The Canadian Opera Company (COC) is doing a good job of living up to its name, offering an upcoming season filled with Canadian talent.
The season announcement at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts had a pretty starry audience, including several artists performing both this year and next. Director Peter Sellars and tenor Ben Heppner were there, a few days before the first performance of Tristan Und Isolde. Also attending were tenor Michael Schade - soon to play the title role in La Clemenza Di Tito - and Russell Braun, whose performance sparked the 2012 season opener, Il Trovatore.
Current and past members of the COC Ensemble, including Simone Osborne, were on hand and will step into roles in 2013-14 performances.
Look for three new productions and as many company premieres in the lineup, which includes seven shows in all: four Italian works, two in English and one in French, covering operas from the 18th to the 20th centuries.
The season opens in October with Giacomo Puccini's La Bohème in a staging new to the COC; Osborne will be one of the two artists singing the tempestuous Musetta, while another Canadian soprano, Joyce El-Khoury, will sing alternate performances as Musetta and the tragic Mimi.
It's followed by Benjamin Britten's masterpiece, Peter Grimes, featuring Heppner in the title role and Ileana Montalbetti, a fine actor/singer and Ensemble grad, as Ellen Orford, the one person constant to the troubled Grimes. Director Neil Armfield has already helmed two Britten operas for the COC, Billy Budd and A Midsummer Night's Dream.
The winter season (January-February) pairs works by Wolfgang Mozart and Giuseppe Verdi. It begins with director Atom Egoyan's new production of Mozart's romantic comedy Così Fan Tutte, in which two men disguise themselves and bet that they can successfully woo the other's lover. Let's see what Egoyan does with the tale of fickle attractions; he's apparently playing up the work's subtitle, The School For Lovers. Members of the COC Ensemble take over a performance February 7.
The Verdi opera is Un Ballo In Maschera, set here in the 1960s American South. It'll be worth checking out in part for the debut of Adrianne Pieczonka in the role of Amelia, caught between two men and all sorts of political and personal intrigue.
The April-May season starts with George Frederic Handel's Hercules, also given an American setting. Director Sellars's production turns the classic warrior into a returning U.S. war veteran. This co-pro with the Lyric Opera of Chicago features the same cast as its premiere, including Eric Owens, Alice Coote and the fine countertenor David Daniels.
It's followed by Gaetano Donizetti's Roberto Devereux, in which Elizabeth I (Canadian Sondra Radvanovsky, remembered for her Aida a few years ago) fears her lover, the title character, is fooling around with another woman. Braun is also in the cast.
The season ends with a rarely staged French work, Jules Massenet's take on the Cervantes classic, Don Quichotte, featuring Ferruccio Furlanetto as Quichotte and Quinn Kelsey, who scored as Rigoletto last season, as Sancho Panza.
For more information, see coc.ca.
Ensemble goes Roman
Speaking of the COC Ensemble, this year's members get a chance at a mainstage production Wednesday (February 6).
They perform Mozart's La Clemenza Di Tito, working with the same artistic team as the more experienced cast, who open the show Sunday (February 3); we'll be reviewing that opening presentation next week.
Tenors Christopher Enns and Owen McCausland share the title role of the Roman emperor Titus (Tito). The others are Rihab Chaieb in the male role of Sesto, Neil Craighead as Tito's right-hand man, Publio, and Sasha Djihanian and Claire de Sévigné as young lovers Annio and Servilia.
You can expect fireworks from Ambur Braid as the volatile Vitellia, who tries to convince the smitten Sesto, though he's loyal to Tito, to kill the emperor. She was one of our top 10 artists in 2012.