with Jochanaan, who doesn’t return her gaze,” Egoyan says, describing the opera’s gridiron pattern of erotic fixation.
To get at the heart of all this looking, Egoyan’s production makes use of surveillance equipment, as well as projected film and video images. The guards, for example, become camera-wielding soldiers, whose official “watching” is less about patrolling the perimeter and more about deploying modern technology to direct a collective gaze onto objects of sensual interest: usually Salome. In fact, before we ever see the teenaged princess onstage in the flesh, we encounter a filmed image of her in a series of unsettling shots set in a spa’s mud baths.
Similarly, when Jochanaan berates members of Salome’s family from offstage, a large video screen positioned behind the singers shows a live feed of his mouth in close-up. The disembodied projection anticipates Salome’s fetishistic dissecting of Jochanaan’s body parts – skin, hair, mouth – into isolated objects of lust, but it also prefigures the actual, physical decapitation of the prophet. Incorporating film projection in this context elaborates the thread of continuity that runs between the predatory look and the act of unimaginable violence.
In this opera, looking is never benevolent. From Salome’s opening remarks about the lascivious gaze of her stepfather Herod – “those mole’s eyes… under his quivering eyelids” that look at her “like that” – to the Page warning Narraboth that it’s “very dangerous to look at a human face in such a way,” the desiring gaze has a throbbing underside that threatens to devour and consume.
Nowhere is this truer than the opera’s narrative pivot: the Dance of the Seven Veils. Egoyan’s innovative account gives a dramatic weight and clarity to Salome’s psychology that few interpretations could rival. On a screen created by the billowing skirts of the princess, who is lifted on a swing high up into the rafters, we see “home movies” of the young Salome. In these moments, she is a girl in a world of paper dolls, living through childhood. But we also catch silhouetted glimpses of a disturbing act committed in the shadows, possibly in the near past, but maybe right now: she is being raped by a gang of men. We realize that Salome’s stepfather Herod oversees the entire sexual atrocity, watching it and thereby giving it licence.
“[Violence] doesn’t come out of nowhere,” Egoyan observes, “and we’ve seen that with abused victims: there is a repetition of the way that they have been treated.” Using the dance to chronicle a history of terrifying acts makes Salome’s subsequent demand for Jochanaan’s head psychologically credible and dramatically focused. Instead of showing the prototypical femme fatale – “an unbridled sexuality that leads to ruin,” as Egoyan says – the production depicts an “abused, traumatized character."
The results carry a sobering impact. Egoyan’s production issues a challenge: it asks us to treat seriously – and understand – how anyone, including a young girl, could instigate such horrific violence.
This article is published in our spring house program. Click here to read the issue online.
Photos: (top) (l – r) Hanna Schwarz as Herodias and Erika Sunnegårdh as Salome; (middle) (l – r) Nathaniel Peake as Narraboth, Maya Lahyani as the Page of Herodias, Evan Boyer as First Soldier and Sam Handley as Second Soldier; (bottom) Dance of the Seven Veils scene. Photos from the Canadian Opera Company's 2013 production of Salome. Photos by Michael Cooper.
Sara Fulgoni in the COC production of Bluebeard's Castle. Photo: Michael Cooper © 2001