#COC1617 Sondra Radvanovsky as Norma in Norma (San Francisco Opera, 2014), photo: Cory Weaver


Jenna Simeonov

Last night, the Canadian Opera Company announced their 201617 season in style, with the COC Orchestra on the Four Seasons Centre Stage. Brent Bambury, of CBC Radio One, hosted the night, chatting with COC General Director Alexander Neef and Music Director Johannes Debus about the exciting season to come.

We were treated to performances by the COC Orchestra with Jane Archibald, Andrew Haji, and Christine Goerke. They offered arias from the season to come, and did well on the tempting; Goerke brought down the house with her closing number, “Ortrud’s Curse” from Lohengrin, which reminded me how much I’m looking forward to seeing Siegfried (opens January 23!)

Without further ado, have a look at the COC’s 201617 line-up:


Fall 2016 kicks off with a bang, with maestro Stephen Lord and director Kevin Newbury heading the creative team for Bellini’s Norma. Star soprano Sondra Radvanovsky shares the title role with South African soprano Elza van den Heever. That’s a double shot of excellent singing; both women have wowed COC audiences in the past, Sondra as Queen Elizabeth I in Roberto Devereux and Elza as Leonora in Il trovatore. Tenor Russell Thomas (of the COC’s Les contes d’Hoffmann) sings Pollione, Norma’s lover, and mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard (of La clemenza di Tito) makes her role debut as Adalgisa. COC General Director noted that Kevin Newbury’s production “looks kind of ancient but not ancient at the same time.” Norma runs from October 6 to November 5. For full details, click here.


COC Music Director Johannes Debus makes his Handel debut this fall, conducting a star cast in Richard Jones’ production of Ariodante. Alice Coote returns to the COC after her stunning Dejanira in Peter Sellars’ Hercules, to sing the title role, opposite Jane Archibald making her role debut as Ginevra. Armenian mezzo-soprano Varduhi Abrahamyam makes her Canadian debut as Ariodante’s rival, Polinesso. The cast also include COC Ensemble Studio graduates Ambur Braid as Dalinda and Owen McCausland as Lurcanio. Ariodante runs from October 16 to November 4. For full details, click here.

A scene from Ariodante (Festival d’Aix en Provence, 2014). Photo: Pascal Victor/ArtComArt.

The Magic Flute

In the winter of 2017, the COC revisits Diane Paulus’ staging of The Magic Flute, with COC Ensemble Studio graduate Ashlie Corcoran making her mainstage directing debut. Maestro Bernard Labadie makes his COC debut conducting two exciting casts: rising tenors Owen McCausland and Andrew Haji share the role of Tamino, opposite Paminas Elena Tsallagova and Kristen MacKinnon. Canadian baritone Joshua Hopkins returns to the COC to sing Papageno, sharing the role with Phillip Addis (Pyramus and Thisbe). Ensemble Studio grad Ambur Braid will sing one of her signature roles, the Queen of the Night, alongside American soprano Kathryn Lewek. The Magic Flute will be sung in German, and runs from January 19 to February 24. For full details, click here.

Michael Schade as Tamino and Aline Kutan as the Queen of the Night in The Magic Flute (COC, 2011). Photo: Michael Cooper.


To round out the COC’s ongoing Ring Cycle comes Tim Albery’s Götterdämmerung, with designer Michael Levine, and conducted by Johannes Debus. Wagnerian favourite Christine Goerke will wow us once again with her stellar Brünnhilde, opposite Andreas Schager as Siegfried. German baritone Martin Ganter is Siegfried’s rival, Gunther, and Estonian bass Ain Anger is Gunther’s half-brother, Hagen. Canadian bass Robert Pomakov returns to sing Alberich, and COC Ensemble Studio grad Ileana Montalbetti sings Gutrune. Götterdämmerung runs from February 2 to 25. For full details, click here.

Louis Riel

In a very Canadian opera indeed, Harry Somers’ Louis Riel comes to the COC stage, directed by Peter Hinton and conducted by Johannes Debus. Beloved baritone Russell Braun will sing the title role, among a cast filled with Canada’s best: James Westman(Die Fledermaus) sings Sir John A. MacDonald, Simone Osborne is his wife, Marguerite; mezzo Allyson McHardy is his mother, Julie; Michael Colvin is Thomas Scott, and John Relyea is Bishop Taché. Louis Riel was composed for Canada’s centennial anniversary in 1967, and for it’s sesquicentennial, it will grace the Four Seasons Centre stage. It runs for seven shows, April 20 to May 15. For full details, click here.

Mats Almgren as Hagen (in foreground) in Götterdämmerung (COC, 2006), photo: Michael Cooper.


For the season’s fix of beloved classics, Scottish director Paul Curran returns to the COC to direct his lush staging of Puccini’s Tosca, conducted by Canadian maestra Keri-Lynn Wilson (women are a rarity on the podium, no doubt). Two casts are featured in the run, starring sopranos Adrianne Pieczonka and Keri Alkema in the title role. Star tenor Ramón Vargas returns to the COC for the first time since his Manrico in Il trovatore, to debut the role of Cavaradossi; he shares the role with Italian tenor Andrea Carè (Madama Butterfly). German bass-baritone Markus Marquadt sings the role of Scarpia in his Canadian debut. Tosca runs April 30 to May 30; for full details, click here.

Mark Delavan as Scarpia and Adrianne Pieczonka as Tosca in Tosca (COC, 2012). Photo: Michael Cooper.


On November 3, 2016, the COC presents Centre Stage, its annual Ensemble Studio Competition. The final round of auditions for the COC Ensemble Studio are heard in the Four Seasons Centre, with Maestro Debus conducting the COC Orchestra, as the finalists compete for prizes and the chance to join Canada’s leading young artist programme. In the 201617 season, seven (7!) new singers will joing the Ensemble Studio; that’s pretty significant, and I’m officially curious to hear the new crew. For full details, click here.

Finally, the COC has decided to change up its annual tradition of the Ensemble Studio Performance, where one performance of an ongoing mainstage production is cast with members of the young artist program, offering them a big-deal opportunity to take Four Seasons Centre stage. On February 23, 2017, the COC hosts the Ensemble Studio Showcase, an evening of semi-staged operatic scenes chosen to show off the rising stars. The programme is still TBA, but historically, tickets for the Ensemble Studio performances sell out quickly. For full details, click here.

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