Parlando: The COC Blog


Catching up with Ensemble Studio Member Claire de Sévigné

By Jennifer Pugsley, Media Relations Manager

Soprano Claire de Sévigné has spent much of her summer studying at the prestigious Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara, California. We at the COC wanted to find out exactly what she’s been learning, what kind of performances she’s been giving and if she’s been having any fun in that California sun.

What have you been doing at the Music Academy of the West?

At Music Academy of the West there are two public masterclasses a week, in addition to Italian, German and French diction coaching sessions, as well as voice lessons and coachings. At the beginning of the summer, we did a three-hour scenes program and I performed a scene from Rossini’s La Cenerentola, in which I sang the role of Clorinda (see photo below).

Back in mid-July, we had the Marilyn Horne Song Competition. Each singer had to perform three songs, one being in English. I sang "An die Nacht" by Strauss, "À Cupidon" by Milhaud and "Black Anemones" by Schwantner. Although I didn't place, I enjoyed the experience so much. I got to perform with a fellow Canadian, pianist Ronny Michael Greenberg from Montreal. We had such a positive experience collaborating that we’re now planning to schedule a recital tour, making it possible for us to work again in the near future. We’re now staging Mozart’s The Magic Flute in which I’m singing the Queen of the Night (see photo above). At the end of the summer, I’ll also be performing in the Cabaret concert and sing "Il bacio" by Arditi, a great coloratura waltz.

[Since Claire answered the COC’s questions about her time at the Music Academy of the West, performances of The Magic Flute and the Cabaret concert have taken place. Read the Santa Barbara Independent’s review, in which Claire is praised for making “splendid sense out of her notoriously difficult arias”, and her "ravishing" performance in the Cabaret concert.]

What’s been your favourite role or experience so far at the Academy?

I'm really enjoying singing the Queen of the Night. The first rehearsal with the orchestra was such a rush! The Queen’s arias are pure rock and roll! The orchestra sounds great and they all seem to be really keen to be a part of the show. An especially cool thing about the show is that the orchestra will be re-creating the thunder and water sounds with the original materials that were most likely used in Mozart's time. So for example, thunder sheets for the sound of a storm, crumpled paper for fire and tubs of water for rain and the trial scenes.

Who have you been most excited to meet or work with in California?

I’ve been most excited to work with Marilyn Horne and Warren Jones, as well as Carrie-Anne Matheson (a fellow Canadian and a vocal coach and prompter at the Metropolitan Opera). I’ve also thoroughly enjoyed working with coaches and conductors Jonathan Kelly and John Churchwell, as well as The Magic Flute director David Paul.

Did you offer any tips, tricks or advice for new Ensemble Studio member Andrew Haji, who’s also at Music Academy of the West?

No tricks or tips. I've known Andrew for many years and we've become great friends. I love singing with him. I'm so happy to be here with him and to know that we’ll be going back to the COC together in the fall.

It hasn’t been all work and no play, we hope.  You are in California after all!

All of the Music Academy Fellows are connected with Compeers for the summer (a personal sponsor or donor) and they take very good care of us. I have Shirley and Seymour Lehar and they are very supportive. They come to all of my performances and cheer me on. It's nice to know I always have someone in the audience. They’ve also shown me around Santa Barbara: the beach and the town of Santa Barbara.  It is really a little oasis down here.

So your summer is part work and part time-off from the Ensemble Studio. What kind of music are you listening to while travelling?

The music I'm listening to right now is mostly from operas in the COC's upcoming season!! But during serious down time I listen to a lot of indie music and Beyoncé.

Photos: (top) Claire de Sévigné as Queen of the Night in the Music Academy of the West's production of The Magic Flute; (bottom) Claire as Clorinda in a rehearsal scene from the Music Academy of the West's La Cenerentola. Photos by David Bazemore. 

Posted by Danielle D'Ornellas / in Ensemble Studio / comments (0) / permalink


From MET Live in HD... to LIVE at the COC!

By Gianmarco Segato, Adult Programs Manager

As opera lovers the world over eagerly anticipate the return of live opera with the start of the fall season, increasingly, fans are also learning to anticipate a specific date each August: the day tickets go on sale for the Metropolitan Opera’s series of live HD transmissions. 

This year those dates are Wednesday, August 14 (for Met Members, and for Cineplex Odeon SCENE cardholders) and Wednesday, August 21 for the general public. Many local HD enthusiasts still do things “old school”, lining up very early in the morning for tickets at venues across the Greater Toronto Area. You can also buy your tickets online, choosing the specific seat you want to sit in – but don’t dawdle as theatres sell out quickly.

The upcoming Met Live in HD season features a large number of artists and productions which have specific COC connections – here are some of the highlights:

Saturday, November 9, 2013: Tosca

When this Luc Bondy production premiered at the Metropolitan Opera in September 2009, it was greeted by boos. By the time it was revived in April of that season with a different cast, it was pronounced a triumph! This was in large part due to American soprano Patricia Racette who "brought a richly expressive voice and raw emotion to her wrenching portrayal of Tosca" (The New York Times). Racette is one of the world’s most riveting singing actresses whose artistry Toronto audiences will soon get to experience first-hand!

Saturday, December 14, 2013: Falstaff

Canadian director Robert Carsen’s new production has already appeared at Teatro alla Scala, Milan and Royal Opera House, Covent Garden where it was praised as “an intricate, closely observed Falstaff — witty, charming and human from start to finish.” (Opera News) This transmission provides hometown audiences with the rare opportunity to preview a future COC production which will arrive in Toronto with a spectacular all-star Canadian cast.

Saturday, February 8, 2014: Rusalka

This revival of the beloved Otto Schenk production features superstar soprano Renée Fleming in the title role. Appearing alongside her as the Water Gnome is the great Canadian bass-baritone John Relyea, one of the opera world’s most in-demand singers. He thrilled our audiences as the four villains in The Tales of Hoffmann in his 2012 COC debut and he will make a welcome return to the COC in a high-profile role in a future season.  

Saturday, March 1, 2014: Prince Igor

This highly-anticipated new production of a Russian rarity features the spectacular Georgian mezzo-soprano Anita Rachvelishvili as Konchakovna. Ms Rachvelishvili was a thrilling Carmen for the COC in 2010.

April 26, 2014: Così fan tutte

Opera fans are excited about this revival since it marks the return to the podium of MET Music Director James Levine after a lengthy absence due to illness. The fresh, young cast features two recent COC stars: Isabel Leonard (Dorabella) received rave reviews as Sesto in our 2013 La clemenza di Tito (see above, in blue) and Rodion Pogossov (Guglielmo) has entertained Toronto audiences as Papageno in 2011’s The Magic Flute and as Figaro in 2008’s The Barber of Seville (see the top photo in this post).

As regular HD attendees will know, at each transmission the host reminds movie theatre audiences that no matter how spectacular these MET performances might be on the big screen, nothing can compare to experiencing opera live, in the opera house. We’re thrilled that so many of the artists and productions featured in this season’s MET HD transmissions will soon be coming to you live on our stage here in Toronto.



Photos: (top) Rodion Pogossov as Figaro in the COC’s production of The Barber of Seville, 2008; (middle) Patricia Racette as Tosca in the Metropolitan Opera's 2010 production of Tosca; (middle) Bryn Terfel as Falstaff in the Teatro alla Scala's 2013 production of Falstaff; (middle) John Relyea as Dr. Miracle in the Canadian Opera Company production of The Tales of Hoffmann, 2012; (middle) Anita Rachvelishvili as Carmen, and Jonas Kaufmann as Don José in the Teatro alla Scala's 2009 production of Carmen; (bottom) Keri Alkema as Vitellia and Isabel Leonard as Sesto in the Canadian Opera Company’s production of La clemenza di Tito, 2013. Photo Credits: (top) Michael Cooper; (middle) Ken Howard; (middle) Rudy Amisano; (middle) Michael Cooper; (middle) Marco Brescia; (bottom) Michael Cooper.

Posted by Danielle D'Ornellas / in Opera Appreciation / comments (0) / permalink


Artist Basics: Eric Owens

What he's doing with us: American bass-baritone Eric Owens makes his COC debut in Peter Sellars' contemporary take on Handel's Hercules. Eric previously performed the role for the premiere of this new COC and Lyric Opera of Chicago co-production in 2011 to enthusiastic reviews, and is reuniting with the full cast at the COC this spring. 

Where you might have seen him: Equally at home on the operatic stage and in recital, Eric is particularly well-known to Met Live in HD audiences for his performance as the scene-stealing Alberich in the Metropolitan Opera’s latest Ring Cycle. He is also a popular choice with composers looking to create new, contemporary operas! In addition to the acclaim Eric received for his performance of the title character in the world premiere of Elliot Goldenthal’s Grendel, composer John Adams created both the roles of General Leslie Groves in Doctor Atomic and The Storyteller in A Flowering Tree for Eric.

His background: Would you believe that this world-famous bass-baritone was almost a pianist, or an oboist instead? In his final year of high school, Eric switched his musical focus to vocal studies and went on to earn a bachelor of music in vocal performance from Temple University. He continued his studies in the graduate program at the Curtis Institute of Music and joined the young artist program at the Houston Grand Opera.

Interviews and profiles: NPR Music wrote about Eric just before the Met's production of Das Rheingold premiered in 2010; the New York Times interviewed Eric about his roles as villains and about his career trajectory; Eric opened up to the Los Angeles Times when he was performing as Sharpless in Madama Butterfly at LA Opera; and he received great praise from the Wall Street Journal for his performance in a recital last year. 

What's next for Eric: In the fall of 2013, Eric performs as Alberich in Deutsche Oper Berlin's productions of Das Rheingold and Götterdämmerung, he returns to the Metropolitan Opera in the winter to perform as Sarastro in Julie Taymor's production of The Magic Flute and takes up the role of Vodnik in Rusalka at the Lyric Opera of Chicago just before joining us in Toronto for Hercules.

You can follow Eric on Twitter @EricOwensSinger, on Facebook, or on his website.

Watch Eric perform one of the most memorable arias from Le nozze di Figaro below. 

Photos: (top)Eric Owens; (middle) Eric Owens as Hercules in the Canadian Opera Company/Lyric Opera of Chicago (LOC) co-production of Hercules, 2011, LOC. Photo credits: (top) Dario Acosta; (middle) Dan Rest. 

Posted by Danielle D'Ornellas / in Hercules / comments (0) / permalink

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