I believe there is nothing more exciting than a preview or the unveiling of a new season, be it opera, ballet, a film festival and so forth.
It feels like a gift from a store that you have coveted for a long time: you recognize the wrapping and hence you can visualize and anticipate the entity of the object. It is one the most enticing ways to foretaste what will come.
Just last night, the COC unveiled its next season, announcing the repertory and the cast for 2019-20, a billboard that offers a bouquet of 6 beautiful titles that will appeal to seasoned operagoers (in Italian, melomani) and neophytes alike.
This year the overal proposal falls under the leitmotiv of the primordial opening of ‘Once upon a time…’ as it broadly puts on display mystery, magic and love, since love conquers us all, as we know very well.
The 2019–20 season opens September 28 with Giacomo Puccini’s Turandot, pronounced with a sounding -t, as Maestro Arturo Toscanini used to remind his pupils. This incomplete masterpiece is presented in a new COC co-production, conducted by Milanese Carlo Rizzi, directed by Robert Wilson (“a towering figure in the world of experimental theater”, The New York Times) with the costumes by Jacques Reynaud.
Based on Carlo Gozzi’s play, the opera is a fairy tale that revolves around the beautiful and cold-hearted Chinese Princess Turandot and the Prince of Tartary Calaf. The princess expects her suitors to answer three riddles, or else, they’ll be beheaded. After successfully answering the riddles, Calaf insists that Turandot marry him for love, but she has to discover his name by morning. The rest is either history or you’ll find out next year.
Our very own conductor Johannes Debus will lead a David McVicar production of Antonín Dvorák’s Rusalka. It opens October 12 starring internationally acclaimed soprano Sondra Radvanosky in the title role, Matthew Rose as Vodnik, Elena Manistina as Jezibaba and Pavel Černoch as the prince. With this opera, Dvorak retold the eternal myth of the mermaid and the unimaginable love between two beings, who stand for two different worlds. Rusalka, an aquatic maiden, falls in love with a Prince who comes often to swim in the lake where she resides. But he cannot see her, for she is made of water. Rusalka’s father, a Water Sprite, warns her that humans are evil but the nymph is helped by a witch, Jezibaba, to become human. In so doing, she will lose the power of speech and immortality. Rusalka agrees…
Without doubt, the most popular aria from this opera is the “Song to the Moon” (“Měsíčku na nebi hlubokém”) from the first act, which was performed last night at the Four Seasons Centre. [Oct. 12 -26, 2019]
To kick off the new year (Jan.19 – Feb. 7, 2020), we’ll be hearing the merry, bubbly tunes of Gioacchino Rossini and his galvanizing Barbiere di Siviglia. The Barbiere is allegedly one of the most well-known operas by the Italian composer and his shrewd jack of all trades is the vital ingredient to the love story between the Count of Almaviva and beautiful heiress Rosina and the whole plot. ‘Largo al factotum’ and ‘Una voce poco fa’ are some staple arias and testbeds from the universal operatic repertoire for both baritones and contraltos (or sopranos). Originally, Rossini wrote the role of Rosina for Geltrude Righetti, the contralto who also created Angelina in his La Cenerentola, but throughout the years has been sung by mezzosoprano and even soprano (remember, the firework-like performances by Italian-American soprano Anna Moffo?)
To appeal to the families and a much younger audience, in February we will assist to Engelbert Humperdink’s Hansel and Gretel, which premiered in 1893. It is directed by Joel Ivany, from Against the Grain Theatre, conducted again by Debus. The costumes are by Toronto-based designer Ming Wong. Surely an irresistible production with Emily Fons in the role of Hansel and Simone Osborne as Gretel. [Feb. 6-21, 2020]
The Spring of 2020 will hail the grand melodies of Giuseppe Verdi’s Aida, conducted by Jader Bignamini. Under the direction of Tim Albery, we’ll follow the raging emotional journey of the enslaved Princess Aida who falls in love with Radames, torn apart between her political duty and personal affection. Tamara Wilson will sing in the title role, paired with American tenor Russell Thomas as Radames. [April 18-May 8, 2020]
The curtain falls on another ghostly, fairy tale-like opera, something that I am personally looking forward to: Richard Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman (Der fliegende Holländer, WWV 63). The music of the German composer so much loved by king Ludwig II will make us sail the seven seas together with smitten Senta, the female protagonist. Johannes Debus will come back to lead this closing opera, conducting Vitalij Kowaljow in the title role, praised for the depth and richness of his voice, one of the leading basses of his generation, and Marjorie Owens as Senta, winner of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, who has been receiving a great acclaim as one of the most exciting young dramatic sopranos of our time. [May 1-16, 2020]
Whether you’ve been to the opera countless times or just a handful, I can assure you that next year’s season is something really precious and represents quite the achievement for the COC, that has established itself as one of the leading opera companies around the world.
Have you ever been to an opera before? And if so, what is your favourite opera of all time? What do you think of the COC’s 2019-20 repertoire?
I will soon write and post on my personal relationship with this art form and share some thoughts and tips about what to expect from a night out at the opera!