The Canadian Opera Company announced their 2014-15 season at a festive event tonight. Yes the COC are stepping back from their recent pattern of seven-opera seasons, to offer six instead. But this is also the year when the New York City Opera & Opera Hamilton went bankrupt. Let’s not go crazy. A season that’s safe yet exciting? Surely local opera fans– especially those of the hardcore variety– will be happy.
I know that I’m feeling ecstatic.
We’ll see three premieres alongside three revivals. All six are at least partially owned by the COC, as opposed to the occasional rental we’ve seen before. While this was played up in the presentation, it’s less important than the quality of these productions.
Robert Carsen’s Falstaff, a co-production seen at some of the greatest opera houses of the world (Royal Opera, La Scala, Netherlands Opera and the Metropolitan, including a high-definition broadcast… the encore is on this Saturday by the way) starring Canadian Gerald Finley. This will be the fourth season in a row featuring a production from Carsen, one of the most high-profile Canadian directors of opera in the world.
- Dimitri Tcherniakov’s Don Giovanni –the same co-production seen on TFO just a few nights ago, is finally coming home to Toronto—will star Russell Braun, Jane Archibald and Michael Schade. It’s quirky and deep. I can’t wait to see it, particularly with Braun & Schade.
- Joan Font of the Spanish ensemble Els Comediants brings his Barbiere di Siviglia, another co-production. This is the same adventurous team that brought us La Cenerentola back in 2011, a stylish romp of great depth. I see no reason to expect any less this time.
- Atom Egoyan’s Die Walküre is the big news of the season because of the coup represented in the casting of Christine Goerke in her first Brunnhilde. In passing they let us know that they’ve signed Goerke to sing the Brunnhildes of Siegfried and Gotterdammerung too.
- Robert Lepage’s double-bill of Erwartung and Bluebeard’s Castle, seen several times in Toronto & abroad since its 1993 premiere in the unfriendly confines of the O’Keefe Centre, makes its first appearance at the Four Seasons Centre with Canadian star John Relyea as Bluebeard.
- Brian MacDonald’s reliable Madama Butterfly is revived again with Patricia Racette alternating with Kelly Kaduce; while Racette has the bigger name, Kaduce is a terrific singer I saw in Montreal a couple of years ago.
Nationalists should take note of how genuinely Canadian this company looks right now:
- Four of six directors are Canadian, and they’re all there on merit (Font & Tcherniakov being exceptions to the nationality of Egoyan, Lepage, Macdonald and Carsen).
- Casting for four of the six operas is mostly Canadian, again on merit (Butterfly and Walküre are the exception to the rule).
While the move from seven to six may disappoint, this is while the COC continues to tour schools, to offer its exceptional program of free noon-hour concerts, and maintains its commitment to the Studio Ensemble. I am expecting to enjoy every show, and indeed to love five of the six. The Butterfly is merely a reliable production among five others that scintillate, but it’s still an opera that I love and I know I’m not alone (according to operabase.com).
Not only am I thrilled by the direction that the COC is going, but I’m impatient to see their operas. First things first, though. Saturday night, Egoyan’s new Cosi fan tutte opens the next opera of the current winter season…arrr can’t wait!