Parlando: The COC Blog


Louis Riel: What Else is Happening?

In conjunction with the our new production of Harry Somers’ Louis RielFREE events are taking place in Toronto throughout the month of April, allowing the general public to discover this uniquely Canadian contribution to the opera world, as well as the Métis history and cultural traditions that inspired the operatic tale of the Métis leader and Canada’s westward expansion.

On April 13, from 12 – 1 p.m., the V'ni Dansi's Louis Riel Métis Dancers bring the rhythms and images of the Métis spirit alive through traditional and contemporary styles of Métis dance and music. The Vancouver-based company is dedicated to sharing the dances, stories and culture of the Métis and, on April 13, performs in the Free Concert Series for the first time in celebration of the Métis people.

On April 20, the Métis Fiddler Quartet comes to the Free Concert Series from 12 – 1 p.m., presenting a musical voyage that travels the trade routes of the Northwestern frontier. Born in Winnipeg, the four Delbaere-Sawchuk siblings: Alyssa, Conlin, Nicholas and Danton, of the Métis Fiddler Quartet, perform Métis fiddle music passed down by their elders, while drawing on their diverse backgrounds in classical music, jazz and beyond. On April 20, audience members are encouraged to clap, jig and sing along with this award-winning group and discover the history of the Métis people in Canada through fiddle tunes and songs.


On April 12, the COC hosts Rebel Without a Chance: Louis Riel at the Toronto Public Library – Don Mills location (888 Lawrence Ave. E.) as part of our Opera Talks series. In this free and interactive session, Opera Canada editor Wayne Gooding offers a multi-media exploration of the theme of opera and revolution by examining how the opera Louis Riel tells the story of this important historical figure. Rebel Without a Chance: Louis Riel takes places at 7 p.m. No advance registration is required. For more information, please visit


On April 13, the COC's Youth Opera Lab series explores the traditional music of the Métis people in a workshop led by musician and educator Conlin Delbaere-Sawchuk of the Métis Fiddler Quartet. This free workshop for teens and young adults ages 16 to 24 takes place from 5 – 9:30 p.m. at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts (145 Queen St. W.) and includes the opportunity to observe an on-stage rehearsal of Louis Riel. Youth Opera Lab spaces are free but advance application is required to secure one of the 25 spots available. Applications are available at and are being accepted until April 5, 2017.


On April 21, the free, day-long symposium Hearing Riel explores the complex biographical, historical and political terrain of Harry Somers' landmark Canadian opera. Symposium presenters include Beverley McLachlin, Chief Justice of Canada; John Ralston Saul, author of A Fair Country; Métis activist and lawyer Jean Teillet, grandniece of Louis Riel; Adam Gaudry, Métis Assistant Professor, Faculty of Native Studies, University of Alberta; and Peter Hinton, director of our production of Louis Riel. This special, one-day-only event is presented by the COC in partnership with the University of Toronto's Faculty of Music and the Humanities Initiative of the Munk School of Global Affairs. The symposium runs from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. at Innis Town Hall (2 Sussex Ave., St. George Campus, University of Toronto.) Admission is free and tickets can be reserved in advance as of April 4 by visiting or by calling the Box Office at 416-363-8231. There is a limit of one ticket per person.

Louis Riel is onstage at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts from April 20 to May 13. For more information and to purchase tickets, please click here.

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The Opera That Changed My Life: You Never Forget

Throughout this series, countless operas have been given the title of an "opera that changed my life." An art form such as opera, that is so diverse in terms of artistic output, is going to appeal to people in different ways. Here is the next instalment in our blog series that explores the moments when normal people became opera lovers.

Boris Krivy

I am 81 years old. I hated opera until the time that I was 17 or 18 years old. To me, it was just loud noise and screaming. Then, my best buddy lent me his recording of Turandot and said, “Try it, you'll like it.”  I did, and it is still my favourite opera. But, more than that, it introduced me to a new and magnificent world of music. However, I still do not care much for Wagner, with one or two exceptions.


Above: a recording of Franco Corelli singing "Non piangere, Liu" from Puccini's Tosca.

Horst Widl 

Something lasting I took away from [Die] Meistersinger [von Nürnberg]: embedded in enchanting music, that without respect for the wisdom of the old, it is very hard to create something new.

Above: a recording of the overture to Wagner's Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg by the Vienna Philharmonic, conducted by Sir Georg Solti.

Banner image: A scene from ​Turandot ​(COC, 2004), photo by Michael Cooper.

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The Opera That Changed My Life: Growing up with Opera


For those who are fortunate enough to have been exposed to opera from a young age, the connection often lasts a lifetime. Here is the next instalment in our blog series that explores the moments when normal people became opera lovers.

Rochelle Abkowitz 

As a young girl growing up in the Lower East Side of NYC in the 1940s, I was fortunate to have a teacher who convinced my parents to let me take the test to attend the Hunter College High School junior high program that would lead into the high school. While there, a student teacher from the college came to my music class and sang the arias from Aida. I had wanted to sing since I was very young and even told my aunt at the age of five that I would be a singer. When I asked the young woman which high school she attended she told me it had been The High School of Music and Art. I was determined that I would attend there and began the preparations. When my parents wouldn’t sign the papers necessary for me to take the exam, I signed them myself and after the test I was accepted.

I have sung for the rest of my life and credit Aida for my good fortune. I was even a regional finalist of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions and have had church and synagogue jobs, sung opera leading roles with the Rochester Opera Theatre, and with the Pittsburgh and Syracuse symphonies.

Aida changed my life, and all for the better!!

Elizabeth Marcilio 

World War II was not long over when an Italian opera company came to Australia. My father met one of the tenors (Plinio Clabassi) who gave him two free tickets to Madama Butterfly. My mother, who had seen Toti Dal Monte in the role, took me, aged 10, to the performance that enchanted and imprinted me on opera for the rest of my life. It wasn't a major opera company, but I still remember the names of the principals: Aldo Feracucci was Pinkerton, Mercedes Fortunati was Madama Butterfly, Maria Huder was Suzuki, and the conductor was [Manno] Wolf-Ferrari. I have "Googled" the singers' names in vain. The entrance of Madama Butterfly remains as one of the most beautiful scenes in opera that one could ever see and hear. Since that Madame Butterfly so long ago, opera has been one of the lights of my life.


Photo credits (top - bottom): A scene from Madama Butterfly (COC, 2014), Sondra Radvanovsky in Aida (COC, 2010), (l) Elizabeth DeShong and (r) Kelly Kaduce in Madama Butterfly (COC, 2014), Photos: Michael Cooper.

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



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