Parlando: The COC Blog


Parlando Asks: Your favourite opera couple

It's Valentine's Day on Friday! Last year we asked you to name your favourite romantic arias and duets, but this year we want something different. Who is your favourite opera couple? Do they have a great relationship? A toxic one? Are they a power couple or is their love unrequited?

Don't forget that you can celebrate Valentine's Day at the Four Seasons Centre with a special P.J. Bundy trunk show in the Opera Shop on Friday, and if you buy full-priced tickets to A Masked Ball on February 14 and 16, you can enjoy a complimentary glass of bubbly and a chocolate treat! 

Until then, read our answers below!

Who is your favourite opera couple?

Blanche Israel, Children and Youth Programs Co-ordinator — I love the dynamic between the title characters in Tristan und Isolde because it is so powerful in its forbiddenness. The passion is so tangible in Wagner’s music that a single glance exchanged between them carries a lot of weight. (@MegOperaMusings also chose Wagner's power couple)

Nikita Gourski, Development Communications Officer — Gluck's Orfeo ed EuridiceOrfeo travels to the underworld to bring his wife Euridice back from the dead. But the condition of his passage is that he can’t look at her until she touches the other side of the river with him; the opera ends happily enough with a bit of deus ex machina intervention, but doesn’t the basic challenge of Orfeo and Euridice’s escape give us the most terrifying, the most true, account of what it means to love somebody completely? There will come a time when all of us are permanently split from our Orfeos and Euridices, and no amount of demi-god daring will change that. Even Orfeo doesn’t get away with it; he glances back at Euridice too soon, before she’s back in the land of the living. The mythological underpinnings of the story notwithstanding, love here is revealed as the human experience par excellence, at once seemingly capable of remaking the world, but poignantly subject to its laws of perishability. (Facebook fan Meg Paul also voted for this classic couple.)

Gianna Wichelow, Senior Manager, Creative and Publications — My absolute favourite opera couple is a no-brainer: Tosca and Cavaradossi (from Tosca by Puccini). They are wildly attracted to each other. They have fun together. He understands that under her confident and successful exterior, she has vulnerabilities wrapped up in neuroses. He’ll also give her as good as he gets. She adores him. I get the impression they both have a fair bit of life experience and – having found each other – truly appreciate the love, friendship and powerful passion that they share. And… they have each others’ backs – big time. My go-to recording is the first Maria Callas made in 1953, with Giuseppe di Stefano as her Cavaradossi and the great Tito Gobbi as Scarpia (ok, Tosca and Scarpia are another sort of opera couple, but that’s a very different conversation). I love Gobbi’s ugly-beautiful voice. He was a small man with a huge, sexy menace. Anyway, I’d listen to the whole thing if I were you, but you can start at 11:08 for the Act I duet here.

Bearitone Bear, COC Mascot — My favourite opera couple is Popova and Smirnov (see photo above) in William Walton’s The Bear (1967). Smirnov is a bear of a man, come to claim a debt owed him by Popova’s recently deceased husband (who treated her very poorly). Sparks fly, and nearly blows, but ultimately there’s powerful chemistry and they fall in love. PLUS, this one-act opera is based on a play by Anton Chekov, who wrote Wild Honey. Mmmm... honey. (By the way, my least favourite opera couple is Arabella and Mandryka from R. Strauss’s Arabella, because he was out hunting a bear and the bear crushed his ribs and mauled him. And while he was recovering he was gazing at Arabella’s picture and falling in love with her. Then, when he finally meets her, he shows up wearing what is probably a bear fur coat and she falls in love with him! Okay, it’s a beautiful opera, but that makes me so mad! Grrr...)

Vanessa Smith, School Programs Manager — Papageno and Papagena from The Magic Flute. Granted, it’s strange that she just appears and they immediately agree to marry. But they’re so happy about it, and so perfectly matched, and immediately ready to start making some birdy babies. Their duet just radiates joy. If Papageno the bird-man can find such a mate, there’s hope for the rest of us yet! (@416PSE also loves this cheerful pair!)

Claire Morley, Associate Manager, Editorial — Musically, I’d have to say Octavian and Sophie from R. Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier. What can compare to the Presentation of the Rose and their final duet?! Dramatically, it's gotta be Leonore and Florestan from Fidelio – Leonore is just so dang unwavering in her devotion to her hubby.

Danielle D'Ornellas, Digital Marketing Coordinator — The course of true love never runs smooth. My favourite couple is Tatyana and Onegin from Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin, a couple that never truly "was." In this classic tale of ill-timed affection, this opera still showcases the deep affection these two characters share, even though pride and vanity (mostly on Onegin's side, to be honest) prevent them from actually being together. But even if they were never truly in love at the right time, you can still feel the palpable charge between the two characters during their final goodbye. You can watch the finale on YouTube.

Jennifer Pugsley, Media Relations Manager — It’s Tristan und Isolde for me, but mostly because of how I saw Ben Heppner and Melanie Diener sing the roles. I thought their love was soulful and intense as well as heart-wrenching and doomed – like all great opera couples are meant to be. My other favourite couple isn’t so much a romantic one, but I wonder if you could call them a couple? Balstrode and Peter from Britten's Peter Grimes (as played by Alan Held and Ben Heppner). There’s also King Marke and Tristan from Tristan und Isolde (again in part influenced because of Franz-Joseph Selig and Ben Heppner). In both cases, talk about a couple of bros who are there /not there for each other during tough times!

let's hear it for the bromance!

Kristin McKinnon, Assistant Publicist — People like to go on and on about La Bohème's Mim썍 and Rodolfo being one of the greatest opera couples of all time, but can you get any more cliché?! The true love story at the heart of this classic is the Bohemian bromance between Rodolfo, Marcello, Colline and Schaunard. How can you not love these 19th-century hipsters? 

And here are some other favourites!

Don't forget, if you join us before, during and after A Masked Ball on Friday, February 14, you can also purchase a unique one-of-a-kind piece of jewellery at our Opera Shop trunk show with jeweller P.J. Bundy! View the poster here.


Photo credit: (top) Melanie Diener as Isolde and Ben Heppner as Tristan in the Canadian Opera Company's 2013 production of Tristan und Isolde; (middle) Jon-Paul Décosse as Smirnov and Lauren Segal as Popova in the COC’s Ensemble Studio production of The Bear/Swoon, 2006; (middle) Brett Polegato as Eugene Onegin and Giselle Allen as Tatyana in the COC’s production of Eugene Onegin, 2008. (bottom) (l-r) Joshua Hopkins as Marcello, Dimitri Pittas as Rodolfo, Christian Van Horn as Colline and Phillip Addis as Schaunard in the COC's production of La Bohème, 2013. Photos by Michael Cooper

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

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



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