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Review: The Canadian Opera Company presents ‘Götterdämmerung’ from Richard Wagner (February 8, 11, 14, 17 and 25, 2017)

The Canadian Opera Company enters the twilight of the gods with the revival of its acclaimed production of Wagner’s Götterdämmerung directed by Toronto-area resident Tim Albery. COC Music Director Johannes Debus conducts his first Götterdämmerung, at the helm of the internationally acclaimed COC Orchestra and Chorus with a cast of generation-defining voices led by powerhouse American soprano Christine Goerke in her debut as Götterdämmerung’s Brünnhilde. Götterdämmerung is sung in German with English SURTITLESTM and runs for seven performances on February 2, 5, 8, 11, 14, 17 and 25, 2017.

Wagner’s Ring Cycle is commonly described as “the Everest of opera.” The largest work in the history of Western music, the Ring Cycle includes four operas: Das Rheingold, Die Walküre, Siegfried and Götterdämmerung. In the fourth instalment of Wagner’s heroic Ring, after poisoned drinks, mistaken identities and much deception, Brünnhilde and Siegfried are reunited in love and death as the worlds of both men and gods go up in flames only to rise again in an unforgettable affirmation of rebirth and renewal.

Götterdämmerung is the most epic of Wagner’s tetralogy with some of the most complex and riveting music in the operatic repertoire. Many famous passages make up the final instalment of Wagner’s monumental musical journey, including Siegfried’s “Funeral March,” an orchestral showcase offering a musical retrospective of the Ring itself, and Brünnhilde’s “Immolation” scene, an immensely powerful aria in which she restores order to the world and joins Siegfried on his burning pyre in an act of love.

Director Tim Albery’s vision for the COC’s conclusion of Wagner’s masterpiece has been proclaimed as “the most inventive of all” (New York Times). First presented by the COC in winter 2006, and then in fall 2006 as part of the company’s full Ring Cycle, this Götterdämmerung is “as stunning a feat of staging as [has been] seen in Toronto” (National Post), with critics singling out that “the great virtue of Albery’s production is the urgency and absolutely clarity of the storytelling” (Opera News), while also noting the presentation as a whole represents “the COC’s proudest hour” (Globe and Mail). Production designer Michael Levine’s compelling interpretation of Götterdämmerung moves the action forward to the contemporary corporate landscape of the mortals who now rule the world and brings the cycle to a commanding and dramatic close. The lighting design is by acclaimed designer David Finn, who won back-to-back Dora Awards for his work in Die Walküre’s 2015 revival and the 2016 remount of Siegfried. Choreography is by Patti Powell.


Few roles in opera are more unique or challenging than those of Götterdämmerung’s Siegfried and Brünnhilde. They are among the most demanding tenor and soprano roles in all of opera, requiring voices of steel and sensitivity alongside super-human stamina to deliver the opera’s awe-inspiring musical drama. Austrian tenor Andreas Schager is establishing himself as one world’s leading heroic tenors and makes his COC debut as Siegfried—a role for which he’s been proclaimed a “discovery” (The Arts Desk) and “a big star in the making” (The Independent). American soprano Christine Goerke is the most sought-after Brünnhilde in the world today, her performances heralded for how her “gleaming tones sliced through the glittering orchestra” (New York Times) and possess “everything a great Brunnhilde must have: dignity, stature, and a voice of molten gold” (Toronto Star) as well as delivering “a once-in-adecade experience” (Globe and Mail). Goerke returns to sing Götterdämmerung’s Brünnhilde for the first time, previously debuting each instalment of the character in the recent COC revivals of Die Walküre and Siegfried.

Internationally renowned German baritone Martin Gantner is Gunther, Siegfried’s rival. Estonian Ain Anger, “one of the great opera basses of our time” (The Guardian), makes his Canadian and role debut as Gunther’s half brother, Hagen. Canadian bass Robert Pomakov, “a talent to watch” (Washington Post), is Alberich, whose greed for the Rhinegold began this epic saga. COC Ensemble Studio graduate soprano Ileana Montalbetti, whose performance as Ellen Orford in the COC’s recent Peter Grimes was “in the realm of greatness” (Toronto Star), returns as Gutrune, Gunther’s sister and Siegfried’s bride.

As the three Norns, daughters of Erda the Earth Goddess who are spinning the rope of destiny, is a trio of new and familiar voices. American mezzo-soprano Lindsay Ammann (Schwertleite in 2015’s Die Walküre) is the First Norn; Scottish mezzo Karen Cargill makes her COC debut as the Second Norn; and soprano Ileana Montalbetti takes on a second role as the Third Norn.

In their COC mainstage debuts as water-nymph Rhinemaidens are two COC Ensemble Studio singers, soprano Danika Lorèn as Woglinde and mezzo-soprano Lauren Eberwein as Wellgunde. Mezzo-sopranos Lindsay Ammann and Karen Cargill are also heard as the Rhinemaiden Flosshilde and the Valkyrie Waltraute, respectively.

The COC performs Götterdämmerung at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts. The COC’s 16/17 season marks the 10th anniversary of the Four Seasons Centre, Canada’s first purpose-built opera house, which opened in fall 2006 and has been hailed internationally as one of the finest in the world.


Single tickets for Götterdämmerung range from $35 – $235 and box seats, when available, are $350. Tickets are now on sale, available online at coc.ca, by calling 416-363-8231, or in person at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts Box Office (145 Queen St. W.). For more information on specially priced tickets available to young people under the age of 15, standing room, Opera Under 30 presented by TD Bank Group, student groups and rush seating, visit coc.ca.


If you were hoping for a restful opera experience, Götterdämmerung or ‘Twilight of The Gods’ is not it.  It is instead the most exquisite ‘heroic opera’ that will wrench your soul out of your body and hold it in front of your face until it is done with you (5 hours later).  Götterdämmerung is epic, soul destroying and will make you feel like you have run a marathon whilst sitting in your comfy seat at The Four Seasons for the Performing Arts in Toronto.

The light motif is dominant throughout the production of ‘Götterdämmerung’. Blinding office lights, red light district fare, darkness with one small light hanging above a table and a performer slightly off stage whose face is illuminated can be seen from afar as the audience’s attention is focused on another performer in front of the stage under a dimly lit light.  The theme of remorse, isolation and regret is connected to the light as it lingers behind Siegfried and Brünnhilde.  Its unsettling grimace is noted as it also blinds the audience above Hagen and Gunther as they hatch their devious plans.

In the first Act, the theme of little phrases of music provides the audience with small snacks to nibble on as they prepare for the far larger courses to come.  Moments when the curtain closed felt like a confessional where the audience was left to soak in the poetic sound emanating from the orchestra.  Poignant, verbose in its intent and yet alarming.

The bold chord changes when Brünnhilde is awoken like a Sleeping Beauty by Siegfried was opera gold.  The audience felt the fade and a kind of water music as it washed over our hero and heroine and then encouraged the audience to feel out their thoughts, words, camaraderie and impending doom on their own.

Indeed a slow evening of opera, ‘Götterdämmerung’ was in no rush to unfold.  Similar to that of a Snap Dragon as it patiently waited for its next prey.  COC Music Director Johannes Debus oozed that motif in his conductorship.  He was in command of every single detail that he executed to his orchestral team.  Deliberate, dynamic and spun in controlled threads of tension and a quick resolution.

Dramatic soprano, Christine Goerke, can detonate a bomb with her delivery of Brünnhilde.  Her Brünnhilde is quirky, but also a maven not to be messed with.  Goerke’s on stage presence will leave you with your mouth agape and wanting more when you are already being spoon fed the most delicious, decadent and resolute treats.  Goerke’s Brünnhilde will teach the audience that love is about resignation, self-sacrifice and redemption.   Her strength goes beyond the pop culture ‘Girl Power’ peace sign but envelopes the audience in her rage, determination and a reminder that she is her father’s daughter.

‘Götterdämmerung’ at the Canadian Opera Company with Goerke at its helm is a pure Turkish Delight with extra powder and rose essence.  Whereas, Austrian tenor Andreas Schager, dreamy Siegfried is the perfect Romeo to Brünnhilde’s testy Juliet.  The audience is reminded, as much as you may want to eat the dessert before your main meal – Schager will teach the importance of patience.  As the audience roots for Brünnhilde, they will also shake their heads in wonderment of Siegfried’s choices and ultimate downfall.

Martin Gantner as Gunther and Estonian Ain Anger as Hagen added the texture within ‘Götterdämmerung’.  Darkness, disdain, jealousy, anger – these characters take it up a notch and remind the audience not to get too comfortable.  The plot was about to get even more complicated and evil.

The COC Chorus was a wonderful pop up experience in giving the audience a break from the dramatic soliloquies from the main performers.  The audience was able to linger and rest as the chorus beefed up the lay of the land and demonstrated the amount of power it takes to sing over an orchestra.  Their athleticism as a collective demonstrated their quiet determination in amplifying the contempt, dread and horrors that make up ‘Götterdämmerung’.

The COC Orchestra summarizes Wagner’s ‘Götterdämmerung’s’ drama and deep discord.  The audience felt the energy and the havoc created on stage through the deep deluge of pain evoked by the musicians and performers.  Grandiose, devastating and a reveal to make use of every moment to the best of your ability.  A simple inspiration but also an easy one to forget.  Siegfried and Brünnhilde provide the gentle take away in that you may be surprised in what you discover about yourself at the end of the day or in years to come if you take that risk and push yourself that little bit harder in the moment.  If you made it through ‘Götterdämmerung’ unscathed, you can get through anything.




Review: The Canadian Opera Company’s “The Magic Flute” from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (February 1, 3, 4, 7, 10, 16, 18, 19 and 24, 2017)


It’s a fairy-tale start to 2017 with the revival of the Canadian Opera Company’s playful and whimsical production of Mozart’s beloved opera, The Magic Flute. Bernard Labadie, one of Canada’s pre-eminent conductors, makes his COC debut with one of the most popular operas in the world with a cast of international and Canadian rising stars. The Magic Flute was last performed by the COC in 2011 and returns February 1, 3, 4, 7, 10, 16, 18, 19 and 24, 2017.

Canadian conductor Bernard Labadie is a specialist in Baroque and Classical repertoire who “moulds the phrases, plucks out all-important details in the texture and radiates an infectious joy in the music” (The Telegraph). An Officer of the Order of Canada and a knight of Ordre national du Québec, Labadie is a regular guest with the premier orchestras across North America and gaining increasing renown in Europe. He now brings his musicianship to the COC for the first time to lead the internationally acclaimed COC Orchestra and Chorus through some of Mozart’s most beautiful and infectious melodies.

The COC production was conceived by Tony Award®-winning director Diane Paulus with a purposeful sense of fun, playfulness and whimsy in this theatrical version of Mozart’s humorous, sometimes profound, exploration of the trials of growing up, seeking ideals and finding love. COC Ensemble Studio graduate and artistic director at the Thousand Islands Playhouse, Ashlie Corcoran, makes her COC mainstage debut staging the 2017 revival, based on Paulus’ original direction. The production is full of wonder and wisdom in following the adventures of Prince Tamino as he undergoes feats of heroism to rescue his love, Pamina, from the forces of evil.

The look and feel of the COC’s production evokes an 18th-century storybook sensibility in its costume and set design by acclaimed designer Myung Hee Cho with slight contemporary touches in colours and textures. The period feel carries through in the lighting design by Scott Zielinski who incorporates such 18th-century performance practices as candles, torches, and reflections off shiny surfaces and mirrors. The production conjures up a play-within-a-play scenario with the guests of a young girl’s name day celebration finding themselves entertained by an opera to only become the characters themselves, with the line between performer and audience quickly blurring. The ensuing trials and tribulations of the play travel through the girl’s home and take place over the course of one night, beginning at evening and ending at dawn.

Leading the young cast are two breakout tenors from the COC’s own Ensemble Studio, recent graduates Andrew Haji and Owen McCausland, who share the role of Prince Tamino. They are matched with two sopranos to watch: Russian Elena Tsallagova and Canadian Kirsten MacKinnon, singing the role of Princess Pamina, in their Canadian and COC debuts, respectively.

Two of the finest baritones of their generation, Canadians Joshua Hopkins and Phillip Addis, return to the COC to share the role of the bird catcher, Papageno. COC Ensemble Studio graduate soprano Jacqueline Woodley, heard last season as the Forest Bird in Siegfried, brings her exceptional talent to the role of Papageno’s sweetheart, Papagena.

The Queen of the Night is brought to life by the thrilling coloratura of COC Ensemble Studio graduate soprano Ambur Braid.

The priest-king Sarastro is sung by Croatian bass Goran Jurić, in his Canadian debut, and American bass Matt Boehler. The roles of Monostatos and the Speaker are sung by two notable voices on the international opera scene, COC Ensemble Studio graduate tenor Michael Colvin and German baritone Martin Gantner, respectively.

Rounding out the cast are many new and returning Ensemble Studio members: graduate soprano Aviva Fortunata, mezzo-soprano Emily D’Angelo, in her COC mainstage debut, and graduate mezzo-soprano Lauren Segal are the First, Second and Third Ladies, respectively; tenor Charles Sy sings the First Priest and is joined by baritone Bruno Roy, in his COC mainstage debut, as the Second Priest. Alternating in the role of the First Armed Man will be Ensemble Studio graduate tenors Owen McCausland and Andrew Haji, when not singing the role of Tamino, with graduate bass Neil Craighead as the Second Armed Man. Singing the First, Second and Third Spirits are members of the Canadian Children’s Opera Company.

The Magic Flute was Mozart’s final opera, receiving its premiere only three months before his death in December 1791. From the spectacular fireworks of the Queen of the Night to Pamina’s anguished lament and Papageno’s comic antics, the charm and profundity of Mozart’s music has made The Magic Flute a timeless classic in the years since with it consistently ranked as one of the most performed operas in the world.

The COC’s production of The Magic Flute is sung in German with English SURTITLESTM.

The COC performs The Magic Flute at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts. The COC’s 16/17 season marks the 10th anniversary of the Four Seasons Centre, Canada’s first purpose-built opera house, which opened in fall 2006 and has been hailed internationally as one of the finest in the world.


Single tickets for The Magic Flute range from $35 – $235 and box seats, when available, are $350. Tickets are now on sale, available online at coc.ca, by calling 416-363-8231, or in person at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts Box Office (145 Queen St. W.). For more information on specially priced tickets available to young people under the age of 15, standing room, Opera Under 30 presented by TD Bank Group, student groups and rush seating, visit coc.ca.


The Canadian Opera Company’s “The Magic Flute” from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is an opera that digs deep into the psychopathy of what a ‘happy ending’ really means. The audience is immediately thrown into a play within a play and are tasked to feel out the emotional mayhem transforming itself in front of their eyes.

Indeed fairtyale like with injections of comedy throughout the over 2 hour production – the joyfully painted portraiture as seen through exuberant costuming and enthusiastic stage production is thwarted by the ‘in your face’ theme of the mistreatment of women in “The Magic Flute”.

This production is filled with robust romance and decadent melodrama. It is also a wonderful introduction to Mozart’s work.  “The Magic Flute” is accessible and indeed very hummable.  There was many a toe tapping and giggling felt in the aisles throughout the evening.

Cheeky, campiness and majesty aside, our heroine, Pamina is offered to the audience in a rich text for feminine critique. Pamina represents the ideal woman, a good wife and daughter. Her mother, the Queen of the Night, is all attitude, heavy on the melodrama and exciting.  Whereas Prince Tamino and Papageno show us aristocracy’s stiff upper lip in contrast to the court jester.

Director, Diane Paulus, states “We have set the action in 1791, the year in which the opera was first performed, against the backdrop of the Enlightenment. The entire play-within-a-play is presented in the open space of a nobleman’s garden, itself a place of enchantment and symbolic power during this historical period. As the drama unfolds, the actors leave the theatre behind and continue to enact their story in an elaborate labyrinth that covers the grounds of the estate. The theatricality of their journey is enhanced by the mysteries of the outdoor world beneath the cover of night where they act out the rituals of the drama. All distinctions between fantasy and reality fade away as their pageant lasts through the night until dawn.”

The staging of “The Magic Flute” is grand, complex and ethereal. It was indeed the icing on the cake.  Watching the singers and chorus frolic, clash and find a common ground amongst lit wall sconces, well-manicured shrubbery, revolving hedge doors and The Shining like passageways transported us into a European country side far away from big city living.

The arts and crafts paper dragons, alligators, birds and giraffes were a delight to see. The sparkles of glittery dresses, kitschy fire walls and umbrella festooned men in electric blue jumped off the stage.  These vignettes felt like a scene out of “Beauty School Drop Out” from Grease.  These simple artisan notes added a pop up experience to the production and again continued to hypnotize the audience into a light mood even though the textures of music brought a silence to linger upon and the idea if the end really does justify the means?

Be sure to dwell on the gorgeous sicilienne aria for “Queen of the Night” as sung by Ambur Braid. It is an athletic feat and beautifully curated.  Think puncture holes through the heart and mesmerizing all in one shot.  The aria’s provided a rocking rhythm throughout the production and emulated a cradle of sorrow for the audience to breathe in in small bursts.

Elena Tsallagova as Pamina, Goran Jurić as Sarastro and Andrew Haji as Tamino created a safe place for the audience to lean into and learn about Mozart’s art. Their performances also allowed one to reflect quietly on the intent behind their deliveries.

“The Magic Flute” leaves the audience with the ideals of “reason, wisdom and light” as a take away. Perhaps easy ideas to read on paper, but difficult after a production that has opened up a dialogue that touches upon themes that are au courant in today’s current political climate.  That said, “The Magic Flute” is an opera to be reckoned with.  Emanate a grateful nod to the Canadian Opera Company for providing food for thought and a deep breath as we commence 2017 together.


Review: The Canadian Opera Company Presents Georges Bizet’s ‘Carmen’

Returning to the Canadian Opera Company stage this spring is one of the world’s most famous operas, Georges Bizet’s Carmen. Canadian director Joel Ivany, of Toronto’s cutting-edge collective Against the Grain Theatre, brings a fresh look to this masterpiece of lyric theatre when it comes to the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts. Italian conductor Paolo Carignani is at the helm of Bizet’s passionate score. Carmen was last presented by the COC in 2010 and returns to the Four Seasons Centre for 13 performances on April 12, 17, 20, 23, 28, 30, May 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 13, 15, 2016. Carmen is sung in French with English SURTITLESTM.

Carmen is a highly charged melodrama about an irresistible gypsy, Carmen, and her seduction of a young soldier.

At the time of the opera’s premiere in Paris in 1875, it was condemned in the press as too immoral to be staged; Carmen marked the first time in opera that a female character could flout morality and still remain the heroine of the work. It is now consistently ranked as one of the most produced operas in the world.

Internationally renowned conductor Paolo Carignani, last in the COC’s orchestra pit for Tosca in 2012, returns to lead the COC Orchestra, Chorus and an exciting cast through a tantalizing score of popular melodies. From Carmen’s alluring teasing in “Habanera” and the swaggering machismo of Escamillo’s “Toreador Song” to the desperate pleading of Don José’s “Flower Song” and Micaëla’s innocence and quiet strength in the aria “Je dis que rien ne m’épouvante,” the music drives the drama and action of Carmen forward and lays bare the deep well of emotions at play between Bizet’s characters. The end result leaves no question as to the opera’s universal appeal.

Joel Ivany makes his COC main stage directing debut in this revival of the COC’s production of Carmen, which premiered in 2005 and was last presented in 2010. He brings to the work a fresh new staging already hailed as a “visceral treat” (Vancouver Sun) offering a “human take that engages and entertains as much as it provokes” (Vancouver Straight) when Vancouver Opera presented the COC production in fall 2014 with Ivany directing. His staging is set against the colourful, sun baked landscape of 1940s Latin America with sets and costumes designed by Michael Yeargan and François St-Aubin, respectively. New to the production’s 2016 revival are two up-and-coming, innovative Toronto-based artists who frequently collaborate with Ivany: lighting designer Jason Hand and set and costume design co-ordinator Camellia Koo, making their COC main stage debuts.

Two mezzo-sopranos making a specialty of the lead role bring Carmen to life at the COC: Georgian Anita Rachvelishvili (April 12, 17, 23, 30, May 4, 6, 13) and France’s Clémentine Margaine (April 20, 28, May 8, 10, 12, 15). Rachvelishvili returns to the COC after 2014’s Don Quichotte and 2010’s Carmen to bring her “smoldering, earthy sexuality” (New York Times) once more to the Four Seasons Centre. Internationally renowned, she has sung Carmen at the Metropolitan Opera, La Scala, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Seattle Opera, San Francisco Opera and Royal Opera House Covent Garden, among others. Margaine has been hailed “a dream voice for the passionate but mercurial Gypsy” (Dallas Morning News), singing Carmen with Dallas Opera, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Teatro dell’Opera di Roma and Washington National Opera. After her Canadian debut with the COC, she goes on to sing Carmen in future seasons at the Metropolitan Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago and the Opera Bastille in Paris.

As Carmen’s jealous lover, Don José, the COC welcomes the return of two tenors: American Russell Thomas and Ensemble Studio graduate David Pomeroy. One of the most exciting vocal and dramatic talents on the international opera and concert scene, described as “nothing short of sensational” (The Telegraph), Thomas follows up his star turn in the COC’s 2012 production of The Tales of Hoffmann with a role debut performance as the young soldier who attempts to tame Carmen. Pomeroy returns to the COC after recent performances in 2012’s Die Fledermaus and 2009’s Madama Butterfly. He’s been called a “magnetic” Don José by Belgian Operaguide, his voice “fresh…with a particularly gratifying bloom” (Philadelphia Inquirer), reaching “the demanding high notes with smooth ease…totally compelling as a ruined man” (Winnipeg Free Press).

In the role of the toreador Escamillo are the powerful voices of American bass-baritone Christian Van Horn and American baritone Zachary Nelson. They make welcome returns to the COC after recent company outings: Van Horn for his performances in 2013’s La Bohème and 2012’s Tosca, and Nelson for 2015’s Don Giovanni.

Sharing the role of the peasant girl Micaëla are two standout Canadian sopranos. COC Ensemble Studio graduate Simone Osborne returns to the COC, after 2014’s Falstaff, on the heels of a 14-city U.S. concert tour with the Metropolitan Opera’s Rising Stars Concert Series. Osborne is joined by emerging opera talent, Ensemble Studio soprano Karine Boucher, whose “gorgeous, womanly voice” (Schmopera) recently sang Susanna in the Ensemble Studio performance of The Marriage of Figaro.

Rounding out the cast are former and current members of the COC Ensemble Studio. Bass Alain Coulombe is Zuniga, Don José’s captain, and baritone Peter Barrett sings the role of Moralès, an officer under Zuniga’s command. Mezzo-soprano Charlotte Burrage and soprano Sasha Djihanian are Carmen’s gypsy friends Mercédès and Frasquita. Ensemble Studio bass-baritone Iain MacNeil and Ensemble Studio tenor Jean-Philippe Fortier-Lazure are the smugglers, Le Dancaïre and Le Remendado.


Single tickets for Carmen range from $50 – $435 and are available online at coc.ca, by calling 416-363-8231, or in person at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts Box Office (145 Queen St. W.). For more information on specially priced tickets available to young people under the age of 15, standing room, Opera Under 30 presented by TD Bank Group, student groups and rush seating, visit coc.ca.



Oddly, the evening we catch ‘Carmen’ at the Canadian Opera Company is the night Beyonce drops her latest musical offering ‘Lemonade’ to the world.  Perfect timing!  Beyonce is no stranger to ‘Carmen’.   She curated  ‘Carmen:  A Hip Hopera’  with “Habanera” as a place setting a few years back and introduced a whole new generation to its exquisiteness.   Bizet would have been proud.

With Queen Bey’s ‘Carmen’ in the air, The Canadian Opera Company’s ‘Carmen’ is also one to be savoured.  It is the people’s opera.  Full of ornate production, costuming popping with colour reminiscent of Frida Kahlo, electricity on the stage with an abundant chorus that instantly transports you to a heat, sexiness and allure from a dusty past.  The interactive dalliances with the chorus on stage and their audience was mesmerizing and authentic.  The score was rich, cohesive and as Beyonce would say, worthy of a ‘slay’ with a Spanish navaja if you are not careful.

As Director, Joel Ivany states ‘For me, what has allowed this piece to endure through the years, from 1875 to the present, are the real characters in real situations. Now more than ever, this piece is a reminder of the freedom that we all enjoy and also the chains that we can find ourselves bound by. We desire passion and uninhibited living, but must have certain constraints to maintain order within our lives. We see ourselves in the gentle, yet strong, spirit of Micaëla; our inhibitions are brought out through Don José; our passion is felt through Carmen; and our self-absorbed, “selfie” urges are seen through Escamillo. This opera can be like looking in a mirror.’

The Canadian Opera Company’s has created a ‘Carmen’ that is accessible, introspective and for every palate.  ‘Carmen’ will challenge your moral code; encourage you to ponder where you are with your own relationships.  Those particular relationships that trouble us, make us giddy, ones we should let go of and perhaps some we need to infuse with more energy and light.

Georgian Anita Rachvelishvili and American Russell Thomas will make you swoon with reflection.  Operatic talent’s so mind blowing that you will feel their wrath as they glide up to the stage from the audience in Act IV.  Carmen and Don Jose’s love is torrid, fraught with pain, confusion and contempt although blanketed under the excitement, joyous colour and smiles of the occasion in the corrida.  Anita Rachvelishvili and Russell Thomas will make you believers in ‘Carmen’ and leave her story emblazoned in your memory until you meet again.

The Canadian Opera Company has again created staging that is luxe, gritty, seductive and awe inspiring.  The grandiosity of wooden stadium seating  for the chorus to watch a bull fight, lingering moments outside of a cigar factory with factory workers as they exhaled tobacco on a break and an ominous jail with iron gates so menacing you cannot help but wince in your seat.

With Mother’s Day around the corner, find time to reconnect with your mother or loved one in your life with this fantastic piece of musical theatre from the Canadian Opera Company. ‘Carmen’ won’t be here long – but the musical messaging, the romance and ‘lemonade’ like drama only Bizet could do with such finesse and intrigue will leave you with something to talk about long after you have left the Four Seasons of The Performing Arts.

A Valentine’s Day Review: The Canadian Opera Company’s ‘The Marriage of Figaro’ (February 4 – February 27, 2016)

Canadian Opera Company audiences find themselves ensnared in a web of erotic passions with a new production of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro this February. One of the most beautiful and convincing operas about the fluid enchantments, maze-like confusions and bouts of sheer blindness brought on by love, this new staging is directed by one of the most sought-after and critically acclaimed artists of his generation, Claus Guth, with equally celebrated musical leadership by COC Music Director Johannes Debus. The Marriage of Figaro is on stage at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts for 11 performances, including a special presentation starring the young artists of the COC’s Ensemble Studio training program, on February 4, 7, 9, 13, 17, 19, 21, 22*, 23, 25 and 27, 2016.

This new COC production of The Marriage of Figaro was originally built by the Salzburg Festival as the centrepiece of its celebrations for the 250th anniversary of Mozart’s birth. It was hailed as a “masterpiece” (Bloomberg News) and was the hit of the 2006 Salzburg Festival – revived repeatedly in successive seasons since. German director Claus Guth is renowned for his innovative productions of classic operas and for this Figaro he draws visual and thematic inspiration from the films of Ingmar Bergman and the plays of Ibsen and Strindberg, while fusing stylized gesture and choreography with Mozart’s score to deliver a “shattering, unforgettable” (The Guardian) account of the elemental forces of human nature at play in this opera.

COC Music Director Johannes Debus is at the musical helm of the COC’s entire winter season as he conducts The Marriage of Figaro in addition to Siegfried, leading the COC Orchestra and Chorus through a score widely considered a testament to Mozart’s genius. In Figaro, Mozart writes musical moments of unprecedented emotional impact and sensuality, delivering an opera that fuses comedy, tragedy and poetry to create one of the smartest and sharpest explorations of human relationships in all theatre. Assistant conductor Jordan de Souza steps into the orchestra pit for Maestro Debus on February 23 and 25.

A sparkling cast has been assembled for this magnificent, witty farce that finds Figaro and Susanna’s wedding in jeopardy due to the wandering eye of their employer, the Count. The ensuing intrigue and mistaken identities lead all the characters to experience intense human passions as they’re torn between morality, desire and impulse.

Austrian bass-baritone Josef Wagner, praised as “energetic and forceful as Figaro” (Calgary Herald) in his recent North American debut with Calgary Opera, makes his first COC appearance in the title role. His love, Susanna, is internationally acclaimed Canadian soprano Jane Archibald, praised in her most recent outing with the COC in 2015’s Don Giovanni as “thrilling from first note to last, with a sweep and an edge that made her presence on stage aurally riveting” (Globe and Mail).

Renowned Canadian soprano Erin Wall, last heard at the COC in 2012’s Love from Afar, is the Countess She brings her “soprano of radiance, pristine beauty and tingling top notes” (The Guardian) to a role that explores the full range of emotion, from sadness to humour to forgiveness. The Count is sung by internationally acclaimed Canadian baritone Russell Braun, returning to the COC after his intense, critically acclaimed and Dora Award nominated portrayal of Don Giovanni last season.

American mezzo-soprano Emily Fons, one of opera’s rising stars, makes her COC debut as the mischievous Cherubino. Acclaimed Canadian tenor Michael Colvin, who delighted COC audiences with his Dr. Caius in 2014’s Falstaff, sings the role of gossiping music teacher Basilio. Canadian bass Robert Pomakov, last with the COC in 2013’s Peter Grimes, returns as the vengeful Bartolo. American mezzo-soprano Helene Schneiderman makes her COC debut as Marcellina, Bartolo’s housekeeper and partner-in-crime.

Canadian baritone Doug MacNaughton is Antonio, Ensemble Studio tenor Jean-Philippe Fortier-Lazure is Don Curzio and Ensemble Studio graduate soprano Sasha Djihanian is Antonio’s daughter, Barbarina. German actor Uli Kirsch is Cherubim, a silent character introduced by Guth often seen manipulating the other characters.

Set and costume design is by Christian Schmidt, who situates the action within the main hall of a 19th-century mansion with the character’s wardrobe reflecting a more modern era through 20th-century dresses and suits. Lighting design is by Olaf Winter with video design by Andi A. Müller. Choreography is by Ramses Sigl.


Single tickets for The Marriage of Figaro range from $50 – $435 and are available online at coc.ca, by calling 416-363-8231, or in person at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts Box Office (145 Queen St. W.). For more information on specially priced tickets available to young people under the age of 15, standing room, Opera Under 30 presented by TD Bank Group, student groups and rush seating, visit coc.ca.


Valentine’s Day is right around the corner – so why not treat your lover or loved one to The Canadian Opera Company’s ‘The Marriage of Figaro’ as a holiday treat?  Chocolates and lingerie are so passé – opera tickets is the ultimate Valentine’s gift.

Mozart’s work is a wonderful way to relax into your Valentine’s Day evening.  His work is rich, diverse and full of moments worth lingering upon within the characterization on stage and one’s own life.

Let’s be cynical for a moment, Valentine’s Day  commercial leanings of ‘Be Mine’, ‘I Heart You’ alongside Valentine shaped candy boxes and batting eye lashes can be a bit much.  Its one day.  True love affairs don’t come close in matching these motifs on a daily basis.

As per Guth’s Director’s Notes ‘Mozart created a world theatre of human passions that testifies to the elemental force of eroticism. All forms of love and desire are found in this opera, and the four generations of characters— presented in exemplary fashion—are completely torn between morality, desire and impulse. In Figaro, Mozart not only allows all kinds of intense human passions but also portrays how they can get out of control and escalate to extremes, thus setting his opera far apart from the comedy by Beaumarchais.’

Mozart’s score oozes depth, sex appeal and the moors of darkness within the confines of a relationship.  As the Canadian Opera Company’s ‘The Marriage of Figaro’ unfolds we see Figaro, Susanna, The Count and Countess at their best and their worst.  How could we not squirm in our seats and think of our own past (or present) dalliances in the pitch of the honeymoon period to the equivalent of the February blues?  Anxiety, self doubt, confusion and grief all play a part.  The reality is these flavours run through our veins throughout the course of our relationships.  The Canadian Opera Company’s ‘The Marriage of Figaro’ is a wonderful reflection within ourselves and the health of our romantic lives.

Cherubim’s insertion of humour as he sprinkled feathers and imaginary cupid arrows at the characters added a touch of whimsy, delight and giddy smiles throughout the production.  Come on, the audience needs a relief line during the course of the production.  Again, a lovely reminder that even in the darkest of times we need laughter to pull us through.  A box of chocolates would have been nice to add to the lux experience as we curled up in our Four Seasons Opera Company seats.

The Canadian Opera Company’s ‘The Marriage of Figaro’ is perfect for the novice opera goer.  It is a modern piece, the staging architecture will make you swoon in its crown mouldings and sweeping staircase glory, the rich characterization of the talent and song will make your knees shake in your seat and the orchestral accompaniment will make you wonder why you haven’t come to the opera sooner.

Let The Canadian Opera Company’s ‘The Marriage of Figaro’ ruminate with your guest over a glass of wine in their wine bar space.  This Valentine’s Day – challenge your lover or your loved one with how you will strengthen your love in the year ahead as oppose to just one day out of 365.

Happy Valentine’s Day!