“I’m particularly proud that the 14/15 season is comprised entirely of productions owned or co-owned by the COC. Our three new productions have been created with the world’s best opera companies and the three revivals are essential pieces in the company’s history. Ultimately, an all-COC season reflects the new artistic paradigm we’re in, in the consistency and quality of our works.” - Alexander Neef, Canadian Opera Company General Director.
Yesterday the Canadian Opera Company announced its 2014/15 season. Let's jump right in: First up: Falstaff, directed by Robert Carsen (Dialogues des Carmélites, Iphigénie en Tauride, Orfeo) and conducted by COC Music Director Johannes Debus. This production is shared between the COC, Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, Netherlands Opera, Teatro alla Scala and the Metropolitan Opera to enthusiastic reviews. The cast is spectacular: Juno-award winning Canadian baritone Gerald Finley sings the title role, flanked by fellow Canadian baritone Russell Braun in the role of Ford. The two wives are played by South African soprano Amanda Echalaz (Alice Ford) and South African-Canadian mezzo-soprano Lauren Segal, a graduate of the COC Ensemble Studio. Marie-Nicole Lemieux sings Mistress Quickly, Simone Osborne will be a charming Nannetta, and Frédéric Antoun will no doubt have my heart as Fenton. Falstaff opens October 3, 2014 for 7 shows.
Paired with Falstaff the fall of 2014 will bring the COC's production of Puccini's Madama Butterfly. The program is almost 24 years old, by Brian MacDonald, with lighting by Michael Whitfield and set/costume design by Susan Benson. This revival will feature young German conductor Patrick Lange at the podium, and the role of Cio-Cio San will be shared by Patricia Racette and Kelly Kaduce. After seeing Racette's Butterfly in the 2009 Metropolitan HD Broadcast, I agree that she will “rightly stand among the great Butterflies of her era” (Opera News), and Kaduce's powerful performance at Santa Fe Opera “demolishes stereotypes. This is no conventional Butterfly-as-victim, but a woman of consequence” (Santa Fe Reporter). Two Italian tenors Stefano Secco and Andrea Carè share the role of Pinkerton, and from what I hear, we'll get some seriously good, seriously Italian legato. We'll see two Sharplesses as well, the role shared by American baritone Dwayne Croft and Canada's Gregory Dahl. American mezzo-soprano Elizabeth DeShong will sing the role of Suzuki. Madama Butterfly opens October 10, 2013 for 12 shows.
The winter season brings a classic: Mozart's Don Giovanni. It's a COC co-production with Teatro Real Madrid, Festival d'Aix-en-Provence and the Bolshoi Theatre, directed by by Moscow-born Dmitri Tcherniakov and conducted by Michael Hofstetter. This cast is serious: Canadian baritone Russell Braun takes on the title role, and Nova Scotian soprano/superhero Jane Archibald sings Donna Anna. Tenor Michael Schade brings us more Mozart in the guise of Don Ottavio, and Donna Elvira is sung by American mezzo-soprano Jennifer Holloway. Kyle Ketelsen will sing Leporello, and I'm excited about it. Don Giovanni opens January 24, 2015 for 10 shows.
Next up is Atom Egoyan's Die Walküre, designed by Michael Levine, and conducted by maestro Johannes Debus. This COC production was first presented in 2004 and then in 2006 as part of the COC's Ring Cycle, which rang in the opening of the Four Seasons Centre. American soprano Christine Goerke will debut the role of Brünnhilde, and tenor Clifton Forbis will sing Siegmund, returning after his ravely reviewed performance in the production's debut. Danish baritone Johan Reuter will make his COC debut as Wotan, and Sieglinde will be sung by American soprano Heidi Melton, "the Wagnerian voice we have bee waiting for since Flagstad and Nilsson." Die Walküre opens on January 31, 2015, for 7 shows.
On the lighter side of opera, Spanish theatre group Els Comediants presents a new COC co-production with Houston Grand Opera, Opéra National de Bordeaux and Opera Australia: Rossini's Il barbiere di Siviglia. Els Comediants delighted audiences with La cenerentola in 2011; if anyone remembers the incredible beehive wigs and oversize sets, you remember how it fit Rossini's comedy like a glove. The famed barber himself will be sung by Canadian baritone Joshua Hopkins, “an outstanding young baritone with a virile, vigorous yet velvety sound and an immediately evident dramatic authority” (Globe and Mail). American tenor Alek Shrader (anyone seen The Audition?) will sing Count Almaviva, and the role of Rosina will be shared by two exciting young mezzos: Italian Serena Malfi and American Cecelia Hall. On the podium is Scottish-born conductor Rory MacDonald, whom we saw lead Carmen in 2010.
Il barbiere di Siviglia will also be the choice for the Ensemble Studio performance of the 2014/15 season. Casting is still TBA, but these performances are always an event not to be missed (and usually cheaper!). The run of Il barbiere di Siviglia will be sung in Italian, and begins April 17, 2015 for 13 shows. The Ensemble Studio performance is scheduled for May 15, 2015.
And finally we reach what I'm sure will be one of the most anticipated productions of the season: the COC's double-bill of Béla Bartók's Bluebeard's Castle and Arnold Schoenberg's Erwartung. This production by Robert LePage premiered in 1993, establishing the COC as one of the world's most innovative and exciting companies. Set and costume design is by Michael Levine and lighting design is by David Finn. Bluebeard's Castle will star Canada's great villain John Relyea and Russian mezzo Ekaterina Gubanova, whom we'll see this spring as Dulcinée in the COC's Don Quichotte. Erwartung features the fantastic Krisztina Szabó as the Woman. The double-bill will be conducted by Johannes Debus, his first time with both pieces. Bluebeard's Castle/Erwartung opens for 7 shows on May 6, 2015.
Whew! So we've got nothing but COC productions, tons of Canadian artists, and what I think is a curious mix of styles in this upcoming season. Congratulations, Mr. Neef.