Alexander Neef and the COC

torontoparisI’m quite disturbed by some of the things I’ve been reading in the wake of Alexander Neef’s departure from the COC.  Much of it seems driven by a kind of cultural chauvinism that I find as unpalatable as other kinds of chauvinism.  There’s an underlying (or not so underlying) assumption that a Canadian GD would have looked out for the COC while Neef was just looking out for himself.  I have two problems with this.  One is the rather obvious point that if you hire someone who is on a career trajectory they are going to devote some time and energy to their career.  It doesn’t mean they won’t get the job done for you (and likely better than a mediocrity) because if they don’t that career trajectory will disappear rather rapidly. ny organization hiring a high flyer knows this.. 

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COC announces virtual fall season

virtualThe COC has announced a virtual (almost) fall season.  It’s mainly community outreach with an emphasis on young people which is entirely consistent with conversations I’ve had with the COC (and indeed other companies).

  • In November there will be a three day festival of concerts from the Richard Bradshaw amphitheatre backed up by interviews etc.
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Couple of on-line events

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FAWN are streaming a version of their latest Convergence theory concert on Thursday evening.  This isn’t opera.  It’s part of FAWN’s electronic music series.  You can find out the details, order your 3D glasses and see a sample here.

On August 10th at 6.30pm EST the COC are livestreaming Rufus Wainwright’s Hadrian as part of Montreal Pride.  It’s apparently been filmed in HD (unlike the archive videos the COC has been streaming for a while now).  I wonder if that means a video release at some point.  It’s free but requires advance registration at coc.ca/Hadrian.  Not familiar with the work?  Here’s a link to my review of the opening night.

I’ve mentioned this one before but don’t forget Ema Nikolovska and Steven Philcox’ recital for TSM.  That’s on July 31st at noon EST.

Songs of Hope

On Thursday evening the members of COC’s Ensemble Studio collaborated to create an on-line concert called Songs of Hope.  All the current Ensemble members plus Liz Upchurch took part in an extremely eclectic programme MC’d by Simone Osborne.  There was “classic” art song with Jamie Groote singing Britten’s arrangement of Burns’ Highland Balou.  Joel Allison sang Silent Noon by Vaughan Williams; a test piece for any Anglo baritone inviting comparison with the likes of Thomas Allen and Bryn Terfel.  He passes the test in my book.  Very fine singing indeed.  Vartan Gabrielan gave us a rare chance to hear a genuine bass singing Schubert; in this case Ständchen.  The different timbre is an interesting and welcome change.

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All the news that fits

NewFSCBannerPretty major announcements from both the COC and the TSO recently; the COC’s reinforced with an on-line Q&A with Alexander Neef last night.  The substance of the COC announcement is that the fall season (Parsifal and Marriage of Figaro) is cancelled along with all other in-person performances for the rest of 2020.  Parsifal has been rescheduled for the fall season 2022.  At this point the rest of the 2020/21 season is still on.  Officially at least.  However Alexander made it pretty clear that the Four Seasons Centre won’t be reopened until they can sell at least the bulk of the seats which would mean the end of social distancing.  I don’t see that happening until a Covid-19 vaccine is generally available and can’t imagine that being soon enough to save the winter season and maybe not the spring season either.  Meanwhile the COC is looking at its virtual options.

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Doras 2020

The Dora winners were announced last night.  I don’t think there were any big surprises in the opera category.  The COC’s Rusalka scooped most awards with four including Outstanding Production.  The other three were Outstanding Direction (David McVicar), Outstanding Musical Direction (Johannes Debus) and Outstanding Achievement in Design (Lighting) (David Finn).  It was probably the best thing overall the COC has done in a long time so not shocked.

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Yvette Nolan and Dean Burry won the  Outstanding New Opera category for Shanawdithit.  I’m delighted about this one as I had rather more personal emotional investment in this project than most things I see and it was an important project in so many ways. Marnie Breckenridge received the Dora for Outstanding Performance by an Individual for her performance in Jacqueline.  Also well deserved and a wee but surprising as there was every reason to give this one to Sondra Radvanovsky and usually that kind of name recognition wins out.  In any event two big wins for Tapestry (and a nod to Opera on the Avalon for being a smaller regional company prepared to invest in something relevant).

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Finally, Soundstreams presentation of Two Odysseys: Pimooteewin / Gállábártnit won Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble.  In this case Nicole Joy-Fraser, Karen
Weigold, Vania Chan, Deantha Edmunds, Jennifer Taverner, Rebecca Cuddy, Bó Bárdos, Michelle Lafferty, Jonathan MacArthur, Mitchell Pady, Evan Korbut, Bryan Martin and Neil Aronof.  This was another fascinating show that deserved some recognition.

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So, yes, the eight hundred pound gorilla came out on top but hardly by a knock out.

More streaming opportunities

mundaThere are two shows on June 18th.  At 6pm EDT Parma records are hosting a concert of contemporary cello music featuring Ovidiu Marinescu.  Then at 8pm it’s Opera Pub on Facebook Live from AtG Theatre.  If you can’t catch it live it will likely show up on AtG’s Youtube channel a couple of days later.

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Exploring the Doras

2020-Dora-AwardThe Dora award nominations are in.  The most interesting thing is that the COC doesn’t dominate the Opera category this year.  In fact Tapestry has most nominations with thirteen.  In general, it was really nice to see new “committed” opera dominating the list rather than the usual stuff.  Indigenous themes did very well too which is very pleasing.  Loads of nominations for Shanawdithit, including Best Performer in a Leading Role for Marion Newman, which pleases me greatly.  Good to see FAWN’s Pandora and Soundstreams’ Two Odysseys: Pimooteewin / Gállábártnit featuring along with LooseTea’s Singing Only Softly/The Diary of Anne Frank: Operas from the Secret Annex.  There was one surprise in the list of COC nominations.  I’m actually quite shocked that Speranza Scappucci didn’t get nominated for her conducting of Barber of Seville; a really remarkable performance.  And one non-surprise; multiple nominations for Rusalka which might just be the best thing the COC have done in quite a while.

So now we can all speculate on who the eventual winners will be.

More on line stuff

The COC is posting complete performance videos from the archive here.   These are “technical” videos designed to inform a future revival rather than material intended for broadcast.  They feature a single camera angle (full stage) and the video quality is so-so but it’s quite interesting.  There will be one available at a time and the current one is Strauss’ Arabella from a couple of seasons ago.

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