by Suzanne Vanstone
Whether you are an opera neophyte or a seasoned aficionado, chances are you have experienced La Bohème’s beautiful music and heart-wrenching tale in some fashion – be it with a full production, excerpted highlights, or perhaps that aria on the radio that you can’t quite name, but know intimately. A repertoire staple since the company’s inaugural season in 1950, the COC is thrilled to bring a brand new Bohème to its stage under the direction of Tony-award winning director John Caird.
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Following his deserved ovations in the COC’s Tristan und Isolde last season, celebrated tenor Ben Heppner returns to portray one of the most iconic roles in 20th-century opera – Peter Grimes. Benjamin Britten’s masterful composition of a tormented fisherman shunned by an unforgiving society is a favourite of Heppner’s, and he’s performed the role worldwide in over 40 performances in seven productions. In fact, as soon as the curtain comes down in Toronto in October, he is off to do it again in Vienna.
The role is a complex one to perform, balancing Grimes’s often raging persona with a softer, wounded man who, because of the death of his young apprentice, is forced to defend himself against those who have already decided his guilt. Heppner says, “If you try to soften him too much, he can appear whiny. You have to have the confidence to be disliked. Grimes is not a likeable character in many ways. From the beginning he comes across as being self-righteous, railing, ‘No. I want to explain myself in court. Don’t leave me to be judged by the court of public opinion,’ yet the whole time he is judged by the court of public opinion.”
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By Suzanne Vanstone
Beloved Bohème. No matter how many times one experiences this iconic work, the extraordinary pull of Puccini’s music continues to draw us in. With 15 COC mainstage productions and numerous mini-Bohèmes on tour and in recital, outdoors and in, the company is once again proud to present this cherished opera in a brand new production.
Sara Fulgoni in the COC production of Bluebeard's Castle. Photo: Michael Cooper © 2001