Parlando: The COC Blog


Introducing the 2015/2016 Free Concert Series!


The 2015/2016 Free Concert Series kicks off on September 22 with a performance featuring the COC’s Ensemble Studio members. Spanning six sub-series (Vocal, Chamber Music, Jazz, Dance, World, and Piano Virtuoso), the 15/16 season is comprised of 72 concerts from September to May. We spoke with new Program Manager Claire Morley to learn more about the upcoming season.

What makes the Free Concert Series special to you?

The fact that we are able to offer over 70 concerts which feature an incredible array of world-class artists, for free—that is, in a broad sense, what makes the series so special. Our audiences are also amazingly diverse and they lend a unique energy to each and every performance, and the performers can feel that and can be very moved by it. And there’s a real sense of discovery within the series—I have spoken with numerous people who might have gone into the concert knowing nothing about the repertoire, and have come away with a newfound love for it. On the other hand, we have audience members who come to hear music they might have known for decades, and they rediscover their passion for it. I think the series allows and encourages audience members to make it a very personal experience.  

Which concerts are you particularly excited about this season?

It’s so hard to choose! I love hearing our COC musicians perform. Our orchestra members always present really compelling programs, and it’s such a pleasure to hear and see them in the intimate setting of the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre, when we’re used to hearing them in the pit! Watching our Ensemble Studio singers is inspiring, too, because we get the chance to witness some of the most incredible rising operatic talent grow right in front of us.

Specifically this season?

I’d say some of my highlights include baritone Quinn Kelsey’s recital on October 27, when he’ll be performing Vaughan Williams’ Songs of Travel and Finzi’s Let Us Garlands Bring as well as a few Brahms Lieder. Here’s a clip of him singing “O du mein Holder Abendstern” from Wagner’s Tannhäuser (get your tissues ready!).

The Eric St-Laurent Quintet on January 12 will kick some serious butt. He’s got such an incredible technique—his playing is spellbinding.

For dance lovers, it’s hard to beat the work of visionary choreographer and dancer Peggy Baker. She and her group of incredible dancers, Peggy Baker Dance Projects, always pull an audience in immediately, keeping them transfixed. You'll be able to catch them perform on January 28.

Young dynamite pianist Kara Huber returns to the series on April 14. Kara is a stellar performer, and has a special love for contemporary music. This program will feature a world premiere by David Rakowski, written specifically for Kara. Here she is playing one of his etudes, Fists of Fury.

In May, mezzo-soprano Anita Rachvelishvili sings a program of some of her favourite recital repertoire, including some rarely heard songs from her native Georgia. She’s a powerhouse!


Does the series bring fans of other music genres into the opera world?

I think it does. I’ve spoken to audience members who have told me that the series opened their eyes to something new, something unexpected, and it has led them to try out opera for the first time. Whether or not it “hooks” them is up to them, but it’s wonderful to know that they feel welcome in the Four Seasons Centre and encouraged to try out something new. Both the artists on the mainstage at the COC and the artists in the Free Concert Series all have a story to tell, no matter the art form. The Front of House team at the Four Seasons Centre has to be commended—they are a remarkable group of people who make it a top priority that everyone who walks through the front doors of our opera house feels welcome.


Check out complete listings of all 2015/2016 Free Concert Series performances here.

Photo: Claire Morley. Photo credit: Rider Dyce  

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Set/Stage: Pyramus and Thisbe


This fall we’re excited to present the world premiere of Canadian composer Barbara Monk Feldman’s Pyramus and Thisbe in a brand new Canadian Opera Company production. We took a field trip up to the COC Scene Shop to give you an exclusive first look as the sets are being constructed in anticipation of opening night on October 20, 2015!  

The Set 


Three massive panels, partly inspired by the Abstract Expressionist canvases of American artist Mark Rothko, help divide the triple bill's three operas into three separate spaces, allowing the three scores to flow into each other without interruption.

The scale of Pyramus and Thisbe’s set demands a huge working space—luckily the COC Scene Shop’s converted fruit distribution factory provides the perfect space to house the multi-story wooden backdrop.



One of the identifying factors of the set, beyond its beautiful deep pine-green colour, is a long bench extending its entire length. These benches will be the chorus’s home for the majority of the opera.


When constructing a new production, many tests are undertaken to see which media best suit the theme, space and budget. For Pyramus and Thisbe, the creative team decided to use layers of acrylic paint on a heavily-grained wood in order to highlight natural textures and rich colour palettes.   

After finding the perfect colour mix, the paint is applied to giant sheets of wood using brushes set on long wooden handles, set at about the angle of a hockey stick.


The paint is applied in various layers in order to achieve the desired consistency and colour throughout the multiple background and floor panels.  

Because the wood is so deeply textured, the paint is absorbed to different levels, resulting in a deeper stain in certain areas.


After they are painted, the floor panels need to be allowed to dry completely undisturbed in order for the paint to come to a perfect, untouched finish.


In order to see this stunning set in its full glory (and populated with singers!), buy your tickets today for this innovative program, featuring the world premiere of Canadian composer Barbara Monk Feldman’s Pyramus and Thisbe along with Claudio Monteverdi's Baroque classics Lamento d'Arianna and Il combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda. See you at the opera!

For more information on Pyramus and Thisbe and to buy tickets, click here.

Photos: Kiersten Hay

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Inside the Wardrobe: La Traviata


Take a peek into Violetta’s wardrobe! Costume designer Cait O’Connor talks about how Violetta’s clothes reflect her place in society and her personal choices. Catch La Traviata this fall from October 8 to November 6, 2015 to see the costumes in their full glory! 

Act I


"Violetta is incredibly charismatic and bewitching. She possesses an effortless glamour. At the same time she is a fragile girl, trapped within an opulence of her own creation. She has to costume herself as a manifestation of decadence in order to survive in her world." 


Act II, Scene I

"When Violetta meets Alfredo their connection is immediate, deep and honest. We see Violetta in their country house, truly at home for the first time. Her presence and ease is palpable. I referenced 19th century pre-Raphaelite photography and sepia colors as an inspiration for this look."


Act II, Scene II

"As Violetta is ripped away from Alfredo, she loses her dream of love. She returns to Paris armored in an enormous gown representing the frantic ecstasy which she must return to."


To learn more about La Traviata and to buy tickets, click here

Image Credits (top-bottom): A scene from La Traviata (Lyric Opera of Chicago, 2013). Photo: Todd Rosenberg; Preliminary costume sketches by designer Cait O’Connor.

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