Canadian Opera Company announces rather more than just the 2015/16 season

Last night was the “event” at which the COC brass and guests, with a bit of help from Brent Bambury, announced the upcoming season to a packed house of subscribers and friends.  What struck me was how much news was packed in.  It was far more than the usual schedule presentation with announcements of several major new projects.  But first the season.   Continue reading

Young artists

The prizewinnersThe Canadian Opera Company has announced the addition of three singers and a pianist to the Ensemble Studio for next season.  The singers, unsurprisingly, are the three prize winners from November’s Centre Stage; Soprano Karine Boucher, tenor Jean-Philippe Fortier-Lazure and bass-baritone Iain MacNeil,  The pianist is Jennifer Szeto.  The COC also announced the setting up of an orchestral equivalent of the Ensemble Studio in which a number of young musicians will work with Johannes Debus and the COC Orchestra.  Names were announced on Wedneday night but I can’t find them in any of the press releases. Continue reading

The COC’s 2014/15 season announced

Russell Braun as Don Giovanni - Photo Credit Javier del Real

Russell Braun as Don Giovanni – Photo Credit Javier del Real

Yesterday evening saw the announcement of the line up for the COC’s 2014/15 season.  The usual rather prosaic press conference was replaced with a glitzy reception and main stage show featuring Brent Bambury of the COC interviewing Alexander Neef, Johannes Debus and others plus piano accompanied performances by Simone Osborne, Russel Braun, Robert Gleadow, Charlotte Burrage and Aviva Fortunata.

There were few surprises, in itself no surprise given the number of official and unofficial “leaks” this time around.  There are three productions new to Toronto, all COC copros, and three revivals so it’s an “all COC” season with no rentals or other imports.  Here’s what’s coming up:

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Alexander’s big gay Canadian opera

hadrian_antinousSo today’s Globe and Mail carries the news that the Canadian Opera Company has commissioned its first new work since 1999.  A piece based on the life of the emperor Hadrian will headline the company’s 2018 season.  Now Hadrian may be best known for a chunk of masonry in the north of England but he’s also almost as well known for deifying his lover Antinous.  Since the music and book for the new work are to be by Rufus Wainwright and Daniel McIvor I think we can safely say that that side of things will feature more prominently than fortification construction.  Continue reading

In which the futility of speculation is revealed

A month or so ago I speculated on what might be in the 2013/14 Canadian Opera Company season.  Today I attended the official launch.  I got two out of seven right.  Yes, I officially suck as a seer (a seersucker?).  Oddly, the two I got right were ones I’d worked out for myself and the two I’d based on hot tips turned out to be wrong.  So it goes.

Stuart Skelton as Grimes at Opera Australia - Photo: Branco Gaica

Stuart Skelton as Grimes at Opera Australia – Photo: Branco Gaica

So what’s new and exciting?  The biggest excitement for me is Peter Grimes.  Ben Heppner will sing Grimes which is great though part of me really wants Stuart Skelton.  Alan Held will sing Balstrode, which is also terrific casting, and Ileana Montalbetti will sing Ellen.  I think casting Ileana is a wonderful decision and I really look forward to seeing her in a major role.  The production is by Neil Armfield and has been seen previously in Houston and at Opera Australia.  Continue reading

Second annual COC Ensemble Studio competition

winnersLast night I was in a very full Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre for the second annual COC Studio Ensemble competition.  Ten singers, selected down from 146 in auditions across Canada and in New York were competing for cash prizes and an opportunity to join the COC Ensemble Studio.  COC General Director Alexander Neef chaired the panel of judges which included soprano and teacher Wendy Nielsen as well as assorted COC brass.  Chorus Master Sandra Horst MC’d in her own inimitable fashion.  The format was typical of such events.  Each singer offered five arias.  They got to sing one of their choice and then the judges requested a second from the remaining four.  Piano accompaniment alternated between the equally excellent Rachel Andrist and Steven Philcox.

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Good news

Canadian Opera Company General Director Alexander Neef has signed a new contract to stay with the company through 2021. This is very good news indeed. Neef has shown a canny ability to programme imaginatively varied programmes while keeping the house full, mostly through carefully balancing the number of performances between the more adventurous repertoire and one or two “bums on seats” shows per season. Aided by the company having moved to the technically and acoustically excellent Four Seasons Centre he has also done a great job of making the COC a company that the best singers, conductors and directors want to come to(*). That’s a problem none of his predecessors managed to crack. It’s no idle boast now when COC describes itself as “home to the best”. I feel confident that we can now look forward to another eight years of varied, high quality opera at COC.

* Confirmed to me by Larry Brownlee but to be honest the line up in the last couple of years and going forward speaks for itself. Brownlee, Graham, Archibald, Radvanovsky, Pieczonka, Braun, Schade. Hereros-Casada, Sir Andrew Davis. Carsens, the Aldens, Sellars, Malfitano, Albery. Such a change from ten years ago!

Canadian Opera Company season announcement 2012/13

So this morning I was at the Four Seasons Centre for the press conference to announce the COC’s 2012/13 season.

Board President Philip Deck started off with a strong statement about continuing to improve the quality of the product on the Four Seasons Centre stage and striving for “uncompromising and inspiring” programming with a goal of becoming “one of the world’s great opera houses”. There are crucial words here. If General Director Alexander Neef is to meet these goals he will need a supportive Board. It looks like they are there with him at least for now and that’s very good to hear.

There was a very good “teaser video” with contributions from the many Canadians who will feature next season. I guess this will be available on line at some point. Then we got to the main business with Alexander presenting the line up. It’s pretty exciting so here it is in all its glory and with my commentary.  Continue reading