By Alexander Neef, General Director
As I watched this year’s Ensemble Studio members perform their first concert of the season in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre last week, I was once again struck by the wonderful musical talent that this country produces.
In creating the Ensemble Studio in 1980, former General Director Lotfi Mansouri had the foresight to begin the process of intensive training and nurturing of young Canadian artists, and it’s a legacy that I take very seriously.
This summer I visited three different young artist programs, starting in St. Andrews by-the-sea, New Brunswick, observing and participating in Wendy Nielsen’s fantastic opera program there. As I’m sure you know, Wendy is a world-renowned soprano who has appeared on our stage, as well as all the major stages of the world. In the past few years she has begun teaching, and last year I asked her to join the COC as a special coach for the Ensemble.
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This fall, alongside Puccini's romantic La Bohème, the Canadian Opera Company presents Benjamin Britten's powerful opera, Peter Grimes. Starring legendary tenor Ben Heppner in the title role, and Ensemble Studio graduate soprano Ileana Montalbetti as Ellen Orford, this production marks the first COC performance of Peter Grimes in a decade, and the first staging of the opera at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts.
The story of Peter Grimes is based on the "Peter Grimes" section of George Crabbe's epic poem The Borough (to honour the man who gave birth to the character, Britten wrote Crabbe in as a silent character in the opera) and the opera deals with village life, persecution and hope. In 2013, the opera is experiencing a surge of interest due to the 100th anniversary of Britten's birth, most notably an interesting staging at the Aldeburgh Festival (where Crabbe was born and Britten lived) with Peter Grimes staged outside on the beach.
To better understand Britten's seminal work, watch our Peter Grimes Anatomy of an Opera video below.
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Sara Fulgoni in the COC production of Bluebeard's Castle. Photo: Michael Cooper © 2001