Sunday, September 11, 2011

Feature: Opera across the country

Love From Afar, coming to the COC
(Photo: Annemie Augustijns)

Opera Nation
Canadian opera companies juggle Italian masterpieces with mainstream Broadway fare for their 2011-2012 seasons
By Richard Burnett

The upcoming 2011-2012 opera season across Canada continues to rely on old Italian classics by such tried-and-true composers as Giuseppe Verdi, Rossini, Puccini and Leoncavallo.

But there are also a few surprises, such as at the Vancouver Opera which kicks off its 52nd season with an eight-night revival of the classic Broadway musical West Side Story at the VO’s home base, the Queen Elizabeth Theatre (eight shows, from Oct 22-29).

The proximity of the dates underscores how this production is being treated as the Broadway musical it is (it even co-stars Ontario native Cleopatra Williams who performed in the Toronto musicals We Will Rock You and Jersey Boys) despite the 30-piece VO Orchestra.

Personally, I think musical theatre being revived by an opera company is a cynical ploy to sell tickets, but VO General Director James Wright says, “I am especially excited to be bringing West Side Story to Vancouver audiences. It has been staged by several opera companies throughout the world but to my knowledge never by a Canadian opera company. Our production will be big and bold and new, using the original Jerome Robbins choreography that we all love, colourful sets and costumes.”

Susan Graham (centre) as Iphigenia in the Lyric Opera of Chicago production of Iphigenia in Tauris. Photo: Robert Kusel

The Vancouver Opera season continues with three more productions, Gounod’s version of Shakespeare’s tragic Romeo et Juliette (four performances, from Nov. 26 to Dec. 1); Rossini’s comic opera The Barber of Seville (five performances, March 17-25); and the closing production of Giuseppe Verdi’s famous Ancient Egyptian opera Aida (six performances, from April 21 through May 3).
Also, congratulations to the Vancouver Opera who – after a 10-year search – recently moved into their new offices and rehearsal hall in East Vancouver, the Michael & Inna O’Brian Centre for Vancouver Opera.

Meanwhile, the Opéra de Québec – backed by L’Orchestre symphonique de Québec – launches its 28th season with Tchaïkovski’s Eugène Onéguine (four performances, Oct. 22-29). Their second production, Giuseppe Verdi’s Falstaff, will close Quebec’s brief opera season (four performances, May 12 – 19). This Italian-language production will also feature must-see Canadian soprano and rising star Marie-Josée Lord portraying the role of Mrs Meg Page.

The Edmonton Opera – which has yet to announce its new artistic director following the July 2011 resignation of Brian Deedrick, who had been with the Edmonton Opera for nine years – will feature three productions this season, down from four in 2010-2011.

The upcoming season debuts with the double bill of Cavalleria Rusticana (Turiddu returns from military duty to discover his fiancée betrothed to another in a cold-blooded Sicilian story of love and honour) and Leoncavallo's classic Pagliacci (October 22, 25 and  27 2011 at the Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium). Then it is Gilbert and Sullivan's best–loved opera The Mikado (February 4, 7 and 9) and, to close the season, Beethoven’s only opera, Fidelio, being played for the very first time in Alberta (April 21, 24 and 26).

The OdM art for Trovatore
Toronto’s internationally-acclaimed Canadian Opera Company (or “The COC” as they are lovingly called) launches their highly-ambitious seven-opera season with Christoph Willibald Gluck’s 1779 adaptation of the play Iphigenia in Tauris by the ancient Greek dramatist Euripides, a co-production of Lyric Opera of Chicago, San Francisco Opera and Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. There will be eight performances at Toronto’s Four Seasons Centre over three weeks (Sept. 22 to Oct. 15) as The COC juggles Iphigenia in Tauris with a new COC production (originally designed for Lyric Opera of Chicago a decade ago) of Guiseppe Verdi’s Rigoletto, from Sept. 29 to Oct. 22. 

Rounding out The COC’s 2011-2012 season are Giacomo Puccini’s masterpiece Tosca (Jan. 21 to Feb. 25), Love From Afar (Feb. 2 to 22), The Tales of Hoffmann (April 10 to May 14), A Florentine Tragedy / Gianni Schicchi (April 26 to May 25) and Semele (May 9 to 26).

After The COC, Canada’s second-largest opera company, L’Opéra de Montreal, launches its 32nd season with Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro, featuring a terrific international cast including American soprano Nicole Cabell as Countess Almaviva (four performances, Sept. 17-24).

Other L’OdeM productions this season are Rusalka (Nov. 12-19); Giuseppe Verdi’s ever-popular Il Trovatore (Jan. 21-28); Rossini and His Muses, a collaboration with L’OdeM’s renowned Atelier lyrique, training ground for young professional opera singers since 1984, with the National Theatre School of Canada (four performances, March 10-17); and finally Gounod’s Faust (four performances, May 19-26) to close the season. Also note that all start times at L’Opéra de Montreal are now 7:30 p.m.


  1. There is also Pacific Opera Victoria in BC, whose 2011-2012 season will present 4 productions:

    MARY'S WEDDING (Nov 10-20)
    CARMEN (Feb 16-26, 2012)
    MARIA STUARDA (April 12-22

    Find out more by surfing to


  2. And it's difficult trying to figure out what's up on the Saskatoon Opera's website, which doesn't have link for 2011-2012 season

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