I thought about what to call this, the first free concert of the season from the Canadian Opera Company at the Richard Bradshaw Auditorium:
- Alpha & Omega? (no… too Biblical)
- Ave Atque Vale? (no…obscure)
- Alumni Reunion? (hm….partly)
The first program of the season is normally a beginning, introducing new members of the COC’s Ensemble Studio. But it also felt like an ending, what with the passing less than a month ago of Lotfi Mansouri. The concert, dedicated to Mansouri’s memory, was presented with a great sense of the occasion, in the presence of many of the originals from 30 years ago.
This concert was therefore more than just the introduction of the new cohort:
• Pianist Michael Shannon
• Soprano Aviva Fortunata
• Mezzo-soprano Danielle MacMillan
• Baritone Clarence Frazer
• Bass-baritone Gordon Bintner
• Tenor Andrew Haji
• Mezzo-soprano Charlotte Burrage
General Director Alexander Neef & former Ensemble member Janet Stubbs both bore witness to Mansouri’s place in the history of the COC, and his generous mentoring. The retrospective serves to remind us how far the COC have come in such a short period.
The performances were all good, although (recalling our conversation in class last night about opera singing as exhibitionism) some performers boldly embraced the occasion, taking the stage in the tiny space more confidently than the others. I was especially impressed by Claire de Sévigné (a returning ensemble member) & Bintner, and delighted with the playing of Shannon throughout, especially in his accompaniment to the two Richard Strauss pieces on the program.
As an encore, former Ensemble member Simone Osborne (back in town for the new Boheme that opens next week) sang a heartfelt “When I have sung my songs” as a fitting conclusion to the event, accompanied by Ensemble Music Director Liz Upchurch.
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