The Canadian Opera Company Announces 2012/2013 Season

The Canadian Opera Company unveiled a stellar artistic line-up for its 2012/2013 season today at a press conference at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts.

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  1. The company’s 63rd season is a celebration of opera’s greatest masterpieces and features the return of works both long absent and familiar to the COC stage. The COC presents Giuseppe Verdi’s Il Trovatore, Johann Strauss II’s Die Fledermaus in a new COC production, Richard Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s La clemenza di Tito, Gaetano Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor, Richard Strauss’s Salome and Francis Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites.
  2. The Canadian Opera Company's 2012/2013 Season
  3. Il Trovatore

  4. Ines Salazar as Leonora and Vladimir Galouzine as Manrico
  5. The Canadian Opera Company’s 12/13 season opens with the quintessential Italian opera, Giuseppe Verdi’s Il Trovatore, last performed by the COC in 2005. A staple of the operatic repertoire, Il Trovatore has mesmerized audiences since its premiere in 1853 with its scorching tale of the vengeful gypsy Azucena, her son Manrico’s romance with the noblewoman Leonora, and his rivalry with the Conte di Luna. A world-class cast helms this fiery melodrama: internationally renowned Mexican tenor Ramón Vargas, who appeared with the COC for the company’s 60th anniversary concert, makes his mainstage and role debut as Manrico; acclaimed Canadian baritone Russell Braun (Jaufré in the COC’s 11/12 production of Love from Afar) makes his role debut as the Conte di Luna; South-African soprano Elza van den Heever, in a COC debut, appears as Leonora; and Russian mezzo-soprano Elena Manistina makes her COC debut as the gypsy Azucena, a role she reprises following performances with Gran Teatre del Liceu and Opéra National de Bordeaux. Rounding out the cast is Italian tenor Riccardo Massi, in his COC debut, who sings the role of Manrico for two performances. Ukrainian bass Dmitry Beloselsky appears with the COC for the first time as Ferrando. The COC’s Il Trovatore features director Charles Roubaud’s acclaimed production from Opéra de Marseille and celebrated conductor Marco Guidarini leading the COC Orchestra and Chorus. Designer and sculptor Jean-Noël Lavesvre has created an atmospheric set that is at once castle and gypsy camp.
  6. Die Fledermaus (NEW PRODUCTION)

  7. The fall season continues with Johann Strauss II’s popular operetta, Die Fledermaus. In this hilarious comedy, with its screwball plot of elaborate revenge, disguises, mistaken identity and spouses pushing the boundaries of each other’s fidelity, Strauss outdid his own reputation as the “waltz king” of Vienna by composing some of opera’s most gorgeous dance music. Absent from the COC stage for more than 20 years, Die Fledermaus returns in a new production by director Christopher Alden (2011’s Rigoletto and 2010’s The Flying Dutchman). Set in early-20th century Vienna, Alden’s staging will conjure up a glamorous world bubbling with extravagance and sophisticated wit, while gently mocking the duplicity of people and the larger social hypocrisies they inhabit. COC Music Director Johannes Debus leads the COC Orchestra and Chorus through a score that has come to embody high-spirited celebration since the opera’s premiere in 1873. Die Fledermaus features a cast of largely Canadian voices, led by internationally renowned Canadian tenor Michael Schade. Last with the COC in 2011’s The Magic Flute, Schade returns to make his role debut as Gabriel von Eisenstein, an affluent gentleman who delays serving a short prison sentence by way of a quick frolic at an extravagant party. American soprano Tamara Wilson (2010’s Idomeneo) returns to delight audiences as Rosalinde, Eisenstein’s wife, whose disguised appearance at the same party has mischievous consequences for her husband. Mezzo-soprano Laura Tucker (2004’s Die Walküre) returns to the COC as Prince Orlofsky, the host of the elaborate costume party. Current and former COC Ensemble Studio artists make up several of the operetta’s comedic characters: Ensemble sopranos Ambur Braid and Mireille Asselin share the role of Eisenstein’s maid, Adele; Ensemble graduate baritone Peter Barrett (2011’s Ariadne auf Naxos) is Dr. Falke; Ensemble tenor Christopher Enns is Alfred, who mistakenly goes to jail in place of Eisenstein; and Ensemble graduate baritone James Westman (2009’s Madama Butterfly) is Frank, the prison’s governor. American tenor David Cangelosi (Spoletta in the COC’s 11/12 production of Tosca) is Dr. Blind.
  8. Tristan und Isolde

  9. Video still by Bill Viola: Tristan und Isolde
  10. The COC opens its winter season with one of music history’s most influential works, Richard Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde. This production by legendary director Peter Sellars stars celebrated Canadian tenor Ben Heppner in his signature role, one that critics have hailed as a “translucent and exalted performance.” Making his company debut leading the COC Orchestra and Chorus is one of the most sought after and respected conductors in the world today, Chief Conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra Jiří Bělohlávek. This is the first time that Sellars’ awe-inspiring production of Tristan und Isolde will be seen in Canada, with the COC recreating the Opéra national de Paris production that premiered in 2005. Sellars’ staging for Tristan und Isolde comes to life with video imagery by internationally renowned video artist Bill Viola, who, says Sellars, “has come up with an image of the scale and scope, grandeur and immensity, and genuine transcendence that Wagner was imagining.” Singing opposite Heppner is a German soprano known for her mastery of the Mozart, Strauss and Wagner repertoire, Melanie Diener, in her COC debut as Isolde. German bass Franz-Josef Selig makes his COC debut as King Marke of Cornwall, the man betrayed by Tristan and Isolde’s love affair. The role of Isolde’s maid, Brangäne, is sung by Greek-American mezzo-soprano Daveda Karanas, and American bass-baritone Alan Held (Simone and Gianni Schicchi in the COC’s upcoming double bill of A Florentine Tragedy/Gianni Schicchi) is Tristan’s servant, Kurwenal. American bass-baritone Ryan McKinney is the courtier Melot, and Ensemble Studio graduates bass Robert Gleadow and tenor Adam Luther return as the Steersman and the Sailor/Shepherd, respectively. German tenor Burkhard Fritz and American soprano Margaret Jane Wray will sing the roles of Tristan and Isolde for two performances.
  11. La clemenza di Tito

  12. Renata Pokupić as Sesto
  13. The winter 2013 season continues with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s final opera, La clemenza di Tito. Containing some of opera’s most sublime music, La clemenza di Tito was written to celebrate the coronation of Emperor Leopold II as King of Bohemia in 1791. In its telling of the attempted assassination of the Emperor Tito and his forgiveness of those who betrayed him, the opera was meant to reflect in the titular emperor’s mercy, a quality that the populace might have hoped for in their new king. Michael Schade returns to the COC for the second time in the 12/13 season to perform Tito, a role which has won him acclaim from Salzburg to Washington where his singing was praised for its “unflagging intensity and musical intelligence” (Washington Post). Making her COC debut as Sesto, Tito’s friend, is Met regular and one of the finest mezzo-sopranos on the operatic stage today, American Isabel Leonard. Ensemble Studio soprano Mireille Asselin performs the role of Servilia, Sesto’s sister, and cast as the vengeful Vitellia is rising opera star American soprano Keri Alkema (appearing with the COC in this spring’s The Tales of Hoffmann). The COC also welcomes back Ensemble Studio alumni mezzo-soprano Wallis Giunta as Annio and bass Robert Gleadow as Publio. COC Music Director Johannes Debus once more leads the COC Orchestra and Chorus and he’s joined by director Christopher Alden, with a production described by the Chicago Tribune at its 2009 premiere by Chicago Opera Theater as “an evening of modern music theatre you mustn’t miss.”
  14. Lucia di Lammermoor

  15. Opening the COC’s spring season is Gaetano Donizetti’s bel canto masterpiece, Lucia di Lammermoor, starring American soprano Anna Christy in a production created for her by director David Alden for English National Opera. Christy’s shattering performance in the title role was met with critical and popular acclaim when the production premiered at ENO in 2008. Alden’s production transports audiences into the darkly brooding world of Sir Walter Scott’s Gothic novel in which Lucia is treated as little more than chattel within a brutal, power-driven society. “[Christy’s] doll-like Lucia is all fey intensity, unaware of her sexual allure and pitched from the start at the edge of sanity. Her dazzling sketched coloratura in the mad scene is electrifying” said The Daily Telegraph. American tenor Stephen Costello and American baritone Brian Mulligan make their COC debuts as Lucia’s lover, Edgardo, and Lucia’s vengeful brother, Enrico, respectively. Stephen Lord, named one of the “25 Most Powerful Names in U.S. Opera” by Opera News, leads the COC Orchestra and Chorus conducting Donizetti’s cascading romantic melodies.
  16. Salome

  17. The spring season continues with the return of celebrated Canadian director Atom Egoyan with his searing, critically acclaimed COC production of Richard Strauss’s Salome. Adapted from Oscar Wilde’s play, the opera recounts the biblical story of Salome, who – to the horror of her stepfather Herod – demands the head of John the Baptist in return for performing the Dance of the Seven Veils. At the opera’s 1905 premiere, the audience and critics were shocked by its subject matter and erotic themes; Salome’s world of voyeurism and sexual abuse still elicits an equally visceral response today. In past presentations of this production, in 1996 and 2002, the COC’s Salome was described as a “brilliant modern day interpretation” that is “lusty,” “provocative,” “marvellously wicked and wickedly marvellous,” and “relevant to a 21st-century audience.” In Swedish-American soprano Erika Sunnegårdh, the COC has a Salome who can meet the vocal and physical demands of one of opera’s most challenging roles. Rounding out the impressive cast is a line-up of familiar and new opera stars: Canadian Richard Margison, making his role debut as Herod; German baritone Martin Gantner, in his COC debut, and American bass-baritone Alan Held, share the role of Jochanaan (John the Baptist); and Swiss mezzo-soprano Julia Juon is Salome’s mother, Herodias, in a COC debut performance. American tenor Nathaniel Peake sings Narraboth, the captain of the guard, and Israeli mezzo-soprano Maya Lahyani comes to the COC for the first time as the Page. COC Music Director Johannes Debus conducts Strauss's ecstatic and intoxicating music.
  18. Dialogues des Carmélites

  19. Felicity Palmer as Madame de Croissy and Isabel Bayrakdarian as Blanche de la Force
  20. Bringing the COC’s 12/13 season to a close is Francis Poulenc’s operatic masterpiece, Dialogues des Carmélites, in a production by Robert Carsen. The acclaimed Canadian director returns to the COC for a third consecutive season (2010/2011’s Orfeo ed Euridice, 2011/2012’s Iphigenia in Tauris) to direct a cast of 150 performers in a production described by Variety as “subtle, yet gut-wrenching.” COC Music Director Johannes Debus makes his fourth conducting appearance of the 12/13 season leading the COC Orchestra and Chorus through what is considered to be Poulenc’s most haunting score and a work that contains one of opera’s most devastating and unforgettable final scenes. Set design is by acclaimed Canadian designer Michael Levine. Dialogues des Carmélites’ beautiful music sets the tone for the story of an order of Carmelite nuns caught up in the terror of the French Revolution. Leading the primarily Canadian cast are internationally renowned stars: soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian (2011’s Orfeo ed Euridice) as the young aristocrat Blanche trying to escape the turmoil of the Revolution; mezzo-soprano Judith Forst (2002’s The Queen of Spades) as Madame de Croissy, the prioress of the convent; and soprano Adrianne Pieczonka (starring in the COC’s 11/12 production of Tosca), in her role debut, as Madame Lidoine, the new prioress. They are joined by soprano Hélène Guilmette, making her COC debut as Soeur Constance; Moldavian powerhouse Irina Mishura (2009’s Rusalka, 2005’s Il Trovatore) as Mère Marie, tenor Frédéric Antoun (2011’s The Magic Flute) as Chevalier de la Force and Jean-François Lapointe as Marquis de la Force. Carsen brings his signature high-impact approach to this production, which has been seen at some of the world’s great opera houses, including La Scala, Lyric Opera of Chicago and Nederlandse Opera in Amsterdam.
  21. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

    Die Fledermaus has been generously underwritten by the Catherine and Maxwell Meighen Foundation
    Tristan und Isolde has been generously underwritten by Lisa Balfour Bowen and Walter M. Bowen, Philip Deck and Kimberley Bozak, Donald O’Born, Colleen Sexsmith and Sandra L. Simpson
    Tristan und Isolde Production Sponsor: BMO Financial Group
    Lucia di Lammermoor Production Co-sponsors: CIBC and CIBC Mellon
    Presenting Sponsor of SURTITLES™: Sun Life Financial
    Official Automotive Sponsor of the COC at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts: Jaguar Land Rover Canada
    Broadcast Partner: CBC Radio 2
    Official Media Sponsors: CTV and The Globe and Mail
    Digital Marketing Sponsor: Delvinia
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