Tonight’s Canadian Opera Company announcement of the coming season’s operas gave us reason to be proud, a genuine celebration of the sesquicentennial of Canada’s confederation.
We checked in with the key components of the COC:
- Alexander Neef & Johannes Debus were interviewed onstage by Brent Bambury. Both of them are contracted until at least 2021: a fact that was heartily applauded
- We met the five members of the Orchestral Academy, operated by the COC in collaboration with The Glenn Gould School of the Royal Conservatory and the U of T’s Faculty of Music, mentored by the COC orchestra.
- We clapped for roughly a dozen members of the COC Chorus, including Sandra Horst.
- We applauded the Ensemble Studio, including their seven new members. We were also told they’ll perform a showcase of opera excerpts next season instead of the usual ensemble performance.
Neef called attention to the end of the first decade in the Four Seasons Centre (possibly the biggest single factor in the company’s success), while speaking of the soul-searching he’s put the COC through, in building a strategic plan. We saw a statement on the screen resembling a mission statement, saying the following:
COC365: we will bring the transformative experience of opera to our local, national and global audience every day of the year.
Debus, who first came in 2008 for War and Peace spoke of his sense of welcome with the orchestra & the city. The conductor of both operas in the winter season namely Figaro and Siegfried, a potentially daunting job, Debus said he enjoys the contrast, finding the Mozart cleansing after the immersive experience of the Wagner.
We heard of the six operas to be presented next year including three new productions + three revivals.
- Bellini’s Norma with Sondra Radvanovsky (perhaps the best Norma in the world right now, who happens to live in southern Ontario), double cast with Elsa van den Heever (also a wonderful soprano), Isabel Leonard, tenor Russell Thomas, with Stephen Lord conducting.
- Handel’s Ariodante starring Jane Archibald, with Alice Coote and Canadians Owen McCausland and Ambur Braid, directed by Richard Jones.
- Harry Somers’ Louis Riel in an all-Canadian co-production with the National Arts Centre, to be directed by Peter Hinton. Russell Braun is Riel, James Westman is Sir John A Macdonald, Michael Colvin plays Thomas Scott, John Relyea is Bishop Taché. The cast also includes Simone Osborne (as Riel’s wife) and Allyson McHardy (as Riel’s mother). The production will travel at least as far as Ottawa, to be presented at the NAC.
- Mozart’s The Magic Flute in Diane Paulus’ delightful feminist reading, directed by Canadian Ashlie Corcoran, is largely a Canadian cast, with Andrew Haji & Owen McCausland sharing the role of Tamino, Joshua Hopkins & Phillip Addis sharing Papageno, Elena Tsallagova & Kirsten MacKinnon Pamina, Ambur Braid & Kathryn Lewek as the Queen of the Night. Bernard Labadie conducts his first Mozart opera with the COC.
We heard a wonderful sample, as Andrew Haji gave us a vulnerable portrayal in Tamino’s Act I aria.
- Wagner’s Götterdämmerung completes Christine Goerke’s thrilling survey of the role of Brunnhilde, with the third successive role debut. She wakes up opposite the Siegfried of Andreas Schager, before encountering the Hagen of Ain Anger, in a cast including Canadians Robert Pomakov and Ileana Montalbetti as Alberich & Gutrune respectively and directed by Tim Albery.
Goerke drew by far the biggest applause of the night in Ortrud’s curse from Lohengrin (an invocation of Teutonic gods such as Brunnhilde’s daddy Wotan, and yes Goerke is rehearsing her first Siegfried Brunnhilde during the daytime, which is role #2 of that remarkable survey).
- Puccini’s Tosca gives us a double cast that includes Adrianne Pieczonka/Keri Alkema and Ramon Vargas/Andrea Carè, Markus Marquardt as Scarpia in both casts. Canadian conductor Keri-Lynn Wilson will be the first woman to conduct a COC opera, giving us another reason to celebrate.
But first comes the COC winter season, namely Siegfried opening January 23rd and Marriage of Figaro opening February 4th.