COC 2013/2014 Season announcement

 “Press releases and announcements” are presented verbatim without comment.

For immediate release: January 23, 2013


   Toronto – The Canadian Opera Company unveiled its 2013/2014 season today at a press conference at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts.  The company’s 64th season stars the world’s best singers, conductors, directors and designers in a performance year with seven operas, including three COC premieres and three new COC productions.  The COC presents Giacomo Puccini’s La Bohème with a new production featuring some of Canada’s brightest stars; COC Music Director Johannes Debus makes his Benjamin Britten debut when he conducts Peter Grimes with a production starring acclaimed Canadian tenor Ben Heppner in the iconic title role; Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Così fan tutte with a new COC production by renowned film and theatre director Atom Egoyan with Debus conducting; Giuseppe Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera starring great Canadian diva Adrianne Pieczonka in a role debut; George Frideric Handel’s Hercules with a COC premiere and new COC production by world-renowned director Peter Sellars with a star-studded cast; Gaetano Donizetti’s Roberto Devereux with a COC premiere starring soprano Sondra Radvanovsky in a role debut; and Jules Massenet’s Don Quichotte with a COC premiere featuring Debus in another conducting debut and the world’s pre-eminent bass Ferruccio Furlanetto in the title role.

The 13/14 season ranks among the most exciting yet for the COC with more Canadian and international stars on the mainstage than ever before.  Making their COC debuts in the upcoming season are singers Phillip Addis, Sir Thomas Allen, Paul Appleby, Layla Claire, Lucy Crowe, Grazia Doronzio, Joyce El-Khoury, Giuseppe Filianoti, Ferruccio Furlanetto, Ekaterina Gubanova, Teodor Ilincăi, Eric Owens and Roland Wood; conductors Carlo Rizzi and Corrado Rovaris; and directors Linda Brovsky, Sergio Morabito and Jossi Wieler.  Returning artists include singers Russell Braun, Alice Coote, Richard Croft, Tracy Dahl, David Daniels, Alan Held, Ben Heppner, Quinn Kelsey, David Lomelí, Allyson McHardy, Marie-Nicole Lemieux, Adrianne Pieczonka, Dimitri Pittas and Sondra Radvanovsky; conductors Harry Bicket and Stephen Lord; and directors Neil Armfield, John Caird, Atom Egoyan, Stephen Lawless and Peter Sellars.  All performances take place in the company’s home, the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, and feature the renowned COC Orchestra and Chorus.

“More than ever, you can see how the COC has become a destination for artists of exceptional talent and renown.  The artists we invite to work with us, and the opera companies that choose to collaborate on productions with us, are among the best in the world,” says Canadian Opera Company General Director Alexander Neef.  “Looking beyond the extraordinary calibre of the artists coming to the COC next year, audiences can expect a season that invites them to engage with opera in a way that’s only possible by being part of a live theatrical experience. In the end, it is the electric exchange between artists and the audience that makes the art come alive.”

The COC’s 13/14 season opens with one of opera’s favourite and most poignant love stories, Puccini’s La Bohème.  This masterpiece of youthful flirtation, passionate love and heartbreaking tragedy was last performed by the COC in 2009 and returns in a new company production directed by Canadian-born Tony Award-winning director John Caird (Don Carlos, 2007).  One of the leading conductors of his generation, Italian Carlo Rizzi, leads the COC Orchestra and Chorus.  The sets and costumes that capture the romance of France’s Belle Époque are created by Olivier Award-winning and Tony Award-nominated designer David Farley.  Making their COC debuts in the role of the fragile seamstress Mimì are two recent graduates of the Metropolitan Opera’s prestigious Lindemann Young Artist Development Program, already acclaimed for their renditions of this starring role: Italian soprano Grazia Doronzio and Canadian soprano Joyce El-Khoury (Oct. 9, 19, 27, 30).  The role of the poet Rodolfo, Mimì’s lover, is sung by two rising young tenors, Mexican David Lomelí (Rigoletto, 2011) and Romanian Teodor Ilincăi (Oct. 9, 19, 27, 30).  Also appearing as the flirtatious singer Musetta, El-Khoury shares the role with COC Ensemble Studio graduate soprano Simone Osborne (Gianni Schicchi, 2012; Rigoletto, 2011; The Magic Flute, 2011) (Oct. 9, 19, 27, 30).  In the role of the painter Marcello, Musetta’s lover, are two standout Canadian baritones: Joshua Hopkins (Carmen, 2005) and, in a company debut, Phillip Addis (Oct. 9, 19, 27, 30).  The role of the philosopher Colline is shared by two celebrated bass-baritones: American Christian Van Horn (Tosca, 2012) and Canadian Tom Corbeil (Death in Venice, 2010) (Oct. 9, 19, 27, 30).  Addis also takes on the role of the musician Schaunard.  This production of La Bohème is a COC co-production with Houston Grand Opera and San Francisco Opera.  La Bohème is sung in Italian with English SURTITLES™ and runs for 12 performances at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts on October 3, 6, 9, 12, 16, 18, 19, 22, 25, 27, 29, 30, 2013.

In the centenary of Benjamin Britten’s birth, the COC presents Peter Grimes, his gripping opera about an alienated fisherman and the seaside village he struggles to inhabit.  Acclaimed Canadian tenor Ben Heppner (Tristan in Tristan und Isolde, 2013) returns to the COC in the title role.  COC Music Director Johannes Debus makes his Britten debut when he leads the COC Orchestra and Chorus through Peter Grimes’ evocative score, last heard at the COC in 2003.  Award-winning Australian director Neil Armfield (Ariadne auf Naxos, 2011; A Midsummer Night’s Dream, 2009; Billy Budd, 2001) directs this co-production from Opera Australia and Houston Grand Opera.  Singing the role of Grimes’ unwavering advocate, Ellen Orford, is recent COC Ensemble Studio graduate soprano Ileana Montalbetti.  Captain Balstrode, one of Grimes’ few friends, is sung by one of the leading singing actors today, Alan Held (Kurwenal Tristan und Isolde, 2013; A Florentine Tragedy/Gianni Schicchi, 2012).  COC Ensemble Studio alumni, tenor Roger Honeywell and baritone Peter Barrett, portray the vengeful Bob Boles and Grimes’ friend, Ned Keene, respectively.  Canadian bass-baritone Tom Corbeil (who also appears in 2013’s La Bohème) is the lawyer Swallow, and critically acclaimed American mezzo-soprano Jill Grove (Aida, 2010) is Auntie.  Peter Grimes is sung in English with English SURTITLES™ and runs for seven performances at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts on October 5, 8, 11, 17, 20, 23, 26, 2013.

   Renowned Canadian film and stage director Atom Egoyan (directing Salome, 2013) returns to the COC with a new production of Mozart’s sublime musical depiction of the frailties of the human condition, Così fan tutte.  Egoyan’s concept takes its inspiration from the opera’s subtitle, The School for Lovers.  He approaches the production as one where love is examined, dissected and manipulated, exploring the themes of love, temptation and deceit in this wry comedy about two couples gambling with one another’s faith and desire.  Award-winning set and costume designer Debra Hanson makes her opera debut with Così fan tutte and, with Egoyan, creates a production that stylistically progresses through time from the 18th-century to present day.  Led by COC Music Director Johannes Debus with the COC Orchestra and Chorus, this new production features a cast of up-and-coming opera talent in the roles of the young lovers, alongside distinguished veterans.  Cast as the sisters are two Canadians: soprano Layla Claire in her COC debut as Fiordiligi and Ensemble Studio graduate mezzo-soprano Wallis Giunta (Annio in La clemenza di Tito, 2013) as Dorabella.  Singing the roles of the sisters’ two suitors are American tenor Paul Appleby in his COC debut as Ferrando and COC Ensemble graduate bass-baritone Robert Gleadow (Steersman in Tristan und Isolde, 2013; Publio in La clemenza di Tito, 2013) as Guglielmo.  World-renowned Canadian soprano Tracy Dahl makes a highly anticipated return to the COC stage after a 19-year-long absence, in the role of the conniving Despina.  Sir Thomas Allen, one of the finest lyric baritones on the world stage, makes his COC debut as the wily Don Alfonso.  COC resident conductor Derek Bate leads the COC Orchestra and Chorus for one performance.  Così fan tutte was last performed on the COC mainstage in 2006 and is sung in Italian with English SURTITLES™.  The production runs for 10 performances at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts on January 18, 24, 29, February 1, 6, 7*, 9, 15, 18, 21, 2014.


The young singers of the Canadian Opera Company’s Ensemble Studio perform Mozart’s Così fan tutte on February 7, 2014 at 7:30 p.m. on the mainstage.  This special performance stars the Ensemble members with the full COC Orchestra and Chorus under the direction of Così fan tutte’s conductor Johannes Debus and director Atom Egoyan. For casting, please visit the COC website at Tickets are accessibly priced at $25 and $55 per person.

In contrast with Mozart’s tale of young, uncertain love, the COC’s 13/14 winter season continues with Verdi’s more mature and bittersweet story of forbidden passion, Un ballo in maschera.  Requiring singers who can mine vast reserves of musical power and sensitivity, the COC has cast one of the world’s best dramatic sopranos, Canadian Adrianne Pieczonka (Tosca, 2012; Ariadne auf Naxos, 2011), and tenor Dimitri Pittas (Rigoletto, 2011) as the opera’s two lovers embroiled in political intrigue beyond their control.  Pieczonka and Pittas make their role debuts as Amelia and Riccardo.  British baritone Roland Wood is Renato, Amelia’s husband, acclaimed Canadian mezzo-soprano Marie-Nicole Lemieux (Rodelinda, Tancredi, 2005) is the fortune-teller Ulrica, and rising soprano star Ensemble Studio graduate Simone Osborne is Oscar, the page.  Not unlike the opera’s plot itself, political machinations have played a huge role in Un ballo in maschera’s history.  Originally forced to change the opera’s setting to Boston from Sweden to quell censors’ fears of real-life assassination plots, Verdi and his opera are proof that his theme of “love in a dangerous time” is both a universal truth and historically fluid.  In this same spirit, acclaimed directing duo Jossi Wieler and Sergio Morabito have revealed a layer of political and historical relevance to the plot by placing this Berlin Staatsoper production in the American South of the 1960s, with its undertones of Kennedy-era tensions, assassinations and power plays.  Stephen Lord (conducting Lucia di Lammermoor, 2013), one of America’s most distinguished conductors of opera today, returns to lead the COC Orchestra and Chorus.  Un ballo in maschera was last performed at the COC in 2003.  Sung in Italian with English SURTITLES™, Un ballo in maschera returns to the COC for eight performances at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts on February 2, 5, 8, 11, 14, 16, 20, 22, 2014.

The opera company’s 13/14 spring season offers a trio of COC premieres: Handel’s Hercules, Donizetti’s Roberto Devereux and Massenet’s Don Quichotte.

Internationally renowned director Peter Sellars (directing Tristan und Isolde, 2013) returns to the opera company with a new production of Handel’s HerculesSellars propels the incendiary Greek myth of Hercules into the modern day, giving voice to the untold horrors of war and the unspoken complications faced by veterans returning home.  With his frequent collaborators, set designer George Tsypin, costume designer Dunya Ramicova and lighting designer James F. Ingalls, Sellars has created a minimalist production that evokes ancient Greece while still locating the action clearly in the present.  This co-production with Lyric Opera of Chicago earned unequivocal praise when it opened in Chicago in 2011. “An opera performance this great is plenty rare. But opera capable of inspiring moral action is for the ages,” said the Los Angeles Times while the Chicago Sun-Times described it as a production that “will follow you home and keep you thinking as well.”  The same star-studded cast from Chicago take to the COC mainstage: American bass-baritone Eric Owens makes his COC debut as Hercules; British mezzo-soprano Alice Coote (Ariadne auf Naxos, 2011) is Hercules’s wife Dejanira; American countertenor David Daniels (Xerxes, 1999) returns to the COC as Hercules’s trusted aide, Lichas; American tenor Richard Croft (Così fan tutte, 1991) returns as Hercules’s son, Hyllus; and British soprano Lucy Crowe makes her COC debut as Iole, the princess whose father died at Hercules’s hand.  Conducting Handel’s glorious music is internationally renowned Baroque specialist and COC favourite Harry Bicket (Orfeo ed Euridice, 2011; Idomeneo, 2009; Rodelinda, 2005).  Hercules is sung in English with English SURTITLES™ and runs for seven performances at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts on April 5, 11, 15, 19, 24, 27, 30, 2014.
American soprano Sondra Radvanovsky (Aida, 2010), the world’s leading interpreter of the great 19th-century Italian prima donna roles, returns to the COC to take on a new challenge with her role debut as the central character Elisabetta in Donizetti’s Roberto Devereux.  Making his COC and role debut as Roberto Devereux, whose life hangs in the balance for having betrayed his Queen’s affections by falling in love with the wife of one her courtiers, is celebrated lyric tenor, Italian Giuseppe Filianoti.  Also making role debuts are internationally acclaimed and COC favourite, Canadian baritone Russell Braun (Il Trovatore, 2012; Love from Afar, 2012; Iphigenia in Tauris, 2011) as the Duke of Nottingham and acclaimed Ensemble Studio graduate mezzo-soprano Allyson McHardy (Semele, 2012; Madama Butterfly, 2009) as Sara, the Duchess of Nottingham.  Donizetti’s show stopping melodies and sumptuous period costumes bring the intrigue of the Elizabethan court to life within a Shakespearean Globe Theatre-inspired setting in this Dallas Opera production by acclaimed British director Stephen Lawless, who also staged the COC’s hugely popular Maria Stuarda in 2010.  Acclaimed Italian conductor Corrado Rovaris makes his COC debut leading the COC Orchestra and Chorus.  Roberto Devereux is sung in Italian with English SURTITLES™ and runs for seven performances at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts on April 25, 29, May 3, 10, 15, 18, 21, 2014.

Italian Ferruccio Furlanetto, the world’s pre-eminent bass, makes his COC debut in the title role of Massenet’s intensely moving Don Quichotte, which closes the COC’s 13/14 season.  Massenet’s autumnal outpouring of lush melody, based on Cervantes’ iconic novel about the idealistic dreamer, Don Quixote, also stars Metropolitan Opera star, Russian mezzo-soprano Ekaterina Gubanova, in her COC debut as Dulcinée.  American baritone Quinn Kelsey, acclaimed for his COC performances as Rigoletto in 2011, returns to makes his role debut as Sancho Panza.  American director Linda Brovsky makes her COC debut with this enchanting production where characters spring out of giant leather-bound storybooks and windmills are fashioned from oversized quills.  COC Music Director Johannes Debus conducts his first Don Quichotte when he leads the COC Orchestra and Chorus through a score that represents Massenet’s tribute to the last days of chivalry, but also his own poignant farewell to a soon-to-be-lost golden age of French Romanticism.  Don Quichotte is sung in French with English SURTITLES™ and runs for seven performances at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts on May 9, 11, 14, 17, 20, 22, 24, 2014.

All repertoire, dates, pricing, productions, and casting are subject to change without notice. For more complete casting and creative team information, please see the production pages at

The Canadian Opera Company webcast the announcement of its 13/14 season live on on Jan. 23, 2013, at 10 a.m. from the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre in the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts. The webcast is available for streaming.

For more information on the Canadian Opera Company’s 13/14 season, please visit

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