Parlando: The COC Blog


In Tribute


The COC is saddened to learn that Brian Macdonald, one of Canada’s pre-eminent theatre and opera directors, passed away over the weekend. Although Brian directed the COC’s 1991 production of La Traviata, he was best-known to COC audiences for his classic production of Madama Butterfly, first created for the COC in 1990. 



“Brian’s Madama Butterfly has been a pillar of the Canadian Opera Company’s repertoire since 1990 and it was a privilege to get to know him this past fall for our revival of the production. He was able to inspire two casts to deliver two very different interpretations of this classic work, while still honouring the integrity of his personal vision. The affection and warmth he showed the artists was extraordinary to behold. His Madama Butterfly will be his legacy to the COC.”

– Alexander Neef





As we launched this year’s season with his sixth revival of Madama Butterfly, Brian spoke with us about his production in the video clip below.

Brian Macdonald’s other opera work took him all over the world where he staged productions for Teatro all Scala, Opera Australia, and New York City Opera, among others. He is a Canadian legend.

“Brian Macdonald is one of those all-too-rare opera directors who serve the composer, not his own ego.”

Now Toronto, 2009

For a more complete biography:


Photo Credits (top-down): Kelly Kaduce as Cio-Cio San in Madama Butterfly (COC, 2014). Photo: Michael Cooper. (l-r) Cornelis Opthof as Sharpless and Yoko Watanabe as Cio-Cio-San in Madama Butterfly (COC, 1990). Photo: Michael Cooper.

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The Big COC Podcast — Episode 29

By Gianmarco Segato, Adult Programs Manager


For Episode 29, the “Oldies but Goodies” edition, we welcome back Opera Canada editor, Wayne Gooding; opera journalist Paula Citron; and, opera blogger John Gilks. Gianmarco Segato, the COC’s Adult Programs Manager is your host. This week we’re hot on the trail of the latest developments to several ongoing opera stories: 

 Are you listening? Let us know your thoughts, opinions and suggestions by contacting us on our blog, Parlando, Facebook, Twitter (@CanadianOpera) or by email (

Posted by Kiersten Hay / in The Big COC Podcast / comments (1) / permalink


A Day in the Life: The Bremen Town Musicians

by Jenna Douglas

For over 30 years, students from all across Ontario have been inspired and delighted by the magic of live opera performance. The operas developed for the Glencore Ensemble Studio School Tour are adapted or created specifically for young audiences, and the artists perform in full costume with sets, props and piano accompaniment. The operas are performed in English and an informal question-and-answer period with the cast immediately follows each performance.

We asked pianist Jenna Douglas (also the mind behind Schmopera, the opera blog) to share a day in the life on the road with the Ensemble Studio School Tour, as they perform The Bremen Town Musicians. Read on for her account of an average day on tour, and check out the bottom of post for a video interview with the cast! 

Our other touring family opera, The Scorpions' Sting: An Egyptian Myth, will be presented at the Royal Ontario Museum on November 29th at 11am, free with museum admission! Find out more about the event here.

View The Bremen Town Musicians: Performance Locations in a full screen map




Anywhere between 7:30 and 8:30 a.m.

We meet at the tour van outside the COC, exchanging sleepy greetings and tips of coffee cups. We pile in the van. Someone asks for some of the Halloween candy in the big bag that Mike (our stage manager) keeps for emergencies. Someone asks for hand sanitizer. A few people Google the address of the school we’re going to, and muse on the pros and cons of various routes.

9:00 a.m.

Arrival at the school. A representative from the tour van jumps out to greet the school’s office staff, and to find the easiest path for lugging our equipment to the gymnasium. On good days, we’re greeted by a group of lovely students willing to help with the lugging. We begin an assembly line.

10:00 a.m.

Time for show #1. The gymnasium is now filled with anywhere from 60 to 300 students, from kindergartners to sixth graders. A teacher quiets the crowd, either with a raise of an arm, a counting system, or some mini game of clapping call-and-answer. The kids hear a quick preamble about what opera is, what show we’re performing for them, and that the aisles must stay clear for the performers. This causes some stirring amongst the crowd. I get a nod from Mike, who is backstage and ready to start.

10:12 a.m.

Mike, Gordon (who plays the Robber and Other Villains) and Andrew (who plays the Rooster) are backstage, prepared to flex their puppetry skills with the entrance of the mice. Without fail, the children go absolutely, positively crazy for those mice. 

10:30 a.m.

The entrance of the Robber. Gordon opens his bag of stolen money and pours gold coins joyfully over his head. The coins scatter on the floor in the vicinity, and the front row of children lurch forward to snag themselves a fake gold piece.


10:42 a.m.

The show has just finished, and we spend a few minutes taking questions from the audience. Plenty of inquiry about the origins of the costumes and sets, and several kids want to know how long the cast has been working as opera singers. Some infrequent concern about the health of my fingers, and the odd philosophical question: “Why did the robber steal?”

10:55 a.m.

The singers scatter to dressing rooms to get out of costume and remove make-up, while Mike and I begin to tear down the set. It’s week 2, and our tour group makes an art out of delegation, packing up and loading the van in under 20 minutes. 


11:15 a.m.

We all pile back into the van. Someone asks for a piece of Halloween candy. Someone asks for hand sanitizer. We Google the address of the next school, and someone proactively searches for potential lunch spots nearby. We debrief about particularly funny kids in the audience, the state of the Donkey’s ears, or memorable onstage snafus.


11:45 a.m.

Lunch decisions have been made. We notice that there have been a lot of ribs happening at school tour meals. No one is concerned. We marvel at Iain’s (who plays the Donkey) grand lunches and bother Mike for details about the afternoon’s school.

1:00 p.m.

We’re fed and caffeinated, and we arrive at the second school of the day. We battle a maze of hallways and unexpected staircases as we haul our beloved set through a brand new school. Several children stop us along the way to ask us who we are and what we’re doing here. We tell them about the opera, and they seem unsatisfied.


1:15 p.m.

Our second set-up is always fastest. The cast’s dressing rooms are actually gym equipment rooms, filled with childhood treasures like hula hoops, jump ropes, scooters, and tricycles. We all act like children for approximately 15 minutes.

1:55 p.m.

Children file in, expressing their surprise at our set taking up space in their gym. A few kids stop by the piano to tell me about their respective piano lessons. They ask if I’m an actual piano player. I assure them I’m the real deal.


2:12 p.m.

The children go absolutely, positively crazy for the mice.



2:55 p.m.

The show and Q&A session are over, and children lunge forward to “help” me clean up the dropped coins, still on the floor from the Robber’s scene. They inform me that the coins are fake, and therefore valueless. I learn about the unique relationship between one little girl’s dog and cat.


3:15 p.m.

We finish our patented van-pack, and help Mike dodge children and school buses on the way out of the parking lot. Someone asks for a piece of Halloween candy. Someone asks for hand sanitizer. Someone asks what time we’re meeting tomorrow morning, and others groan at the response.

4:00 p.m.

We narrowly escape Toronto-area rush hour and arrive back at the COC. Representatives get out of the van to help Mike maneuver into a parking spot. We mention that scene in Austin Powers when Mike Myers has to do a 20-point turn in a narrow alley. We confirm the call time for tomorrow morning, cheerily wave goodbye, and remind everyone that the price of being late is a big box of Timbits for the van (we’re not kidding).


The Bremen Town Musicians Cast Interview 

To learn more about the Glencore Ensemble Studio School Tour, visit

Follow the School Tour teams on Twitter with #BremenCOC and #ScorpionsCOC

Posted by Jenna Douglas / in Ensemble Studio / comments (0) / permalink

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



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