Monday, August 10, 2020 at 6:30 PM ET

In partnership with Montréal Pride Festival

Hadrian is composed by Rufus Wainwright with libretto by Daniel MacIvor

Hosted by Anthony Oliveira

Performance starts at 6:30 p.m. Eastern Time
Q&A with the cast and creative team begins at 9:30 p.m. Eastern Time

Relive the world premiere of Hadrian through a free, one-night-only streaming event, which includes a post-performance live Q&A with composer Rufus Wainwright, librettist Daniel MacIvor, and director Peter Hinton.

This ground-breaking production puts an overdue spotlight on Hadrian, ruler of the Roman Empire, and his beloved Antinous. With its blend of history, political intrigue, and fantastical invention, all woven into a heartbreaking love story, Hadrian gives one of history’s greatest queer romances the full, grand opera treatment.

An original COC commission, Hadrian is a triumphant celebration of Canadian artistry with music by celebrated singer-songwriter and composer Rufus Wainwright, poetic text by award-winning playwright Daniel MacIvor, and striking direction by Peter Hinton, who staged this vibrant production in collaboration with an innovative team of homegrown talent.

To learn about more events like our Hadrian Watch Party, sign up to receive emails about the COC’s latest digital programs and concerts.


Thank you for participating in our Hadrian Watch Party

Watch a replay below of our live Q&A featuring composer Rufus Wainwright, librettist Daniel MacIvor, director Peter Hinton and COC General Director Alexander Neef.


    This one-night-only presentation is the first time any audience is seeing Hadrian in its entirety since its Toronto world premiere. High-quality, multi-camera footage make this an unforgettable cinematic experience, giving viewers an all-access pass to the artistry of the blockbuster soloists, the renowned COC Orchestra, led by COC Music Director Johannes Debus, and the COC Chorus, led by Price Family Chorus Master Sandra Horst.

    Hadrian was commissioned by the Canadian Opera Company and composed by celebrated singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright, together with librettist Daniel MacIvor, a giant in Canada’s theatre scene.



    Music by Rufus Wainwright
    by arrangement with Chester Music, part of the Wise Music Group of companies.
    Libretto by Daniel MacIvor

    Conductor: Johannes Debus

    Director: Peter Hinton
    Set Designer: Michael Gianfrancesco
    Costume Designer: Gillian Gallow
    Lighting Designer: Bonnie Beecher
    Projection Designer: Laurie Shawn-Borzovoy
    Choreographer: Denise Clarke
    Dramaturg: Cori Ellison
    Price Family Chorus Master: Sandra Horst

    Hadrian: Thomas Hampson
    Plotina: Karita Mattila
    Trajan: Roger Honeywell
    Turbo: David Leigh
    Sabina: Ambur Braid
    Antinous: Isaiah Bell
    Hermogenes: Gregory Dahl
    Lavia: Anna-Sophie Neher
    Fabius: John Mac Master
    Nervous Senator: Thomas Glenn
    Sycophantic Senator: Samuel Chan
    Superior Senator: Joel Allison
    Dinarchus: Ben Heppner
    Angelic Boy/Herald: Madelaine Ringo-Stauble*+ and Josh Fralick*
    *Members of the Canadian Children’s Opera Company
    + This performance features Madelaine Ringo-Stauble

    With the COC Orchestra and Chorus

    Hadrian is sung in English and Latin and streamed with English subtitles.

  • ACT I

    The last night of Hadrian’s life. In Tibur, outside Rome.

    Hadrian is gravely ill and grieving the death of his lover Antinous. After years of preparations Antinous’ body is to be entombed. Hadrian’s entourage feels Hadrian will die tonight, from either sickness or sadness.

    Hadrian is visited by two deities only he can see: Emperor Trajan and his wife Plotina. Trajan, like a father to him, is here to comfort Hadrian. Plotina, having secured Hadrian the throne, is on a mission. Hadrian only wants to know the truth of what happened to Antinous.

    Convinced he is mad with grief, Hadrian orders his physician Hermogenes to kill him. Turbo, his long-time friend and head of his military, tries to reason with Hadrian. Hermogenes’ loyalty to his Emperor brings him to kill himself.

    Plotina and Trajan return. Plotina begins her campaign.

    Turbo addresses affairs of state: enemies of the status quo rise in power. This is of no concern to Hadrian, he’s busy memorializing Antinous. Knowing that time is short Plotina strikes a deal: two nights with Antinous and the truth if Hadrian sign a document that would destroy those who would destroy them. Hadrian agrees.

    ACT II

    Seven years earlier, in Greece.

    Plotina leads Hadrian through the night he met Antinous: the feast of Robigalia, celebrated tonight to honour Hadrian’s tour of the Empire. Guests sing Hadrian’s praises.

    We meet Hadrian’s wife Sabina. Her sadness reveals itself: her husband has no heart for her.

    Present is Antinous, who was magnificent in the hunt today, killing a boar that was charging the Emperor. Preparations begin for a ceremonial sacrifice. Hadrian insists Turbo bring forward the hero of the hunt, Turbo is reluctant, concerned about the Emperor’s tastes.

    Hadrian longs to take Antinous in his arms, but knows the night must play out just as it did. We see their attraction is deep and true.

    For Hadrian’s amusement, a Sibyl has been procured. She predicts that Antinous will “sacrifice” and become a “savior”. Hadrian turns attention back to the celebration.

    A sacrifice is brought to the altar, small groups form. Hadrian and Antinous have found their destiny. Turbo and Sabina have found a common enemy in Antinous. The entourage consider political implications. The people gossip.

    Plotina reveals herself to us, she had been the Sibyl.



    Egypt. A barge on the Nile.

    In a world between worlds, Hadrian and Antinous’ love expresses itself as all consuming.

    It is six years since the night Hadrian and Antinous met. Over time Antinous has shown himself to be a wise and gentle man. Hadrian recognizes this night as the night Antinous died.

    Unable to escape his real-world illness, and facing the worst night of his life, Hadrian begs Plotina to change the rules. She refuses.

    The entourage, sick of life on the road, amuse themselves with drinking games. When Antinous appears we see that he has captured their hearts. Antinous has a peaceable approach to the Jews and Nazarenes. Turbo sees this as supporting the power of monotheism. He worries that Hadrian is too influenced by Antinous.

    Sabina is tormented by her husband’s love for Antinous. She and Turbo speak of a plan: a deception is to be undertaken by a Sybil. Sabina is unsure, Turbo is determined.

    The bedchamber. Antinous cares for Hadrian. A Sybil comes to help with Hadrian’s illness. She declares that Hadrian’s recovery requires a sacrifice.

    Hadrian briefly steps into the world between. He sees that the Sibyl is Sabina. Back in the fever dream of the past Antinous cares for Hadrian tenderly. Sabina witnesses Hadrian’s love for Antinous. Her husband has a heart. She is moved.

    On deck we see that Antinous trusts the Sibyl’s words. He is about to sacrifice himself. Sabina rushes in to end the game. Turbo shows himself and has Sabina taken away. Alone with Antinous, Turbo admits the deception then kills Antinous, delivering his body to the Nile.

    ACT IV

    Tibur, outside Rome. Hadrian’s last moments.

    Back in the real world. Hadrian, now more broken than he was, makes a show of signing the document, thus ending Judea. Plotina is elated, monotheism will die. She will live eternal.

    Turbo is delighted, Hadrian is himself again, the Empire will thrive. Hadrian explains this document will see the Empire fall. Then he tells Turbo what he knows: Turbo killed Antinous. Turbo admits it with no remorse. Hadrian moves to stab Turbo in the heart, but stops, he asks “Why?”

    Turbo explains he was protecting the legacy of his friend and Emperor. Hadrian disdains all material concerns naming his own legacy in his final words, “He loved.” In this moment Turbo sees the truth. Hadrian dies.

    All deities present lead Hadrian into death. Hadrian and Antinous are reunited. The gods ponder their future as a dark chorus of unrest gathers. A time has ended. A time has begun.

    Daniel MacIvor, librettist
  • “A gay love story that speaks to our time”
    – New York Times

    “It was a truly grand spectacle”
    – Toronto Star

    “The orchestra bubbles with eclectic sounds and stunning, pared-down moments of chamber music.”
    – The Globe and Mail

    “This production and its roles are one for the history books.”
    – Mooney on Theatre

  • COC News posts

    Synopsis and Librettist's Notes

    First Listen: The Music of Hadrian

    Dramatically Roman: The Costumes of Hadrian

    Composer's Notes: Hadrian's Rufus Wainwright

    Becoming Antinous:

    News Articles

    "‘There were tears’: The battle to bring Hadrian to the Canadian Opera Company stage" Toronto Star

    "Rufus Wainwright’s egotistical one-man goal: ‘Writing the great American opera’" The Globe and Mail

    "PRIMER | Behind The Curtains At The Canadian Opera Company's Hadrian Ludwig Van

    "How will people react to Rufus Wainwright's new opera?" CBC

    "Rufus Wainwright’s First Opera Was ‘a Nightmare.’ He’s Trying Again" New York Times

    "INTERVIEW | Uncharted Waters: Isaiah Bell On Creating Antinous In Hadrian" Ludwig Van

  • Hadrian Watch Party Teaser, July 2020

    Relive the world premiere of Hadrian in our free stream of the full opera on August 10 with composer Rufus Wainwright and librettist Daniel MacIvor. Includes a post-show live Q&A.

    "Will you have Egypt with me?" | Ambur Braid, October 2018

    An excerpt from Sabina's Act II aria, "Will you have Egypt with me?" performed by soprano Ambur Braid.

    Act III Excerpt | Thomas Hampson & Isaiah Bell, October 2018

    An excerpt from Rufus Wainwright and Daniel MacIvor's Hadrian. This scene from Act III of the opera features Hadrian (Thomas Hampson) and Antinous (Isaiah Bell).

    Plotina's aria | Karita Mattila, October 2018

    An excerpt from Plotina's Act I aria, performed by soprano Karita Mattila.

    Behind the Scenes, September 2018

    Take an intimate behind-the-scenes look at rehearsals for Rufus Wainwright and Daniel MacIvor's Hadrian.

Thomas Hampson as Hadrian and Isaiah Bell as Antinous in Hadrian; (COC, 2018), photo: Michael Cooper


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