LSM Newswire

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Canadian Opera Company has much to celebrate with 2009/10 Diamond Anniversary season


Toronto, Ontario Today, at a press conference at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, the Canadian Opera Company proudly announced the companys 2009/2010 season. Marking the companys 60th anniversary, this milestone season represents six decades of artistic excellence and creative achievements. Featuring seven mainstage operas, including a world-premiere production by acclaimed director Robert Lepage, a COC premiere, three new productions, and a special anniversary celebratory concert, the COCs 2009/10 season is an exciting line-up of operas and special events sure to capture audiences imaginations. All performances are in the companys home, the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, and feature the renowned COC Orchestra and Chorus.

With our Diamond Anniversary season, the Canadian Opera Company has much to celebrate, and much to look forward to. In our 60-year history, the company has presented a wide range of operas and a huge survey of the art form, and this season is no exception. From Mozart to Stravinsky, we have the full history of opera in one season. We also continue the tradition of presenting premieres and operas new to the company, said Alexander Neef, the COCs recently appointed General Director.

This anniversary season opens with a revival of Giacomo Puccinis treasured masterpiece Madama Butterfly. A favourite amongst audiences, Madama Butterfly is the story of Cio-Cio-San (Butterfly), a young geisha who marries an American naval officer only to be deserted when he takes an American wife. Her hope for his eventual return and her longing for a lifetime together, make the operas tragic ending even more heartbreaking. The cast is led by Romanian soprano Adina Nitescu and former COC Ensemble Studio soprano Yannick-Muriel Noah as the innocent Cio-Cio-San. Ms Nitescu, celebrated for her interpretation of the title roles in Madama Butterfly and Tosca, makes her COC debut. Ms Noah, who recently sang the title role in Catalanis La Wally with Stadttheater Klagenfurt, also sang Tosca with the COC when she stepped in for two performances last season. Singing the role of Cio-Cio-Sans beloved B. F. Pinkerton are tenors David Pomeroy and Bryan Hymel. Mr. Pomeroy, a former Ensemble member, recently appeared with the COC in the critically-acclaimed From the House of the Dead, and in 2007 he sang the title role in Faust with the COC, as well as performing it at the Metropolitan Operas Met in the Parks. Mr. Hymel, who makes his COC debut in this role, will appear as Cavaradossi in Tosca with Opra national de Bordeaux later this month. Mezzo-sopranos Allyson McHardy and Anita Krause sing the role of Cio-Cio-Sans devoted servant Suzuki, while Canadian baritones James Westman and Brett Polegato share the role of the kind-hearted American Consul, Sharpless. Bass-baritone Robert Pomakov is the Bonze, a cleric and tenors Steven Cole and John Kriter portray the marriage broker Goro. Italian conductor Carlo Montanaro makes his COC debut leading the COC Orchestra and Chorus, and shares the podium with COC resident conductor Derek Bate who will lead the Orchestra on September 29, October 10, 16, and 21, 2009. Legendary Canadian director Brian Macdonald restages his original production from 1990. Madama Butterfly runs for 15 performances on September 26, 29, 30, October 8, 10, 14, 16, 18, 21, 23, 25, 27, 29, 31, and November 3, 2009 and is sung in Italian with English SURTITLESѢ. This production was originally made possible through a generous gift from the late John A. Cook.

The fall season continues with a world premiere of visionary Canadian director Robert Lepages new creation of Stravinskys works The Nightingale and Other Short Fables. Mr. Lepage returns to the COC for the first time since the 1993 award-winning production of Bluebeards Castle/Erwartung, considered to be one of the COCs finest achievements (Opera). The Nightingale and Other Short Fables includes The Nightingale, inspired by Hans Christian Andersens fairytale, as well as the folk-based melodies of his darkly comic barnyard fable The Fox, and the jazz-tinged orchestral piece, Ragtime. This co-production with the Festival dAix-en-Provence and Opra national de Lyon, in collaboration with Robert Lepages production company Ex Machina, draws on storytelling traditions from both ancient and contemporary culture, incorporating the charm and mystery of southeast-Asian puppetry. Making her COC debut as the devoted Nightingale is Russian sensation, soprano Olga Peretyatko. Ms Peretyatko began her singing career with the Hamburg State Opera, and in 2007 was awarded the second prize at Plcido Domingos Operalia competition. The Fisherman, is sung by German tenor Lothar Odinius, and the Emperor is sung by bass Ilya Bannik. Rounding out the cast is COC favourite, bass Robert Pomakov as the Bonze, and contralto Maria Radner as Death, who along with Mr. Odinius, makes her COC debut. Former Ensemble baritone Peter Barrett is the Chamberlain. The Fox is based on the popular Russian Folk Tales, and follows the Foxs attempts to outsmart the Cock. The cast includes Ensemble tenor Adam Luther, tenor Lothar Odinius, and baritone Peter Barrett and bass-baritone Robert Pomakov. Principal conductor of the Duisburg Philharmonic Orchestra and music director of the Vancouver Opera, Jonathan Darlington, makes his COC debut leading the COC Orchestra and Chorus. The Nightingale and Other Short Fables runs October 17, 20, 22, 24, 30, and November 1, 4, 5, 2009 and is sung in Russian with English SURTITLESѢ.

In honour of the COCs 60th anniversary, world-renowned Canadian tenor Ben Heppner, gives his much anticipated solo performance debut at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, in a concert held on Saturday, November 7, 2009 at 7 p.m. The program features the Romantic French and German repertoire. The COCs new Music Director Johannes Debus leads the acclaimed COC Orchestra. All tickets to this memorable evening include a pre-concert champagne reception. (See separate press release for more information.)

Opening the winter run is a COC revival of one of the worlds most popular operas, Georges Bizets Carmen. A tantalizing masterpiece of lyric theatre, Carmen is a tragic love story about the alluring gypsys seduction of a young soldier. Mezzo-soprano Beth Clayton, who returns to the COC for the first time since 1998, is the seductive Carmen. Tenor Bryan Hymel returns as the object of her desire, Don Jos. Micala, the young peasant girl in love with Don Jos, is sung by former Ensemble soprano Jessica Muirhead, who recently sang Donna Anna in Don Giovanni. French bass-baritone Paul Gay makes his COC debut singing Escamillo, the matador taken with Carmen. Former Ensemble bass Alain Coulombe sings Zuniga. The young and gifted Australian conductor Rory Macdonald leads the COC Orchestra and Chorus, and is joined by Australian director Justin Way, who has worked at numerous opera houses worldwide including the Royal Opera House, Opera Australia, and Washington National Opera. Having previously worked together at Glyndebourne Festival Opera, they reunite to make their COC debuts. Carmen is a co-production with Opra de Montral and San Diego Opera, and runs January 27, 30, February 2, 5, 7, 9, 11, 14, 17, 20, 23, and 27, 2010 and is sung in French with English SURTITLESѢ.

One of Giuseppe Verdis penultimate operas, and considered by many to be his greatest tragedy, Otello continues the winter season. This new co-production with Welsh National Opera brings back some COC favourites both on and off stage. Based on the Shakespearean tragedy, Othello, a former slave has risen to the rank of general and has found love with his devoted wife, Desdemona. Iago, Otellos lieutenant, plays on Otellos main weakness, jealousy, and manipulates him causing Otello to lose everything. Returning to the COC to sing Verdis most demanding tenor role is COC favourite Clifton Forbis, Siegmund in the COCs Ring Cycle. Iago is sung by American baritone Scott Hendricks, who last appeared as Rodrigue in the 2007 production of Don Carlos. Singing Desdemona is Italian soprano Tiziana Caruso. Ms Caruso, who recently sang Aida with Baltimore Opera and Teatro Verdi Trieste, makes her Canadian operatic debut. Returning to lead the COC Orchestra and Chorus is Italian conductor Paolo Olmi who was last with the COC for Don Carlos. Also returning to bring this heartwrenching opera to life is Norwegian Operas new artistic director Paul Curran, director of the COCs Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk and Tosca. Otello runs February 3, 6, 10, 13, 16, 19, 22, 25 and 28, 2010 and is sung in Italian with English SURTITLESѢ.

A revival of Richard Wagners haunting music drama, The Flying Dutchman opens the COCs spring season. The story of a ship captain condemned by Satan to sail for eternity until he finds salvation in the unconditional love of a woman, is set to some of Wagners most gloriously romantic music. Making his COC debut singing the role of the Dutchman is Russian bass-baritone Evgeny Nikitin. A specialist in Wagnerian repertoire, Mr. Nikitin has sung in Europe, the United States and Japan. Bass Mats Almgren, Rocco in this seasons Fidelio and Hagen in the COCs Ring Cycle, sings Daland, a sea captain who gives the Dutchman his daughters hand in marriage. Senta, Dalands daughter, is sung by soprano Julie Makerov, Rusalka in the upcoming production. Eric, in love with Senta, is sung by returning tenor Robert Knzli. Rounding out the cast is mezzo-soprano Barbara Dever as Mary, Sentas nurse, and tenor Gordon Gietz, Don Ottavio in this seasons Don Giovanni, sings Dalands Steersman. Making his debut in the orchestra pit as the COCs Music Director leading the COC Orchestra and Chorus is Johannes Debus. COC resident conductor Derek Bate leads one performance, May 20, 2010. Renowned American director Christopher Alden, no stranger to the worlds great opera houses, returns to the COC to restage this production he first directed in 1996 and remounted in 2000. The Flying Dutchman runs April 24, 28, May 2, 8, 11, 14, 17, and 20, 2010 and is sung in German with English SURTITLESѢ.

Continuing the spring season is a COC premiere and Canadas first fully-staged production of Gaetano Donizettis Maria Stuarda. Based on Schillers play, Donizetti draws from the historical conflicts between Mary, Queen of Scots and her cousin Queen Elizabeth I. Singing the lead role of Maria Stuarda is soprano Serena Farnocchia, Luisa Miller in the COCs 2007 production. Bulgarian soprano Alexandrina Pendatchanska makes her company debut as Elisabetta. Tenor Eric Cutler makes his COC debut as Roberto, the Earl of Leicester and bass-baritone, Patrick Carfizzi, Doctor Bartolo in The Barber of Seville, is Talbot, the Earl of Shrewsbury. Music director of Pittsburgh Opera, conductor Anthony Walker makes his COC debut leading the COC Orchestra and Chorus. Director of the COCs production of Il Trovatore in 2005, Stephen Lawless brings Donizettis compelling tragedy to life. Maria Stuarda, a Dallas Opera production, runs May 1, 4, 10, 13, 22, 26, 28, and 30, 2010 and is sung in Italian with English SURTITLESѢ.

The 2009/10 season closes with a new production of Mozarts early masterpiece Idomeneo. Idomeneo, King of Crete, returns home following victory in the Trojan War, when a sudden and violent storm overpowers his ship. He is saved by Neptune, God of the Sea, and in exchange for his life, rashly promises to sacrifice the first mortal he meets, but, when safe on shore he is horrified to encounter his only, and much-loved son Idamante. Making his COC debut singing Idomeneo is tenor Paul Groves, a Mozart specialist. COC favourite, Canadian mezzo-soprano Krisztina Szab, reprises the role of Idomeneos beloved son, Idamante. Ilia, in love with Idamante, a prisoner held on the Island of Crete by the king, is sung by renowned Armenian-Canadian soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian, who most recently appeared as Mlisande in the COCs production of Pellas et Mlisande. American soprano Tamara Wilson, who makes her COC debut in the upcoming production of Simon Boccanegra, sings the role of the fiery Greek princess Elettra. The role of Arbace, the kings trusted advisor, is sung by former Ensemble Studio tenor Michael Colvin. Returning to lead the COC Orchestra and Chorus is Mozart expert, conductor Harry Bicket, who last appeared with the company with Rodelinda in 2005. French director Franois de Carpentries, who directed Peter Grimes for Royal Opera House Covent Garden, makes his COC debut with this production. Idomeneo is a co-production with Opra national du Rhin, and runs May 9, 12, 15, 18, 21, 25, 27, and 29, 2010 and is sung in Italian with English SURTITLESѢ.

Experience the exciting young singers of the Canadian Opera Companys Ensemble Studio, as they perform Mozarts Idomeneo on Wednesday, May 19, 2010 at 7:30 p.m. This special performance celebrating the Ensemble Studios 30th anniversary, stars the Ensemble members with the full COC Orchestra and Chorus under the direction of renowned conductor Harry Bicket. For casting, please visit the COC website at Tickets are accessible pricing for $20 or $50 per person.

Subscriptions to the seven mainstage operas for the COCs 2009/10 season range from $273 to $1141, with Grand Ring (box level) seat subscriptions available at $1,673 and $2,058, and may be purchased online at, or by calling 416-363-8231, or in person at the Four Seasons Centre Box Office, 145 Queen St. W., Toronto. Subscriptions are available to renewing COC subscribers on January 7, 2009 and to the general public on May 4, 2009.

Single tickets are available to the public as of August 17, 2009 for the fall run, November 16, 2009 for the winter run and March 8, 2010 for the spring run. Single ticket prices for all performances range from $62 to $197, with Grand Ring (box level) seat tickets available at $237 and $292.

Special young peoples tickets for all performances throughout the season are priced from $31 to $98.50. These ticket prices apply to those who are 15 years of age or under, accompanied by, and sitting next to an adult. Young adults between the ages of 16 to 29 may purchase specially-priced $20 tickets through the COCs Opera for a New Age program approximately one week prior to each of the fall, winter and spring seasons. Opera for a New Age is presented by TD Bank Financial Group. A total of 150 seats, each priced at $20, will be reserved for every COC performance and available for purchase through Opera for a New Age to student groups and subject to availability on the day of a performance. All repertoire and casting is subject to change.

For more information on the Canadian Opera Companys 2009/10 season, please visit

Madama Butterfly Production Sponsor: RBC Financial Group. This production was originally made possible through a generous gift from John A. Cook.

Carmen Production Co-sponsors: CIBC World Markets and CIBC Mellon

Otello Production Sponsor: National Bank Financial Group

Presenting Sponsor of SURTITLESѢ: Sun Life Financial

Official Automotive Sponsor of the COC at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts: Jaguar Land Rover Canada

Official Media Sponsors: CTV and The Globe and Mail

Digital Marketing Sponsor: Delvinia

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 and founded in 1950, the Canadian Opera Company is the largest producer of opera in CanadaNorth America with an international reputation for artistic excellence and creative innovation. The COC currently enjoys a remarkable 99 per cent attendance rate for its mainstage season. The companys new home, the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, was designed by Diamond and Schmitt Architects Inc. and is Canadas first purpose-built opera house. 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. and one of the largest in

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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