Parlando: The COC Blog


Free Concert Series 2016/2017: A Preview

The Free Concert Series in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre takes place in one of Toronto's most breathtaking and intimate spaces. The diverse city that inspires and unites us is the ever-changing backdrop seen from the beautiful Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre, where artists from around the world share their talent and passion in six series: vocal, chamber, world music, piano, dance, and jazz.

From September to June, you can discover exciting artists, both established and emerging, and experience the joy of live performance in an incredible variety of genresand it's all free! Below is a small sample of what our 2016/2017 season has to offer.


Vocal Series

October 11, 2016
Darkness and Love
Dimitry Ivashchenko, bass and Rachel Andrist, piano

Russian bass Dimitry Ivashchenko (Oroveso in the COC's Norma) joins forces with pianist Rachel Andrist in a program celebrating Russian song that includes Mussorgsky's Songs and Dances of Death and works by Rachmaninov, Borodin, and Tchaikovsky.

November 10, 2016
Against the Grain Theatre

Against the Grain Theatre returns with their new presentation of Argentinean Osvaldo Golijov's celebrated song cycle, Ayre. Canadian soprano Miriam Khalil and a cohort of 11 instrumentalists unleash the lush fusion of Arabic, Hebrew, Sardinian, and Sephardic folk melodies and texts. A thrill to experience, Ayre is a brilliant example of 21st-century cultural counterpoint.

May 9, 2017
Women on the Edge
Allyson McHardy, mezzo-soprano and Rachel Andrist, piano

Canadian mezzo-soprano Allyson McHardy (Julie Riel in the COC’s Louis Riel) teams up with pianist Rachel Andrist in a concert about women “on the edge.” The program includes Schumann’s Poèmes de la reine Marie d’Ecosse, Zemlinsky’s Six Songs after Poems by Maeterlinck, and the Ophelia songs by Berlioz, Chausson, and Saint-Saëns.

May 17, 2017
Dawn Always Begins in the Bones
Artists of the COC Ensemble Studio

Multi-award-winning Canadian composer Ana Sokolović premieres her Canadian Art Song Project-commissioned cycle, Dawn Always Begins in the Bones. She has earned international acclaim for her orchestral, vocal, chamber, operatic and theatrical pieces. COC Ensemble Studio artists will perform songs and ensembles based on texts from across Canada, celebrating our country and the richness of its artistic traditions.

Above (l-r): Dimitry Ivashchenko; Miriam Khalil in a preview of Against the Grain Theatre's Figaro's Marriage, 2013, photo: Chris Hutcheson; Allyson McHardy, photo:

Chamber Music Series

October 13, 2016
Quartet for the End of Time
Artists and Friends of the COC Orchestra

Artists and friends of the COC Orchestra will perform Olivier Messiaen's Quartet for the End of Time. Captured in 1940 by the German army, Messiaen composed this piece while imprisoned in a prisoner of war camp. Among his fellow prisoners were a violinist, cellist and clarinetist, and Messiaen’s quartet premiered in January 1941 at the camp, outdoors and in the rain. Seventy-five years after its premiere, four stellar musicians join forces to perform this stirring work. This piece was on the program of the first ever Free Concert Series performance and the performance was dedicated to Richard Bradshaw.

April 20, 2017
Northwest Passage
Métis Fiddler Quartet

Join the siblings of the Métis Fiddler Quartet on a musical voyage across the trade routes of the Northwestern frontier. Clap, jig and sing along with this award-winning group and discover the history of the Métis people in Canada through fiddle tunes and songs passed down by elders from across the country.


Above (l-r): Olivier Messiaen in 1946 and the Métis Fiddler Quartet

World Music Series

October 12, 2016
Music of Ethiopia
Yeti Yetunde Ajasin & the Jay Danley Quartet

Ethiopian-born, Toronto-based vocalist, composer and krar player Yeti Yetunde Ajasin explores the rich musical textures of Ethiopia. Joined by the Jay Danley Quartet, this concert showcases the incredibly diverse worlds of both Ethiopian traditional music and Ethio-Jazz.

January 3, 2017
The People's King: A Musical Tribute to Bhutan
Noam Lemish Quartet

The Noam Lemish Quartet will perform a tribute to Bhutan. The People’s King is a musical tribute to the Himalayan nation, its king, its culture and peopleall of whom touched pianist and composer Noam Lemish during his residence as a volunteer music teacher in Bhutan's capital city of Thimphu in 2009 and 2010. Arranged for jazz quartet (along with recorded chanting monks from the Dechen Phodrang Monastery in Thimphu), this multi-movement suite integrates jazz, classical Western music, and traditional Bhutanese folk music.


Above: an excerpt from Part I of The People's King by the Noam Lemish Quartet 

Piano Virtuoso Series

April 26, 2017
Testament of Youth: The Early Piano Music of Harry Somers
Adam Sherkin

Dynamic, Toronto-born pianist-composer Adam Sherkin presents a program that showcases the brilliant early music of Canadian composer Harry Somers (the opera Louis Riel) juxtaposed with Sherkin’s own works for solo piano. The program includes Somers’ First Sonata: Testament of Youth, written in 1945.


Above: Adam Sherkin, photo by Chris Hutcheson

Dance Series

January 17, 2017
Dance Ontario's Dance Weekend Preview
Gadfly Dance

Gadfly Dance will share excerpts from their latest innovative and exciting pieces to be performed at Dance Ontario's upcoming Dance Weekend. Creating movement at the junction where urban dance styles (house hip-hop, b-boying) meet jazz, contemporary and classical, Gadfly's distinctive choreography breathes with an energy and spontaneity found only in urban dance culture.

March 21, 2017
Highlights from Swan Lake
Canada's Ballet Jörgen

Canada’s Ballet Jörgen will present highlights from Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, one of the world’s most magical, beloved ballets—a story of true love, the union of two souls and the ultimate sacrifice to be set free. Also on the program are new works from a variety of innovative Canadian choreographers.

Above (l-r): Gadfly Dance in Arkemy, photo: Chris Hutcheson; dancers from Canada's Ballet Jörgen, photo: Kevin Lloyd

Jazz Series

November 15, 2016
From the Inside Out
Ineke Vandoorn & Marc van Vugt

Dutch jazz duo Ineke Vandoorn and Marc van Vugt bring their jazz quintet to Toronto as part of their Canadian tour. Vandoorn and van Vugt explore the boundaries of both improvisation and lyrical songs, creating their own world with their funky arrangements and modern music. Full of rich harmonies and haunting melodies, theirs is an original amalgamation of a variety of musical expressions.

January 4, 2017
Jetstreamin' Jazz

Toronto jazz drummer Ernesto Cervini leads his newly formed sextet, Turboprop, in a concert that features highlights from the band’s latest recording. Cervini is joined by Kelly Jefferson (tenor sax), Adrean Farrugia (piano), Jim Vivian (bass), Tara Davidson (alto sax) and William Carn (trombone).

Above: Turboprop performing "Red Cross" by Charlie Parker

For more information and the complete listings of all 2016/2017 Free Concert Series performances here.

Photo credit (top image): Chris Hutcheson

Posted by COC Staff / in Free Concert Series / comments (0) / permalink


The Opera That Changed My Life: GETTING READY TO GO ON STAGE!

This week's The Opera That Changed My Life is a prime example that it is never too late to follow your life's passion. Sometimes all it takes is one life-changing experience to reignite a fire that may have faded long ago.

Kira Braun

In 1975 I belonged to the Canadian Children's Opera Chorus [Ed. Note: Now the Canadian Children's Opera Company], under Dr. Derek Holman. For any young child to belong to a group such as this meant discipline and hard work, but also fun!!! I loved it to my core, and was very fortunate to have been a part of the COC production of Pagliacci with (Canadian baritone) Louis Quilico that same year. After that 1975 production, I had to move away from Toronto; all hopes of continuing with the CCOC, becoming an alumni, and going to opera school faded. I continued in my singing but ended up following another career path, and only dabbled with my voice. Almost 40 years later, I began again with lessons and involvement in the musical community, when I was back in Toronto for good.


Above: a scene from the COC's 1975 production of Pagliacci

I suddenly found myself on stage as an extra (supernumerary) in Dialogues des Carmélites in 2013, and I was bitten fiercely by the desire to fully pursue my passion again. Standing so close to Canadian icons, Isabel Bayrakdarian and Adrianne Pieczonka, was an incredible experience! In the past two years, I've expanded my voice, recorded three CDs, and sung in many wonderful productions. I went to Italy this summer to sing for Richard Bonynge with Operavision Academy, under the direction of Dr. Mary-Lou Vetere and Metropolitan Opera star Aprile Millo! That production of Pagliacci, which I held in my heart for decades, and being part of Carmélites almost 40 years later, changed my life, and I am so excited about what's next!

Above: a scene from the COC's 2013 production of Dialogues des Carmélites

Tell us about The Opera That Changed Your Life by e-mailing your own 100 to 200 word story. It may be featured in an upcoming Parlando post! Learn more here (here for mobile version).

Photo credits (top - bottom): a scene from Carmen (COC, 2016), photo: Gary Beechey; a scene from Pagliacci (COC, 1975), photo: Robert C. Ragsdale; a scene from Dialogues des Carmélites ​(COC, 2013), photo: Michael Cooper

Posted by COC Staff / in TOTCML / comments (0) / permalink


Politics and Love: An Introduction to Norma

Norma, a druid priestess, is torn between love for those she leads, and a secret passion for Pollione, the Roman enemy of her people. She bears him two children before discovering he has begun an affair with her younger acolyte, Adalgisa. From the entangled storylines of Norma, Pollione, and Adalgisa, to the underlying conflict between the Druids and the Romans, Norma is all about relationships. Join us as we introduce you to some helpful background information on this masterpiece, and give you an inside look at the complicated love triangle.

History Behind the Story: Druids Vs. Romans

The Druids during the Iron Age were members of the educated, professional class among the Celtic peoples of Britain, Ireland, and Gaul (modern-day France). Druids included doctors, healers, poets, and most importantly, religious leaders. Unfortunately for us, the Druids believed firmly in oral traditions of passing along knowledge, and left the modern world with the task of piecing together their history through Greek and Roman writings. 

Norma takes place in Gaul around 50 BCE, shortly following the Gallic Wars (58-51 BCE), where Julius Caesar successfully annexed the tribal chiefdoms as part of the Roman Empire. Following this, the Druids first endured suppression from the Romans, followed by a total prohibition of their religious practices. To learn more about the Druids, click here. To learn more about Gaul under Roman rule, click here.

The Love Triangle: A Timeline

This simplified timeline depicts the entanglement of Norma, Pollione, and Adalgisa that persists the entire length of the opera. Click here for a full synopsis of Norma

Photo credit: Marco Berti as Pollione and Sondra Radvanovsky as Norma in Norma (San Francisco Opera, 2014), photo: Cory Weaver

Posted by COC Staff / in Norma / comments (0) / permalink

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



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