By Alexander Neef, General Director
Another excellent season at the COC has come to a close! The 2012/2013 season was deeply satisfying for me because we achieved what I’ve been working towards since I joined the company – consistency in our productions. All of the operas we presented were extremely well thought-through, with superb casts and great artists involved on stage, in the pit, and behind the scenes. The fantastic work by our orchestra and chorus is a testament to the great job our music director, Johannes Debus, has been doing since he arrived four years ago, as well as the expert stewardship that Sandra Horst brings to the chorus. Now, it’s time to move full speed into a fantastic 2013/2014 season.
Summer is the season for festivals and young artists’ programs, both of which are extremely important in long-range future planning. Big festivals like those in Aix-en-Provence, Bayreuth, Salzburg, Glyndebourne, Saint Louis, and Santa Fe are very helpful for me because there’s a huge concentration of opera and talent available to see in a short period of time. Young artists training programs are equally important – for example, the Merola program at San Francisco Opera is one of the great resources for young operatic talent in North America – so I try to visit as many programs as I can. And even better are opera festivals like those in Santa Fe and Saint Louis that combine both mainstage work and training programs, so I can go for one week and see a lot of established artists as well as emerging talent all in one place – it’s a really good use of time.
This summer is unusual because I’ll be visiting some new places and a few that I haven’t gone to in a while. I haven’t been to Bayreuth in more than 10 years, and this summer I’m privileged to go during dress rehearsal week when I’m seeing several rehearsals of new productions, as well as part of their new Ring Cycle. Speaking of Wagner, I’m also going to BBC Proms nights at London’s Royal Albert Hall to see Siegfried and Götterdämmerung, both conducted by Daniel Barenboim with some pretty amazing casts. These productions and concerts involve a lot of singers that I’ve never seen before, and, with quite a bit of Wagner coming to the COC in the next few seasons, it’s great to catch up with that particular talent pool in Europe.
When I’m in Aix, I will revisit our co-production of Don Giovanni, which I’m looking forward to presenting in a future season. I saw it when it opened in Aix in 2010, then again when Teatro Real in Madrid presented it earlier this year, and it’s been great to see it develop and grow over the years. It’s an unusual production, but this Don Giovanni is a very good example of how invigorating an operatic experience can be when the richness of the material is explored, examined and questioned by talented artists.
As stimulating and inspiring as it is to be away, living out of a suitcase for weeks at a time is not my definition of pleasure. I’m moving apartments this week, and it won’t be long before I have to leave, so decorating and fixing it up will have to wait until I get back. Happily, the first two weeks of July are pure vacation, with a visit to see my family in Germany. Life can’t be 100% focused on work, after all!
Photo: bohuang.ca © 2012
Posted by Meighan Szigeti / in Alexander Neef / comments (2) / permalink
By Tanya Morgado, Public Relations Intern
With the hot weather quickly approaching, many of us are finalizing summer travel plans, including the six young artists joining the Canadian Opera Company’s Ensemble Studio for the 2013/2014 season.
Bass-baritone Gordon Bintner, mezzo-soprano Charlotte Burrage, soprano Aviva Fortunata, baritone Clarence Frazer, tenor Andrew Haji, and mezzo-soprano Danielle MacMillan have busy summers ahead of them before officially joining the COC at the end of August.
Here’s a look at what’s in store for these talented singers and where they might be spending the dog days of summer.
Gordon Bintner just finished performing the role of Lescaut in Manon at Opéra de Montréal and has already moved on to his next project, singing the role of Escamillo in Carmen at Saskatoon Opera from June 15 – 22, 2013. He's then performing in a couple of recitals in July, including the FestiVoix festival in Trois-Rivières, Québec. After a quick stop in Toronto to pick up the keys to his new place, he jets off to Kelowna, BC, where he’s spending a month kayaking, hiking, cooking, and enjoying some much-anticipated family time. He’s back to work in August, singing the baritone solo in Mahler Symphony No. 8 at the Brott Music Festival in Hamilton before joining the COC.
Mezzo-soprano Charlotte Burrage is spending the summer in Toronto, reconnecting with friends and family. She’s looking forward to enjoying the seemingly endless activities the city has to offer, including the sun-soaked patios and concerts of all musical genres. Her move to Toronto from Woodstock, ON also allows for a reunion of sorts with her sister. The siblings haven’t lived in the same city for the last 10 years! Along with taking the summer to sing in some concerts and learn music for the COC’s upcoming 13/14 season, Charlotte’s attending her first 90s boy band concert in August, an event she feels is a quintessential Gen Y experience.
Calgary soprano Aviva Fortunata is heading south for the summer and can be found in California participating in the Merola Opera Program at San Francisco Opera. While there, she covers the roles of the Countess in Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro and the female chorus in Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia. Aviva’s also performing excerpts of Otello’s Desdemona and Don Giovanni’s Donna Elvira in one of the program’s special summer concerts. She’ll get a bit of an Ensemble Studio primer from recent graduates and fellow “Merolini” Rihab Chaieb and Timothy Cheung, whose advice will prove invaluable when Aviva travels back to Toronto to join the COC.
London, Ontario tenor Andrew Haji is also off to the Sunshine State this summer. He’s studying at the Music Academy of the West program, run by mezzo-soprano Marilyn Horne, in Santa Barbara, California. He’s performing the lead role of Tamino in the program’s production of The Magic Flute, and also participating in various concerts and master classes. While he's in Santa Barbara, Andrew's enjoying the sun with fellow Academy participant and returning Ensemble Studio member Claire de Sévigné, who is sure to give him some COC pointers for his start in the fall!
Toronto audiences caught a glimpse of the next two jet-setting young opera singers earlier this month. Clarence Frazer and Danielle MacMillan performed at the Recital of Art Song and Opera Arias at Metropolitan United Church on June 2, but they won’t be staying in town for long. They fly off to Sulmona, Italy this summer to attend the Centre for Opera Studies in Italy (COSI).
Clarence sings the role of Publio in COSI’s production of La clemenza di Tito, keeping him busy for part of June and much of July. He’s back on Canadian soil in August, learning music for the upcoming COC season, spending time at his cottage in Muskoka, and beating the heat playing on his summer ice hockey team.
Before saying "buongiorno" in bella Italia, Danielle joins fellow Ensemble Studio member Sasha Djihanian onstage with The National Ballet of Canada as guest vocalists in Pur Ti Miro, running from June 19 – 23 at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts. Once she wraps up her operatic engagements and studies, Danielle’s looking forward to spending August catching the last rays of summer sun with lots of family and friends in northern Ontario.
These six young artists join returning members, soprano Sasha Djihanian, soprano Claire de Sévigné, tenor Owen McCausland, and baritone Cameron McPhail, when the Ensemble Studio program resumes in August 2013.
Make sure to catch these exceptional singers in their first COC performance of the season at the free concert, Meet the Young Artists, in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre at the Four Seasons Centre on September 26, 2013.
Photos: (top) Bearitone Bear (middle) Gordon Bintner; (middle) Charlotte Burrage; (middle) Aviva Fortunata; (middle) Andrew Haji; (middle) Clarence Frazer; (bottom) Danielle MacMillan. Photo credits: (top) COC; All other photos from the 2012 Ensemble Studio Vocal Competition. Photographer: Chris Hutcheson.
Posted by Danielle D'Ornellas / in Ensemble Studio / comments (0) / permalink
The COC's Free Concert Series in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre has wrapped up another incredible and diverse season! From September 2012 to June 2013, the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre hosted over 77 concerts featuring established and emerging artists in intimate vocal recitals, dynamic dance performances, thrilling orchestral concerts, classic and contemporary jazz and much, much more.
It's hard to pick favourites from such a varied and wonderful season, but here are some of our highlights!
China Court Trio – The Majesty of Imperial China - September 20, 2012
The China Court Trio – comprised of master musicians Wen Zhao on pipa, Xiao Qiu Lin on erhu and Yongli Xue on zheng – got the world music series off to a great start with an exploration of music from Imperial China, including settings of ancient poetry, court music and the world's earliest operas.
COC Ensemble Studio and Alumni – Madcap Moments: Highlights from Die Fledermaus - October 11, 2012
Artists of the COC Ensemble Studio, including tenor Christopher Enns, soprano Ambur Braid, mezzo-soprano Rihab Chaieb, tenor Owen McCausland, baritone Cameron McPhail and soprano Sasha Djihanian, along with alumna soprano Ileana Montalbetti, gave a spirited performance of highlights from Johann Strauss II's hilarious operetta, Die Fledermaus.
Humber Groove Merchants – Bet you can't sit still! - November 14, 2012
Humber College's top R&B group were right - we couldn't keep still during this lively (and loud!) performance! Their renditions of hits by legends such as James Brown and Stevie Wonder had people dancing in the aisles.
COC Orchestra - A Wagner Celebration - January 31, 2013
We switched things up a bit to kick off the Richard Wagner's bicentenary celebrations. Artists of the COC Orchestra, led by COC Music Director Johannes Debus, performed Wagner's exquisite chamber work Siegfried-Idyll in a style based on its very first performance: on the stairs of Wagner's home to celebrate his wife's birthday.
Franz Josef Selig – Love's Dark Shore - February 12, 2013
Acclaimed German bass Franz-Josef Selig's heart-wrenching portrayal of King Marke in the COC's production of Tristan und Isolde wowed audiences. We were fortunate to hear him in an intimate and profoundly moving recital of lieder by Schubert and Richard Strauss. It was a truly memorable experience.
Ballet Creole – Tounkande - March 5, 2013
In an extended celebration of Black History Month, the exuberant dancers from Ballet Creole collaborated with master drummers in a unique showcase of the song, dance and rhythms of West Africa. Their powerful and energetic program warmed up a late-winter day!
Queen of Puddings Music Theatre – La selva de los relojes - April 30, 2013
After 20 years of developing and producing new Canadian chamber opera at the highest level, Queen of Puddings Music Theatre had its bittersweet final performance in the RBA. The memorable concert featured the world premiere of Toronto composer Chris Paul Harman's La selva de los relojes (The Forest of Clocks), inspired by the poetry of Federico García Lorca and sung by Canadian mezzo-soprano Krisztina Szabó.
What were your favourites?
Share your own highlights in the comments section and make sure to visit the Free Concert Series page in late-August for more details about the exciting performances we have lined up for the 2013/2014 season!
Photos Credits: (top) Nancy Walker and Kirk MacDonald. Photo: Karen Reeves, 2013; (middle) China Court Trio. Photo: Chris Hutcheson, 2012; (middle) (l - r) Soprano Ileana Montalbetti, tenor Christopher Enns, soprano Ambur Braid. Photo: Karen Reeves, 2012; (middle) The Humber Groove Merchants. Photo: Karen Reeves, 2012; (middle) Members of the COC Orchestra. Photo: Chris Hutcheson, 2013; (middle) Franz-Josef Selig, accompanied by Rachel Andrist. Photo: Chris Hutcheson, 2013; (middle) Ballet Creole. Photo: Chris Hutcheson, 2013; (bottom) Queen of Puddings Music Theatre's co-artistic director Dáirine Ní Mheadhra conducts mezzo-soprano Krisztina Szabó. All photos taken in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre. Photo: Chris Hutcheson, 2013
Posted by Kristin McKinnon / in Free Concert Series / comments (0) / permalink
Sara Fulgoni in the COC production of Bluebeard's Castle. Photo: Michael Cooper © 2001