Carmen was first performed in 1875 at the Opéra-Comique theatre in Paris, a venue known primarily for family-friendly entertainment. Bizet’s opera, however, was a dramatic departure from that kind of theatre: it featured overtly sexual themes and imagery, morally ambiguous characters, a story that ends with murder, and a female protagonist who proudly defies the social norms and moral codes of her times in favour of a spirited (and, to many of the conservative-minded patrons in the audience, morally suspect) commitment to self-determination. The opera’s content sparked outrage and harsh criticism among the press; the theatre even resorted to giving tickets away for free just to fill the house. Bizet died within three months of the failed premiere, at only 36 years old.
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Some of us can't wait to leave our high school memories behind us, but that certainly wasn't the case for Ensemble Studio tenor Charles Sy when he reunited with his alma mater, Cawthra Park Secondary School, this March Break in a special performance in the COC's Free Concert Series in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre.
Before Charles embarked on his career as a professional opera singer, he was a member of Cawthra Park Chamber Choir. "Cawthra Park was when the classical music seed was inserted into my brain and my love for the genre grew exponentially while I was there," says Charles. The acclaimed choir (just one of 12 music ensembles at Cawthra Park, which is home to one of the Peel District School Board’s Regional Arts Programs), led by conductor Bob Anderson, performed in the Free Concert Series on March 17.
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We are proud to announce the creation of Opera Access for New Canadians, a community outreach and engagement initiative to make the COC’s BMO Financial Group Student Dress Rehearsals and select performances accessible to new Canadian citizens and newcomers to Canada, including immigrants and refugees. The first phase of Opera Access for New Canadians begins this spring with the COC joining the Institute for Canadian Citizenship’s Cultural Access Pass (CAP) program, which offers new Canadian citizens one year of complimentary admission to more than 1,200 cultural attractions across the country.
“We are proud of providing a cultural space in this country where people are free to gather, create art and express opinions—freedoms not granted in many places around the world,” says COC General Director Alexander Neef. “The Opera Access program is a celebration of that freedom and a way for us at the COC to welcome new Canadians to our community and introduce them to our art form.”
The Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, founder of the ICC, says “this new partnership with the COC provides a unique behind-the-scenes look into Canada’s premiere opera company. We are delighted.” Charlie Foran, CEO of the ICC, explains, “Our Cultural Access Pass has now grown to the point where we can offer CAP members experiences in the performing arts, as well as in cultural institutions and federal and provincial parks.”
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Sara Fulgoni in the COC production of Bluebeard's Castle. Photo: Michael Cooper © 2001