LSM Newswire

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Canadian Opera Company Announces 2011-12 Season


Toronto – The Canadian Opera Company unveiled its 2011/2012 season today at a press conference at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts. The company’s 62nd season will be its most innovative and captivating yet, featuring seven productions, including one double bill, no fewer than four COC premieres – two being performed for the first time in Canada – and three new productions. The COC presents the Canadian premieres of the 21st-century opera Love from Afar, by Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho, and the 20th-century opera A Florentine Tragedy, by Alexander Zemlinsky; Gluck’s Iphigenia in Tauris will see its COC premiere as will Semele, the first Handel opera to be performed at the Four Seasons Centre, in a staging that features an actual Ming Dynasty ancestral temple; a new production of Rigoletto; the long-awaited returns of Gianni Schicchi and The Tales of Hoffmann; and an operatic favourite, Tosca.

An extraordinary roster of artists will make their COC debuts in the coming season: singers Andriana Chuchman, Mark Delavan, Susan Graham, Alan Held, Quinn Kelsey, David Lomelí, Dimitri Pittas, John Relyea, Ekaterina Sadovnikova, Russell Thomas, Carlo Ventre, Erin Wall and Katherine Whyte; conductorsRinaldo Alessandrini and Paolo Carignani; and directors Lee Blakeley, Daniele Finzi Pasca, Zhang Huan and Catherine Malfitano. Returning artists include singers Jane Archibald, Russell Braun, Phillip Ens, Joseph Kaiser, Lester Lynch, Julie Makerov, Adrianne Pieczonka, David Pomeroy and Krisztina Szabó; conductors Sir Andrew Davis and Pablo Heras-Casado; and directors Christopher Alden, Robert Carsen and Paul Curran. All performances take place in the company’s home, the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, and feature the renowned COC Orchestra and Chorus.

“The Canadian Opera Company’s job – the job of any opera company – is to find the best way to express the essential truths that lie at the heart of every opera,” saysCOC General Director Alexander Neef. “It’s going to be very exciting to watch the work of the artists we’re bringing to the COC unfold on our stage, especially when they are matched with equally thrilling productions. The COC has always been defined by its big achievements, and the coming season will see us explore repertoire we haven’t touched before.”

The Canadian Opera Company’s 11/12 season opens with the COC premiere of Christoph Willibald Gluck’s lyric tragedy, Iphigenia in Tauris, featuring the world’s leading Iphigenia, mezzo-soprano Susan Graham, in her much anticipated COC debut. She comes to the COC having triumphed in the role with a portrayal heralded for its “nobility and vibrant local beauty” (Chicago Sun-Tribune) and “continuous dramatic power and musical mastery” (Chicago Sun-Times). Graham is joined by two Canadian singers who have gone on to international operatic stardom: baritone Russell Braun (2008’s War and Peace, 2007’s The Marriage of Figaro) as Iphigenia’s brother Orestes and COC Ensemble Studio graduate tenor Joseph Kaiser as Orestes’ best friend, Pylades. Rounding out the cast is Canadian soprano Katherine Whyte, in her COC debut, who sings the role of Iphigenia for one performance; Grammy Award-winner bass-baritone Mark S. Doss (1999’s Il Trovatore) as Thoas, the Scythian king who orders Orestes’ death; and Ensemble soprano Ileana Montalbetti as the goddess Diana. Iphigenia in Tauris was Gluck’s greatest triumph, composing a score of refined, classical beauty that lays bare the searing emotions of this Greek tragedy. The heroine Iphigenia is rescued from imminent death only to confront the tragic twist of fate of being required to kill her long-lost brother. Canadian Robert Carsen, who directs the company’s first Gluck opera, Orfeo ed Euridice, this spring, returns to stage a production that has played to great acclaim in London, Chicago, San Francisco and Madrid. The young Spanish maestro Pablo Heras-Casado – making his Canadian debut with the COC this February in Nixon in China – also returns to conduct the COC Orchestra and Chorus. Iphigenia in Tauris is a co-production between Lyric Opera of Chicago, Royal Opera House Covent Garden and San Francisco Opera. The opera runs for eight performances on Sept. 22, 25, 28, Oct. 1, 4, 7, 12 and 15, 2011, and is sung in French with English SURTITLES™.

The fall season continues with the return of Giuseppe Verdi’s perennial favourite, Rigoletto, an opera last presented by the COC in 2004. This new production is led by the innovative creative team of COC Music Director Johannes Debus conducting the COC Orchestra and Chorus, American director Christopher Alden (2010’s The Flying Dutchman) and the award-winning Canadian designer Michael Levine (2006 Ring Cycle, 2002’s Oedipus Rex, 1993’s Bluebeard’s Castle/Erwartung, 1990’s Wozzeck, 1987’s Idomeneo). Rigoletto is an operatic tragedy of Shakespearean dimensions brought to life by some of Verdi’s most passionate and heartbreaking melodies. While the jester Rigoletto aids in his master’s (the Duke of Mantua’s) debauchery, it is the fool himself who pays the ultimate price with the sacrifice of his own most precious and hidden love – his daughter. A selection of the operatic world’s up-and-coming singers are brought together for this production: American baritones Quinn Kelsey, in his COC debut, and Lester Lynch (2001’s Billy Budd) share the role of Rigoletto; his daughter Gilda is sung by sopranosEkaterina Sadovnikova, making her COC debut in a role she recently sang for Royal Opera House Covent Garden, and COC Ensemble member Simone Osborne(Pamina in the COC’s The Magic Flute). Tenors Dimitri Pittas and David Lomelí also make their first appearances with the COC as the Duke of Mantua. BassPhillip Ens (2010’s Aida, 2009’s Simon Boccanegra and 2006’s Ring Cycle) returns as the assassin Sparafucile, mezzo-soprano Kendall Gladen makes her company debut as Sparafucile’s sister Maddalena and COC favourite bass Robert Pomakov is Count Monterone. This new Rigoletto is a COC co-production with English National Opera. Rigoletto is sung in Italian with English SURTITLES™, and runs for 12 performances on Sept. 29, 30, Oct. 2, 5, 8, 13, 14, 16, 17, 18, 20 and 22, 2011.

The fire and passion of one of the most popular operas of all times, Giacomo Puccini’s Tosca, opens the COC’s winter season. The company is bringing back its lavish 2008 production to showcase internationally-renowned Canadian soprano Adrianne Pieczonka in the title role. She portrays the famous opera singer who is caught in a web of corruption, lust and betrayal while trying to protect her lover, a revolutionary sympathizer, from the blood-thirsty chief of police. Pieczonka, who appears with the COC this spring in Ariadne auf Naxos, calls Tosca her “dream role” and has drawn high praise for her portrayal since making her role debut in 2008 (“She was radiant” says the Los Angeles Times, “Adrianne Pieczonka outdid herself” writes the San Francisco Chronicle and “Pieczonka’s Tosca is the quintessential diva, rendering her signature arias with ease and verve” describes SF Weekly). Alternating with Pieczonka as Tosca is COC favourite Julie Makerov (2010’s The Flying Dutchman, 2008’s Rusalka). Tenors Carlo Ventre and Thiago Arancam make their COC debuts as Tosca’s lover, Cavaradossi, as do baritone Mark Delavan as the evil Scarpia and bass-baritone Christian Van Horn as Angelotti. Bass-baritone Peter Strummer (1993’s Tosca and Le nozze di Figaro, 1987’s La forza del destino) returns as the Sacristan. The role of Spoletta is shared by tenors David Cangelosi, making his company debut, and COC regular John Kriter. Paolo Carignani, who has appeared at some of the world’s finest opera houses, makes his company debut leading the COC Orchestra and Chorus. Returning to direct the production that brings the chapels, palaces and fortresses of 19th-century Rome to life is Paul Curran, artistic director of Norwegian Opera. This production of Tosca is a co-production with the Norwegian National Opera and Ballet. Tosca runs for 14 performances on Jan. 21, 25, 29, 31, Feb. 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, 16, 21, 23 and 25, 2012, and is sung in Italian with English SURTITLES™.

The 2012 winter season continues with the Canadian premiere of Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho’s Love from Afar, a haunting and vivid musical creation that has become one of the most performed and successful operas composed in the last 10 years. Visionary director Daniele Finzi Pasca, best known for his work with Cirque du Soleil’s Corteo and the creation of the closing ceremonies of the XX Olympic Winter Games in Torino in 2006, brings his signature style to a visually arresting new production that uses innovative “cirque” techniques to conjure a dreamlike atmosphere in which reality isn’t quite as it appears. Love from Afar tells the story of a world-weary medieval troubadour from France who journeys to meet a distant love, a beautiful woman living in Tripoli. This new production features an all-Canadian cast of voices both familiar and new to the COC stage. Making his second appearance of the 11/12 season is celebrated baritone Russell Braun as the troubadour Jaufré Rudel. Calgary-born Erin Wall, one of the most exciting young sopranos on the current operatic scene, makes her COC debut as his faraway desire, Clémence. The enigmatic Pilgrim, who carries messages of yearning between the two lovers, is sung by COC Ensemble graduate mezzo-soprano Krisztina Szabó (Idamante in 2010’sIdomeneo). Leading the COC Orchestra and Chorus through a lushly orchestrated score, built on an innovative combination of traditional instrumental sections with electronics, is COC Music Director Johannes Debus. Love from Afar is a COC co-production with English National Opera, where it premiered in July 2009, and Vlaamse Opera, where it made its debut in September 2010. It is sung in French with English SURTITLES™ and runs for eight performances on Feb. 2, 4, 8, 10, 12, 14, 18 and 22, 2012.

The opening of the COC’s spring season will truly sparkle when Jacques Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffmann returns to the company for the first time since 1988. COC Music Director Johannes Debus once more leads the COC Orchestra and Chorus, conducting the rich, melodic work that is Offenbach’s masterpiece. He’s joined by English director Lee Blakeley, who makes his COC debut on the heels of acclaimed productions for Minnesota Opera, Santa Fe Opera, Théâtre du Châtelet, Scottish Opera, Vlaamse Opera and Wexford Festival Opera. The opera follows the poet Hoffmann, a writer of fantastical fables, as he spins dark reminiscences of his failed attempts to find love. Making his COC debut in the title role is American tenor Russell Thomas, one of the most exciting vocal and dramatic talents on the international opera and concert scene today. Also appearing as Hoffmann for two performances is COC Ensemble graduate tenor David Pomeroy (2009’s Madama Butterfly, 2006’s Faust) who recently made his Metropolitan Opera debut in this role. A woman is at the heart of each of the three stories that Hoffmann tells, and the COC has brought together three outstanding sopranos for these roles: Canadian Andriana Chuchman, in her COC debut, will be heard as Olympia, the exquisite doll-like girl; Erin Wall, in her second appearance for 11/12, portrays Antonia, the gentle artist; and American Keri Alkema, also appearing with the company for the first time, is the Venetian courtesan, Giulietta. The acclaimed Canadian bass-baritone John Relyea makes his long-awaited COC debut as Hoffmann’s four nemeses – Lindorf, Coppélius, Dr. Miracle and Dapertutto – and COC Ensemble graduate mezzo-soprano Lauren Segal (2011’s The Magic Flute and Nixon in China) returns as Hoffmann’s companion Nicklausse and The Muse. Tenor Steven Cole (2009’s Madama Butterfly) returns to sing the servants Andrès, Cochenille, Frantz and Pitichinaccio. The Tales of Hoffmann is a Vlaamse Opera production. It runs for nine performances on April 10, 14, 18, 21, 27, May 3, 6, 8 and 14, 2012, and is sung in French with English SURTITLES™.

The 2012 spring season continues with a double bill of darkly witty, one-act operas: Alexander Zemlinsky’s A Florentine Tragedy and Giacomo Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi. These operas will be presented in a new production by Catherine Malfitano – one of the world’s most acclaimed sopranos who also has turned to directing – in her company debut. Sir Andrew Davis, who leads the spring 2011 production of Ariadne auf Naxos, returns to conduct. A Florentine Tragedy is a Canadian premiere and its staging is a chance to discover a rare gem of the operatic repertoire. Based on an unfinished play by Oscar Wilde, this darkly satiric opera tells the tale of a merchant who discovers his wife is having an affair with the Prince of Florence. Part two of the double bill, Gianni Schicchi, is Puccini’s tour-de-force comedy in which family members frantically scheme to benefit their own greed when excluded from a wealthy relative’s will. The two productions share singing-actor bass-baritoneAlan Held, making his company debut in the lead roles of Simone (A Florentine Tragedy) and Gianni Schicchi, the street-smart peasant hired to find a way around the will. German soprano Gun-Brit Barkmin, winner of the Berlin Theatergemeinde’s 2002 Daphne Prize for best young actor, makes her COC debut as Simone’s wife Bianca in A Florentine Tragedy and as Nella in Gianni Schicchi. German-Canadian tenor Michael König also makes his COC debut as Guido Bardi, the prince at the heart of A Florentine Tragedy. Rounding out the cast of Gianni Schicchi is COC Ensemble soprano Simone Osborne, in her second 11/12 appearance with the COC, as Gianni’s daughter Lauretta; tenor René Barbera, a 2008 winner of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, making his company debut as Rinuccio, Lauretta’s love; mezzo-soprano Barbara Dever (2010’s The Flying Dutchman, 2008’s Eugene Onegin and Pelléas et Mélisande) returning as the scheming Zita; Ensemble graduate tenor Adam Luther is Gherardo; and bass Donato DiStefano (Don Magnifico in spring 2011’s La Cenerentola) is Simone, the patriarch of the family. This will be the second time in the COC’s history that Gianni Schicchi has been performed by the company; it was last presented in 1996. The double bill of A Florentine Tragedy/Gianni Schicchi runs for eight performances on April 26, May 2, 5, 12, 15, 18, 20 and 25, 2012. A Florentine Tragedy is sung in German and Gianni Schicchi is sung in Italian, both with English SURTITLES™.

The COC’s 11/12 season closes with a production of George Frideric Handel’s Semele. A COC premiere and the first Handel opera to be performed at the Four Seasons Centre, Semele is directed and designed by famed Chinese sculptor and performance artist Zhang Huan, who blends a Baroque aesthetic with the splendour of China in a production the New York Times called “scenically stunning, theatrically absorbing, musically rewarding” and “a feast for the eyes.” The production’s centerpiece is an actual Ming Dynasty ancestral temple, made out of carved wood and salvaged by Huan from a small town in China. He also incorporates dazzling and innovative visual effects involving mirrors, puppetry, a Chinese dragon and artists that sing while moving suspended through air. In the opera, a love affair between the god Jupiter and the princess Semele goes horribly awry when she sets her mind to become immortal. Nova Scotia coloratura soprano Jane Archibald (making her COC debut in spring 2011’s Ariadne auf Naxos) is the flighty, narcissistic Semele. She leads a cast that includes American tenor William Burden as Jupiter; COC Ensemble graduate mezzo-soprano Allyson McHardy (2009’s Madama Butterfly, 2008’s War and Peace and Eugene Onegin) as both Jupiter’s jealous wife, Juno, and Semele’s sister, Ino; soprano Katherine Whyte (fall 2011’s Iphigenia in Tauris) as Juno’s messenger, Iris; American bass Steven Humes, in his COC debut, portraying Semele’s father, Cadmus, and the god of sleep, Somnus; and young countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo, a 2009 winner of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, makes his COC debut as Athamas, Ino’s love. Italian Baroque opera specialist Rinaldo Alessandrini makes his COC debut conducting the COC Orchestra and Chorus. Semele is a co-production of Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie, Brussels and KT Wong Foundation. It is sung in English with English SURTITLES™, and runs for eight performances on May 9, 11, 13, 16, 19, 22, 24 and 26, 2012.


Experience the exciting young singers of the Canadian Opera Company’s Ensemble Studio, as they perform Handel’s Semele on May 23, 2012 at 7:30 p.m. on the mainstage. This special performance stars the Ensemble members with the full COC Orchestra and Chorus under the direction of Semele’s conductor Rinaldo Alessandrini and director Zhang Huan. For casting, please visit the COC website at Tickets are accessibly priced at $22 and $55 per person. Prices include HST.

All repertoire, dates, pricing, productions, and casting are subject to change without notice. For more complete casting and creative team information, please see the Show Pages at

The Canadian Opera Company will webcast the announcement of its 11/12 season live on on January 19, 2011 at 10 a.m. from the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre in the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts. The webcast will be available for streaming after the press conference.

For more information on the Canadian Opera Company’s 11/12 season, please visit


Love from Afar Production Sponsor: BMO Financial Group

The spring 2012 season productions of The Tales of Hoffmann, A Florentine Tragedy, Gianni Schicchi and Semele are supported by the Ontario Cultural Attractions Fund.

A Florentine Tragedy/Gianni Schicchi Production Co-sponsors: CIBC and CIBC Mellon

Semele Production Co-sponsor: RBC

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

The COC Ensemble Studio is Canada’s premier training program for young opera professionals and provides advanced instruction, hands-on experience, and career development opportunities. The Ensemble Studio is generously supported by the Government of Canada through the Department of Canadian Heritage, ARIAS (formerly The Canadian Opera Volunteer Committee), In loving memory of Mr. George R. Bishop, from his family & friends, The John A. Cook Young Artist Development Fund, In honour of Earlaine Collins, In honour of Ninalee Craig, Estate of Horst Dantz and Don Quick, Michael & Lora Gibbens, Ethel Harris, The Audrey S. Hellyer Charitable Foundation, Peter & Hélène Hunt, Patrick & Barbara Keenan, The Hal Jackman Fund at the Ontario Arts Foundation, Jo Lander, Ruby Mercer Fund, George Cedric Metcalf Charitable Foundation, Roger D. Moore Ensemble Studio Endowment Fund, RBC Foundation, Katalin Schäfer, In honour of Colleen Sexsmith, The Slaight Family, The Stratton Trust, William & Phyllis Waters, and an anonymous donor.


Subscriptions to the seven mainstage productions for the COC’s 11/12 season range from $175 to $1,253, with Grand Ring (box level) seat subscriptions available at$1,827 and $2,240, and may be purchased online at, by calling 416-363-8231, or in person at the Four Seasons Centre Box Office, 145 Queen St. W., Toronto. Subscriptions are available on January 19, 2011. Prices include HST.

Single tickets to all of the COC’s 11/12 season productions are available to the public as of August 15, 2011. Single ticket prices range from $45 to $215, with Grand Ring (box level) seat tickets available at $259 and $318. Prices include HST.

Young People

Special young people’s tickets for all performances throughout the season are priced from $22.50 to $107.50, including HST. These ticket prices apply to those who are 15 years of age or under, accompanied by, and sitting next to an adult.

Opera for a New Age

Young adults between the ages of 16 and 29 may purchase specially-priced $22 tickets through the COC’s Opera for a New Age program approximately one week prior to each of the fall, winter and spring seasons. Opera for a New Age is presented by TD Bank Financial Group. A total of 150 seats, each priced at $22, will be reserved for every COC performance and will be available for purchase through Opera for a New Age to student groups and subject to availability on the day of a performance.

Standing Room

Standing Room tickets, priced at $12, go on sale at 11 a.m. the day of the performance.

Rush Seats

Rush seats, starting at $22, go on sale at 11 a.m. on the morning of each performance at the Four Seasons Centre Box Office, subject to availability.

About the Canadian Opera Company

Based in Toronto, the Canadian Opera Company is the largest producer of opera in Canada and one of the five largest in North America. The COC enjoys a loyal audience support-base and one of the highest attendance and subscription rates in North America. The COC celebrates its 62nd anniversary during the 11/12 season. Under its leadership team of General Director Alexander Neef and Music Director Johannes Debus, the COC is increasingly capturing the opera world’s attention. The COC maintains its international reputation for artistic excellence and creative innovation by creating new productions within its diverse repertoire, collaborating with leading opera companies and festivals, and attracting the world’s foremost Canadian and international artists. The COC performs in its own opera house, the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, hailed internationally as one of the finest in the world. Designed by Diamond and Schmitt Architects, the Four Seasons Centre opened in 2006, and is also the performance venue for The National Ballet of Canada. For more information on the Canadian Opera Company, please visit its award-winning website,

Canadian Opera Company Website

The Canadian Opera Company’s award-winning website,, contains information on all productions and programs and includes video interviews with members of the creative team, as well as many other fun, informative and interactive features.



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