Spring in Toronto

It’s Spring in Toronto. The Canadian Opera Company has three productions in rehearsal and load ins and set building have started once more at the Four Seasons Centre. Here’s my take on what’s coming up.

Offenbach – Tales of Hoffmann April 10th to May 14th

Photo Credit: Kurt Van der Elst © 2000

This is a house debut for British director Lee Blakeley who brings his production previously seen at Vlaamse Opera.  The production looks on the face of it fairly conventional but word from the rehearsal studio is that it’s fairly “out there”.  The casting is a typical mix of “A list” talent, local favourites and Ensemble Studio members.  Probably the biggest draw is local boy John Relyea who is playing the four villains.  American tenor Russell Thomas sings the title role.  The four main female roles will be sung by Andriana Chuchman, Erin Wall, Keri Alkema and Lauren Segal; all familiar faces to Toronto audiences.  Johannes Debus conducts. More information.

Zemlinsky – A Florentine Tragedy and Puccini – Gianni Schicchi April 26th to May 25th

Photo Credit: Terese Wadden, costume designer for the Canadian Opera Company production of A Florentine Tragedy, 2012.

Another directorial house debut, this time for American soprano Catherine Malfitano.  It’s an interesting pairing linked by the setting in Venice and the need for a strong bass-baritone lead in both pieces.  Alan Held is headlining and Sir Andrew Davis conducts, which is reason enough to go see it.  Gun-Brit Barkmin is the soprano lead in both pieces and Simone Osborne makes her role debut as Lauretta in Gianni Schicchi.  The dead man’s ‘grieving’ family features an array of Ensemble Studio members past and present.  I haven’t heard anything about this production yet.  It’s new and I think the team is still in concept discussions.  Malfitano has a reputation for being intelligent but not particularly visionary so I’m expecting a solid rather ground breaking production here. More information.

Handel – Semele May 9th to 26th

A scene from the Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie production.
Photo Credit: Forster © 2009

This production comes to Toronto via Brussels and Beijing and features a genuine Ming dynasty temple rescued by director Zhang Huan which is currently being reassembled over at the Four Seasons Centre.  While much has been made of the set and the back story around the temple, for me the strongest reason to see this show is the return to Toronto of Jane Archibald in the title role.  She was a fine Zerbinetta in last season’s Ariadne auf Naxos and I really look forward to seeing her again.  Baroque specialist Rinaldo Alessandrini will conduct.  This production will also be performed on May 23rd as the annual Ensemble Studio performance when Ambur Braid and Mireille Asselin will share the title role.  Tickets for that show are $22 and $55 and it’s a great way to see some really talented young singers perform on the big stage. More information.

Other upcoming events

Jacqueline Woodley has her farewell to the Ensemble Studio concert on April 4th at noon in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre.  I tremendously admire Jacguie’s facility with and enthusiasm for contemporary music and will most certainly be there.  The god news is that she has no plans for moving and will still be around the Toronto scene next year.

Opera Atelier are doing Lully’s Armide again April 14th to 21st at the Elgin Theatre.  I saw it in 2005 and it was one of their better shows though very much in the usual OA idiom.

Not opera but intriguing, the Amici Ensemble have a concert at the Glenn Gould studio on April 22nd which will feature artist Lavinia Voicu painting live to Janacek’s Capriccio. More information.

Against the Grain Theatre Company are doing Britten’s The Turn of the Screw May 24th to 27th. That one’s a must see for me.

2 thoughts on “Spring in Toronto

  1. Interesting line-up you have there, John. I live in Auckland, New Zealand and we would never have such a varied season (let alone so many productions).

    • I can see how that would be. No North American city the size of Auckland would manage more than a couple or three productions in a year, if that. Still, you’ve got better rugby than we do!

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