LSM Newswire

Monday, June 23, 2008

Beyond the Mainstage


Toronto, Ontario The Canadian Opera Company celebrated its second year in the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts with seven fully-staged operas and a record-breaking attendance of 99% for the 2007/08 season. Once again, the COC hosted a myriad of activities beyond the mainstage, attracting opera lovers and novices alike to fresh, new audience experiences. With diverse programming in its distinctive new home, visitors were treated to an abundance of musical offerings, from the incredibly popular Free Concert Series in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre, to guided tours of the new opera house, Education and Outreach programs, special fundraising events, as well as special, intimate performances.

The Free Concert Series in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre returned to the Four Seasons Centre for its second year in September 2007. The series attracted nearly 20,000 audience members of all backgrounds and ages to 100 free events ranging from classical, jazz, urban, world music concerts, to contemporary dance performances and interactive workshops. The series featured 160 works by contemporary classical composers and highlighted over 70 works by Canadian composers, including 15 world premieres of pieces by Christopher Butterfield, Linda Catlin Smith, Ana Sokolovic, and others. This season, the Urban Music Series was added, offering insights into the world of rap music and hip-hop culture, culminating in a groundbreaking collaboration between the Canadian Opera Company and The Royal Conservatory of Music. Included as part of the Urban Music Series was the world premiere presentation of Hip Hopera, a new work for turntables and operatic voices, drawing from well-loved works of both genres to create a new and completely modern artistic statement.

The Free Concert Series again proved itself as an exciting opportunity for Torontonians to experience the artistic excellence and cultural diversity of the city in one of Torontos most dynamic spaces. It is a platform for emerging artists as well as stars of the world stage and its clear that some of these performances are among the very best of any being presented in the city free or paid (Toronto Star). The 2008/09 series begins September 16, 2008 and the performance schedule will be available soon at

Throughout the season, the COC opened its doors to the general public for guided tours of the opera house. Nearly 2,500 people took public and private tours led by trained docents who discussed features of the world-class facility including the unique glass system used on the faades, the remarkable engineering used to build the worlds longest free-span glass staircase and the phenomenal advancements in modern engineering and acoustic design that went into creating R. Fraser Elliott Hall, the Four Seasons Centres horseshoe-shaped auditorium. In addition to members of the public, nearly 1,200 students participated in group tours arranged through the Education and Outreach department. Guided tours, open to the general public, continue throughout the summer and cost $7 for adults, $5 for students and seniors, and are free for children 12 and under. A full tour schedule is available online at The COC offers tours for school groups on select dates. For more information, call COC Ticket Services at 416-363-8231.

Approximately 5,000 visitors toured the Four Seasons Centre on Sunday, May 24, 2008 during Doors Open Toronto, an annual event that celebrates the heritage and architectural significance of more than 150 buildings across the city. In addition to tours of the building and attractive displays, visitors were treated to lectures by Matthew Lella, an associate with Diamond and Schmitt Architects Inc., as he discussed the building process and design of the opera house. Following the discussion, guests watched a special screening of Coptor Productions Raising Valhalla, a documentary depicting the dual drama of the construction of the Four Seasons Centre and the COCs staging of the first Canadian production of Wagners Ring Cycle.

The COC hosts a variety of special fundraising events each year and this season saw the return of Operanation presented by TD Canada Trust Music, the Fine Wine Auction, and the Opera Golf Classic presented by BMO Capital Markets and BMO Nesbitt Burns. Operanation is an exclusive cocktail reception that brings together classic culture and young professionals from diverse career, social, and business circles, who share an enthusiasm for the arts. The exclusive event held in the crystalline Isadore and Rosalie Sharp City Room of the Four Seasons Centre on October 19, 2007 attracted over 1,000 guests and raised more than $80,000. On April 17, 2008, 250 wine lovers raised over $84,000 at the Annual Fine Wine Auction at Crush Wine Bar and Restaurant. The 14th annual Opera Golf Classic, held at the Scarboro Golf and Country Club on June 2, 2008, included 136 golfers and raised over $220,000.

Last fall, the COCs Xstrata Ensemble Studio School Tour returned to elementary schools across Ontario with Mozarts The Magic Flute and Dean Burrys The Brothers Grimm. The two 45-minute performances, sung in English, concluded with a 15-minute question-and-answer period with members of the cast and crew. The annual tour exposed over 16,000 young people from Kindergarten to Grade 6 to this lively artform. The November 21, 2007 performance marked the 300th performance of Dean Burrys The Brothers Grimm, believed now to be the most-performed Canadian opera.

The COCs popular After School Opera Program, designed for young people ages seven to 12, celebrated its 10th anniversary this season. To commemorate this milestone, the participants performed the world premiere of Dean Burrys The Chronicles of Unum on December 14, 2007. Written specifically for the occasion, this four-part opera was composed by Mr. Burry using the creative ideas from the programs 80 participants. Over 250 past participants, assistants and guests of the program attended.

The COC also offers adult programs for those who are new to opera or for those who have been celebrating opera for many years. One of the more popular programs is Opera 101, a FREE series that treats young adults to a discussion with special guests and an exciting host, CBC Radios Brent Bambury, followed by a question-and-answer period. Over 300 enthusiasts gathered together at the culturally-eclectic Drake Hotel to get the scoop on what opera is all about. This years special guests included director John Caird (Don Carlos), tenor Robert Knzli and designer Astrid Janson (From the House of the Dead), as well as Assistant Conductor Derek Bate, Concertmaster Marie Brard and tuba player Scott Irvine (Pellas et Mlisande).

The COC and Hilton Toronto collaborated for a third time this season for its popular Appetite for Opera events which combines the cultural and culinary arts in three separate, innovative gourmet evenings designed to delight and intrigue opera novices and seasoned fans. The Hilton Torontos Tundra restaurant creates menus inspired by operas while COC Volunteer Speakers Bureau representative Robert Morassutti and Hilton chef Kreg Graham provide fascinating links and insights between food, wine, and opera. Nearly 250 guests explored menus inspired by Verdis Don Carlos, Puccinis Tosca and Tchaikovskys Eugene Onegin. An additional 50 guests between the ages of 16 to 29 enjoyed another COC and Hilton Toronto event, Frost Bite. As part of Torontos WinterCity Festival, this event provided young patrons the opportunity to enjoy a delicious Czech-inspired, prix-fixe dinner while learning about Janeks opera, From the House of the Dead. Following the dinner, the guests attended the opening night performance.

From free concerts for all ages, to special events and activities, the COC has exciting programming both on and beyond the mainstage. For more information, please visit

The COC Ensemble Studio is Canadas premier training program for young opera professionals and provides advanced instruction, hands-on experience, and career development opportunities. The Ensemble Studio is supported by the Government of Canada through the Department of Canadian Heritage, RBC Financial Group and other generous donors.

About the Canadian Opera Company

Based in Toronto, the Canadian Opera Company is the largest producer of opera in Canada and one of the largest in North America, and has an international reputation for artistic excellence and creative innovation. The COC currently enjoys a remarkable 99% attendance rate for its mainstage season. The companys new home, the Four Seasons Centre, was designed by Diamond and Schmitt Architects Inc. and is Canadas first purpose-built opera house. The contemporary expression of a traditional five-tiered, European horseshoe-shaped auditorium was specifically designed for opera with the highest level of acoustics and provides unparalleled intimacy between the audience and the stage. Acclaimed as one of the best opera houses in the world, the Four Seasons Centre is also the performance venue for The National Ballet of Canada.

Canadian Opera Company Website

The Canadian Opera Company website, at, contains information on all productions including synopses, historical background, and production photographs.

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