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THE SCOOP | Canadian Opera Company Announces 2023-24 Season

By Anya Wassenberg on February 23, 2023

Neema Bickersteth (Photo: HAUI); The Cunning Little Vixen (Creative by BTA Advertisting); Medea (Creative by BTA Advertisting)
L-R: Neema Bickersteth (Photo: HAUI); The Cunning Little Vixen (Creative by BTA Advertising); Medea (Creative by BTA Advertising)

The Canadian Opera Company has announced the upcoming 2023-24 season, including rarely heard works, and a brand new opera.

“The Canadian Opera Company is a beacon for the very best in operatic storytelling and experience,” says COC General Director Perryn Leech in a statement. “In creating this season, we collaborated extensively with creators and companies from all over the world to share new programming with our audiences. Throughout 2023/2024, we can explore familiar and less familiar repertoire through innovative and thought-provoking new productions, and also hear the most thrilling singing to be heard anywhere. It is a heady mix.”

“We are proud to continue the creation and presentation of contemporary opera,” continues Leech. “As part of our ongoing commitment to introducing distinctive new voices and reaching a wider audience, we are honoured to present the world premiere of Aportia Chryptych: A Black Opera For Portia White at the Canadian Opera Company Theatre in summer of 2024.”

The season at a glance

Fidelio by Ludwig Van Beethoven

September 29, October 1, 7, 12, 14, 18, and 20, 2023

This production from the San Francisco Opera brings Beethoven’s only opera back to the COC stage after close to 15 years. Finnish soprano Miina-Liisa Värelä stars as Leonore, a woman disguised as a man named Fidelio in an attempt to save her husband from political imprisonment. American tenor Clay Hilley sings the role of the prisoner Florestan, and rising Canadian soprano and Ensemble Studio graduate Anna-Sophie Neher is Marzelline, the daughter of the prison guard Rocco.

La Bohème by Giacomo Puccini

October 6, 8, 11, 13, 19, 21, 22, and 28, 2023

Tony Award-winner John Caird directs this Canadian Opera Company co-production with Houston Grand Opera and San Francisco Opera. The setting is 19th century Paris, where struggling artists try to pay the rent and find love. Real-life husband and wife, tenor Pene Pati and soprano Amina Edris star as poet Rodolfo and seamstress Mimì. Australian-Chinese tenor Kang Wang will sing the role of Rodolfo for two performances, with a large cast that includes baritone Joo Won Kang as Marcello, current Ensemble Studio soprano Charlotte Siegel as Musetta, Congolese bass Blaise Malaba as Colline, and Canadian baritone Justin Welsh as Schaunard.

The Cunning Little Vixen by Leoš Janáček

January 26, 28, February 3, 8, 10, 14, and 16, 2024

This English National Opera production is conducted by English director Jamie Manton. The story weaves a tale of a fated meeting that changes the lives of all concerned. Canadian soprano Jane Archibald sings the role of Sharp Ears, a fox, and British baritone Christopher Purves sings about trying to domesticate her. London-based designer Tom Scutt created the costumes for this family-friendly opera. It’s a good choice for introducing new opera lovers to the art.

Don Giovanni by Wolfgang A. Mozart

February 2, 4, 7, 9, 15, 17, and 24, 2024

Mozart’s masterpiece is given a darkly glamorous take in this co-production of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, Gran Teatre del Liceu, The Israeli Opera, and Houston Grand Opera. UK-based Amy Lane directs Kasper Holten’s original conception, a supernatural story about vengeance and guilt, set in motion when Don Giovanni’s latest predatory seduction goes terribly wrong. The production features video projections and a cutting-edge revolving set by award-winning designer Es Devlin. Canadian bass-baritone and Ensemble Studio alumnus Gordon Bintner stars as Don Giovanni, with co-stars Romanian soprano Anita Hartig, Armenian soprano Mané Galoyan, and Italian baritone Paolo Bordogna in their COC debuts.

Don Pasquale by Gaetano Donizetti

April 26, May 2, 4, 8, 10, 12, 14*, and 18, 2024

This Scottish Opera production is making its Toronto debut, and is the first time the story appears at the COC in three decades. It’s a comic tale where the aging titular character pursues the same woman as his young nephew Ernesto. Georgian baritone Misha Kiria makes his COC debut as Don Pasquale, with Argentinian tenor Santiago Ballerini returning to Toronto as Ernesto, alongside Canadian baritone Joshua Hopkins as Pasquale’s friend Dr. Malatesta. The set by French-Canadian creative team Renaud Doucet and André Barbe puts the story in 1960s Rome. Canadian Maestro Jacques Lacombe conducts.

Don Pasquale – Ensemble Studio Performance

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

This one-night-only performance features artists of the COC Ensemble Studio performing Don Pasquale, considered a challenging work in the bel canto style. More information here.

Medea by Luigi Cherubini

May 3, 5, 9, 11, 15, 17, and 25, 2024

A co-production of the Metropolitan Opera, Greek National Opera, Canadian Opera Company, and Lyric Opera of Chicago, Medea has never been seen on the COC stage before. The challenging title role is seldom performed. It follows the story of the sorceress who helps Giasone aka Jason and his Argonauts steal the Golden Fleece, only to be abandoned by him for another woman. It unleashes a terrible fury as she seeks revenge. Canadian soprano Sondra Radvanovsky stars in an intense performance, with Scottish director Sir David McVicar, and a number of Metropolitan Opera regulars: American tenor Matthew Polenzani, American soprano Janai Brugger, and American bass-baritone Eric Owens.

Aportia Chryptych: A Black Opera for Portia White by HAUI x Sean Mayes | A world premiere opera

June 14, 15, and 16, 2024

Nova Scotian contralto Portia White gained international fame in the mid-1900s, the first ever Black Canadian to do so on the concert stage. Her legacy and accomplishments were largely forgotten after her death, like that of many other artists from outside the mainstream, until recently. Aportia Chryptych: A Black Opera for Portia White, a Black opera from Canadian director and librettist HAUI and Toronto and New York-based composer Sean Mayes, reclaims her story. Canadian soprano Neema Bickersteth stars, with Emmy Award-winning mezzo-soprano Adrienne Danrich. Spoken word, rap, folk songs, hip-hop, R&B, and classic opera come together in a work that looks to blur the lines and unite communities.

Centre Stage: Ensemble Studio Competition

October 26, 2023

The opera stars of tomorrow compete in the Centre Stage: Ensemble Studio Competition. It’s a chance for audiences to enjoy the fresh energy of uber-talented young singers competing in the final round of auditions for the Ensemble Studio, the COC’s career development program for emerging opera artists. All proceeds from the event go towards supporting the Ensemble Studio.

More information and season subscriptions on sale here. Single tickets go on sale August 28.


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