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The Canadian Opera Company's 2017-2018 season

J. Archibald(©Bertrand Stofleth)

The Canadian Opera Company’s annual season announcement has become a kind of mini-gala. It is held in the Four Seasons Centre to which subscribers are enticed by a reception prior to the announcements, which are made in the format of an interview with General Director Alexander Neef and Music Director Johannes Debus. The orchestra is on hand, and this time arias were performed by tenor Andrew Haji, a recent graduate of the Ensemble Studio, and two current members, soprano Danika Lorèn and mezzo-soprano Emily D’Angelo. A lot of subscriptions get renewed on the spot.

The season will open in October with the company premiere of Strauss’s Arabella, in a co-production from Santa Fe under Tim Albery’s direction. Erin Wall will perform the title role and Polish baritone Tomasz Konieczny will make his North American debut as Mandryka. Jane Archibald will be Zdenka, and David Pomery, Matteo. Patrick Lange will conduct the seven-performance run.

Also in the fall there will be eight performances of L’elisir d’amore, a work last performed by the company in 1999. James Robinson’s production, previously seen in several US theatres, will have its period American setting tweaked a bit to Canadianize it. Andrew Haji will sing Nemorino, Simone Osborne, Adina, Gordon Bintner will sing the role of Belcore, and Andrew Shore, Dr. Dulcamara. Toronto-born conductor Yves Abel will be making a long-overdue local debut.

January will see a return of Verdi’s Rigoletto in Christopher Alden’s production last seen here in 2011. Roland Wood will portray the title role, with Anna Christy as Gilda and Stephen Costello as the Duke of Mantua. Stephen Lord will conduct the 10 performances.

The winter season will also see Die Entführung aus dem Serail, a work last performed by the COC in 1980. The co-production with Lyon will be directed by Wajdi Mouawad who has also re-crafted the dialogue (something that seems to have become regular practice with Mozart’s singspiel). Jane Archibald will sing the role of Konstanze, joined by Mauro Peter (Belmonte), Claire de Sévigné (Blondchen), Owen McCausland (Pedrillo), and Goran Juric (Osmin). Johannes Debus will conduct the seven performances.

Debus will also conduct the nine performances of the spring season’s opener, Robert Lepage’s production of Igor Stravinsky’s The Nightingale and Other Short Fables; it caused a local sensation in 2009 and has been widely produced since. Jane Archibald will perform the title role, with Christian Van Horn as the Emperor. Most of the action (featuring colourful puppets) takes place in the water-filled orchestra pit while the orchestra plays on the stage.

The season will conclude with Stephen Lawless’s production of Anna Bolena, featuring Sondra Radvanovsky in the title role. The company last presented the work in 1982 with Joan Sutherland. Eric Owens will perform the role of Henry VIII, and Keri Alkema, Jane Seymour. Bruce Sledge will sing the role of Lord Percy and Allyson McHardy, Smeton. Corrado Roveris will conduct the nine-performance run.

In light of Jane Archibald taking on three roles during the season, she has been named the company’s first artist in residence. Her past roles with the company (in Ariadne auf Naxos, Semele, Don Giovanni, Le nozze di Figaro, and Ariodante) have all been stellar and one joyously anticipates the upcoming three.

The ongoing work of the Ensemble Studio was emphasized with the introduction of new members. The ensemble will perform an evening of arias and ensembles in May, 2018. New to the company is a similar program for young orchestra members, the Orchestra Academy, with an initial membership of five. Another COC initiative (and a unique one to my knowledge) is taking on the mentorship of Toronto’s Against the Grain Theatre, a dynamic group established by stage director Joel Ivany and friends in 2010 and giving performances in a multitude of unusual venues ever since. The COC has given ad hoc support in the past, but now the relationship is being formalized. Long may they flourish!

Michael Johnson



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