VIRTUAL ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING
On October 28, the COC held its first-ever virtual Annual General Meeting to report on an unprecedented 2019/2020 season. More than 150 attended the event, which featured remarks from General Director Alexander Neef, COC Board Chair Jonathan Morgan, and other volunteer leaders of the COC community.
View the 19/20 AGM Press Release
View Financials at a Glance
View the Audience Impact Report, which details what COC supporters have continued to make possible
View 19/20 Season Highlights
View Media Coverage
THANK YOU TO OUR COMMUNITY
Thank you to the entire COC community, including our COC Board of Directors, our Corporate Sponsors and Foundation Supporters, generous public funders, union partners, and — most critically — our audience. Your inspiring support made an extraordinary 2019/2020 season possible, from internationally acclaimed mainstage productions and beloved community-building initiatives, to ensuring music could continue to connect us through the challenges of COVID-19.
“This past year will be etched into our collective memories for the many challenges it presented, to our company and to the world. However, our 19/20 season was also filled with many significant success stories, including the overall financial health of the organization within the context of this moment. Strong leadership from our Board, combined with additional strategic decision-making for financial strength, has laid the groundwork for strong recovery and growth ahead. In addition, the COC thanks the Government of Canada for its swift action in support of the performing arts, with comprehensive universal programs playing an integral role in keeping the company largely whole.”
— Jonathan Morgan, Chair of the COC Board of Directors
“I cannot overstate how proud I am of the COC’s efforts in the 19/20 season. Our audiences tell us that when the pandemic set in, it was our digital projects that kept them connected to the art form and to fellow arts-lovers. The past few months have been an eye-opening process for our team, but it’s one that has built a strong foundation for exciting digital developments to follow, and is helping us better cultivate a global audience for showcasing Canadian opera talent.”
— Alexander Neef, General Director
Through a highly collaborative creative process, this production of Turandot directed by Robert Wilson moved beyond a traditional staging, presenting a minimalist and modern environment for Puccini’s score to shine through, while also seeking to address some of the problematic stereotypes often associated with the opera.
Rusalka transported audiences to a dark and richly textured fantasy land, setting a moody and dramatic landscape for superstar Canadian-American Sondra Radvanovsky in the title role and her unforgettable rendition of “Song to the Moon.”
A Platform for Emerging Talent
Ensemble Studio Competition and Centre Stage Gala
The 2019 season saw us host our most successful Centre Stage Gala in company history, with a 35% increase in attendance over the previous year. The signature annual fundraiser, which supports the COC Ensemble Studio training program, transformed the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts into a “Subaqueous” underwater dream world inspired by Rusalka’s mermaid fairytale.
Earlier that evening, Canada’s most promising young opera voices competed in the COC’s annual Ensemble Studio Competition. Midori Marsh took home First Prize and the Audience Choice Award, bass-baritone Alex Halliday won Second Prize, and soprano Charlotte Siegel claimed Third Prize. All proceeds from the competition directly supported training and career coaching for members of the Ensemble Studio.
After her big win last night, Midori Marsh came out to meet her fans (and gets a hug from dad). #AllTheFeels pic.twitter.com/n8Vyq3TCji— Canadian Opera Company (@CanadianOpera) October 31, 2019
Expanding the COC Academy
In December, Julie McIsaac was named the company’s inaugural Director/Dramaturg-in-Residence. The year-long residency involves collaborating with COC Composer-in-Residence Ian Cusson on the creation of a new opera for young audiences. Julie is the newest addition to the COC Academy, the company’s professional development program for emerging opera artists, creators, and administrators.
Rossini’s The Barber of Seville
The new year began with the COC debut of Italian conductor Speranza Scappucci at the podium for Rossini’s larger-than-life comedy. The eye-popping, high-energy production offered audiences a delightful respite from Toronto’s grey winter weather.
Humperdinck’s Hansel & Gretel
Directed by noted Canadian talent Joel Ivany, this contemporary take on the children’s classic fairy tale also featured an all-star Canadian cast and used colourful projections to transport the opera’s story to a modern-day apartment complex in Toronto.
Humperdinck’s Hansel & Gretel — Opera For Young Audiences adaptation
The COC’s Hansel & Gretel was also specially adapted for our Opera for Young Audiences (OYA) initiative. For the first time , OYA was presented on the mainstage of the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, welcoming families and young audience members to enjoy a full grand opera experience created especially for them, complete with family-friendly pre-show activities created in partnership with local community organizations.
The OYA production also featured five community choirs from the Greater Toronto Area – The Canadian Children’s Opera Company, Common Thread Kids, The CultureLink Nai Children’s Choir, Reaching Out Through Music, and Yip’s Children’s Choir — creating an unforgettable, community-oriented experience for everyone in attendance.
The Impact of COVID-19
By the middle of March, COVID-19’s impact had drastically escalated. In an unprecedented moment for the company, the COC was forced to cancel all originally planned programming and in-person events through the end of the 19/20 season. The cancellation affected the COC’s spring mainstage productions (Verdi’s Aida and Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman), two annual fundraising events (the Fine Wine Auction and Operanation), and all in-person community performances, including the Free Concert Series in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre presented by TD Bank Group, as well as all educational events and summer camps.
Inspiring Support from our Community
Following these cancellations, emergency measures from all levels of government provided critical funds to mitigate and contain the impact of COVID-19 on the COC.
The company also received an inspiring outpouring of support from audience members, with 3,053 patrons choosing to donate the value of their spring tickets back to the COC.
“Personal stories are engaging and captivating, whether they’re sung to the accompaniment of a full orchestra, or simply told to a webcam by someone sitting in the cramped kitchen of a modest apartment. I’m touched that artists associated with COC are willing to share their doubts and frustrations, their discoveries and breakthroughs, and to keep us connected as a community….[it] tells me that in our isolation we may be closer together than ever before.”
— Alexandrina D. Canto Thaler, Audience Member
In addition, the company’s season-end matching campaign gave donors an opportunity to double the impact of their gifts. 1,196 people made a gift to this matching opportunity, with 161 of them donating to the COC for the very first time. Together, the COC community and patrons raised $329,000 through this philanthropic initiative.
Adjusting to the Pandemic
With team members suddenly working entirely remotely, the COC quickly shifted focus to an online format for all programming, including artist training and development. Members of the COC Ensemble Studio continued to receive lessons through video conference, were able to participate in virtual masterclasses, and learned to adapt planned performances for digital recording and broadcast. In lieu of their traditional season-end celebratory performance, Ensemble Studio members created a new digital concert designed especially for these often-difficult times — Songs of Hope: From Our Homes to Yours — which was enjoyed in XX households across the world.
The company created a Digital Content Hub, an easy access point for patrons to enjoy all the COC’s digital offerings, including our Opera at Home series. These daily videos featured excerpts from previous productions and new recordings filmed from the safety of artists’ homes, providing much-needed comfort at a time of widespread isolation.
The popular Free Concert Series in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre, presented by TD Bank Group, was also adapted into three online mini-concerts.
To help bridge the educational gap in music education, the COC created an interactive video series for young people called Opera Makers: Activities for Young Creatives. The eight-part, tutorial series provided students learning from home with access to some of Toronto’s best teaching artists. Each lesson included interactive activities, providing valuable insights into opera’s many creative fields.
In May, the COC put out a call for the company’s first-ever Virtual Choir, led by COC Price Family Chorus Master Sandra Horst. The ambitious digital project brought together hundreds of self-recorded voices and percussion to create one seamless, rousing “Anvil Chorus” from Verdi’s Il Trovatore. In total, 220 participants from 22 countries took part in the initiative, reminding us of music’s ability to transcend language and borders.
Changing the past: How composer Ian Cusson rewrote part of the famous Louis Riel opera | q Radio with Tom Power | September 19, 2019
Is ‘Turandot’ a tale of passion or abuse? How this opera got tweaked for the #MeToo moment | Toronto Star | John Terauds | John Terauds | September 24, 2019
Adjusting the pitch: Canadian Opera Company grapples with interpreting Turandot for today | CBC News | Jessica Wong | September 28, 2019
Amid personal burdens, beloved soprano and diva proclaims ‘I’m singing the best I ever have’ | Toronto Star | John Terauds | October 9, 2019
Canadian Opera Company’s enchanting Rusalka features other-worldly talents | NOW Magazine | Glenn Sumi | October 15, 2019
Discovering Canada’s top opera singer | Global News | October 30, 2019
Mike Duncan Chats with COC Ensemble Studio Competition Winner Midori Marsh | Classical 96.3FM | November 4, 2019
Visiting Italian conductor builds Toronto’s ‘Barber of Seville’ from the pit | Toronto Star | John Terauds | January 17, 2020
The COC stages a thrilling Barber of Seville with a star-studded cast | The Globe and Mail (Subscriber Only) | Jenna Simeonov | January 20, 2020
Toronto’s ‘Hansel and Gretel’ uses latest tech to bring children’s fears to life | Toronto Star | John Terauds | January 29, 2020
Always Asking Why: Speranza Scappucci, conductor | WholeNote Magazine | Lydia Perović | January 30, 2020
Virtual Choir: COC takes the sing-along home | Opera Canada | Arlan Vriens | May 28, 2020