The COC has announced “live” performances for the balance of the 2021/22 season and colour me massively underwhelmed. Obviously, the return to live performance is something we’ve all been waiting for but three dull revival productions of ultra-mainstream operas is not what I had hoped for. For the record here is what’s coming up:
Puccini – Madama Butterfly – February 4th – 25th, 2022. Tghis is the COC production that has been seen umpteen times already at the COC and it has absolutely nothing to say. One had hoped that if and when the COC did this piece again they would come up with a new production that wasn’t so transparently colonialist.
Verdi – La Traviata – April 23rd – May 20th, 2022. Another basically dull, traditional production though, at least, as Douglas Adams might say “mostly harmless”.
Mozart – The Magic Flute – May 6th – 21st, 2022. This is the production that the original director called “feminist” though anything “feminist” or, indeed, “anythingist” has escaped me on the multiple occasions I’ve seen it.
So there it is. Looks like a “lowest common denominator” approach to luring back the traditional crowd. It’s certainly hard to see how it helps with reaching out to new audiences or to achieving any of the bold goals of diversity, inclusion and telling stories relevant to today’s audience that were bruited so loud during lockdown.
As expected the COC’s fall season, announced today, is all virtual. Even the RBA concerts will be 5 minute on-line nuggets. The stuff on the main stage is pretty interesting though. Here’s the line up (note all dates are “supporter opening night”. General streaming starts 24 hours later. All shows are at 7.30pm).:
- 24th October: Russell Braun and tamara Wilson in concert with the COC Orchestra and Johannes Debus. Details here.
- 29th October: Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi. Amy Lane directs. Roland Wood sings the man. More details.
- 12th November: Juno award winning jazz/folk fusion group Okan perform songs from their latest album. Details.
- 26th November: Mozart’s Requiem with Midori Marsh, Marion Newman, Andrew Hadji and Vartan Gabrielan plus the COC orchestra and chorus and Johannes Debus. More.
- 17th December: In Winter. A concert featuring winter themed music including a new piece for solo, chorus and orchestra by Ian Cusson. Performers include Melody Courage past and present members of the Ensemble Studio and the COC opera and chorus with Johannes Debus. Details.
I’m a bit disappointed that there’s nothing concrete about a return to live with an audience performance but I’m not surprised. I just hope the Village Idiot in Chief can get his mind around something like a vaccination passport in time for a post Christmas return.
At least all this content is free and that’s a big plus.
There’s less being produced right now in the way of on-line content but here are a few titbits:
- Opera Revue has a new and very silly vaccine related number on Youtube.
- Sara Schabas has a recital recorded in the Spiegelsaal at the Opernhaus Zürich premiering on Sunday. This one is ticketed ($10 in aid of Highlands Opera Studio). Tickets here.
- Kathy Domoney has a new series of Opera Breaks coming up. You can check out previous Opera Breaks here, which is also where the new stuff will eventually appear. The schedule is:
- June 12th – “Dite alla giovine”, La Traviata ( Verdi) duet – Natalya Gennadi, soprano & Dion Mazerolle, baritone
- June 26th – “ Green Finch and Linnet Bird”, Sweeney Todd ( Sondheim) – Caitlin Wood, soprano
- July 10th – “Crudel! perché finora”, Le Nozze di Figaro (Mozart) duet – Caitlin Wood, soprano & Clarence Frazer, baritone
- July 26th – “ Vilia” , The Merry Widow ( Léhar) – Natalya Gennadi, soprano
There’s also been a sorta, kinda “season announcement” from the COC. You can find it and Perryn Leach’s take on it on the COC Youtube channel. Basically there’s going to be free, live streamed content from the Four Seasons Centre in the fall using the kit I talked about in discussing the COC/NBC’s digital strategy back when. What it is, whether there will be any kind of in-house audience and what happens after Christmas we have to wait until August to find out.
It seems like Ontario is changing its policy on what’s open and what’s not and who gets vaccinated and who doesn’t about three times/week right now and, among other things, it’s playing havoc with the creation of on-line content.
The week of April 12th the COC is streaming a series called Exploring New Opera. It’s slanted to young audiences and those new to opera and deals with aspects of the in-development piece Fantasma by Ian Cusson and Colleen Murphy. It’s all free and doesn’t require pre-registration.
There have been a lot of discussions lately about diversity in opera and how, particularly, race and gender are represented in very limited and problematic ways, especially in the canonical operas of the long 19th century. The latest to come my way is a very good panel discussion hosted by the COC (on their Youtube channel) and moderated by Aria Umezawa. This one tackled gender issues but, inevitably broader questions came up and that’s what I want to explore here. You might want to watch it either before or after reading the rest of this piece.
The only revolution to ever start in an opera house….
Yesterday the COC hosted an update session on the Digital Stage initiative and one of its key components; the Performing Arts Digital Lab (PADL). This is a joint project of the COC and the National Ballet) and yesterday’s update curiously coincided with the Federal Heritage department announcing major funding for the next stage of PADL. I’m not going to report on the update in detail because all the materials and the session itself will be archived at coc.ca/digitalstage. (All the stuff prior to yesterday is already there but yesterday’s material wasn’t at time of writing)
Pickings are still decidedly slim in terms of locally created on-line content with many postponements due to the current lockdown in Toronto. What I have lined up is as follows:
- The UoT Opera Student Composer Collective’s annual show is being streamed at 2.30pm on Sunday 21st February. This year it’s called Escape Room and it’s a comedy with a scenario of characters trapped in a darkened room with no memory of how they got there. It’s being streamed via Zoom and preregistration at this link is required.
- The COC has a roundtable on Gender and Opera on its Youtube channel on March 5th at 7pm.
- Confluence Concerts are offering a tribute to John Beckwith; specifically his songs, on March 7th at 2pm, 5pm and 8pm. That’s on Confluence’s Youtube channel.
- Tapestry have two shows coming up on their Youtube channel. March 6th at 8pm sees Mireille Asselin and guests perform a range of works celebrating their French heritage. Then on March 27th at 8pm Morgan-Paige Melbourne performs Where Do I Go?; an intriguing looking mixture of piano and dance.
There’s also new short but fun content on the appropriate Youtube channels from Opera Revue, Alexander Hajek and Domoney Artists.
Do check to make sure that there aren’t further changes before planning your life around these events!
There was a really interesting announcement from the COC earlier today. To cut a long story short it announced that the four principals of Amplified Opera; Teiya Kasahara, Marion Newman, Asitha Tennekoon and Aria Umezawa, would become “Disruptors in Residence”. I think this is a very positive move. Many of us have been following the various conversations about evolving opera beyond being the preserve of (almost) dead white people to being an art form that more fully reflects the diversity of our communities. I have to admit to being somewhat sceptical about how much of the energy and goodwill that has been generated will survive the return to some sort of post-covid normality. It.’s surprisingly hard to make change in large, hierarchical organisations go viral.
Usually by December I’ve had a pretty good chance to see the COC’s Ensemble Studio. Not this year of course. So it was good to see at least a few of them in a stream of a short concert recorded at the Aga Khan Museum.