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Volume 18 Issue 5 - February 2013

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Beat by Beat | On

Beat by Beat | On OperaFirsts ForemostCHRISTOPHER HOILEOn january 2 3 Canadian Opera Company General DirectorAlexander Neef announced his 2013/14 season. Neef hasassembled a particularly starry line-up of singers and directors,but what is immediately striking about this season, the COC’s64th, is that three of the seven operas have never been presented bythe COC before. This is only the fourthtime since 1990 (1991/92, 2008/09 and2011/12 were the others) that this has happened.Having their COC premieres, backto back in spring 2014, will be Handel’sHercules, Donizetti’s Roberto Devereuxand Massenet’s Don Quichotte. Addingspice to the season is that Hercules is alsoone of three COC-commissioned newproductions.The 2013/14 season opens, in fact, withone of these new productions: Puccini’sLa Bohème. The opera was last seenhere in 2009 and this will be its 15thappearance making it the COC’s mostAlice Coote as Dejanira andEric Owens as Herculesin the Canadian OperaCompany/Lyric Opera ofChicago co-productionof Hercules, 2011.often staged opera. The new production,opening October 9, will be directedby Canadian-born British director JohnCaird, who directed Verdi’s Don Carlosfor the company in 2007, and is probablymost famous for the original productionof Les Misérables, which has been runningin London since 1985. Italian conductor Carlo Rizzi leads theCOC Orchestra and Chorus. Alternating in the role of Mimì are Italiansoprano Grazia Doronzio and Canadian soprano Joyce El-Khoury.The role of Rodolfo, Mimì’s lover, is shared by young tenors, MexicanDavid Lomelí (Rigoletto, 2011) and Romanian Teodor Ilincăi.Alternating with La Bohème will be a production of BenjaminBritten’s Peter Grimes, celebrating the centenary of the composer’sbirth, and starring Ben Heppner in the title role. Last at the COCin 2003, this Grimes will be the company’s third. Australian directorNeil Armfield, who directed Ariadne auf Naxos here in 2011,A Midsummer Night’s Dream in 2009 and Billy Budd in 2001, directs,and COC Music Director Johannes Debus makes his Brittendebut. Three COC Ensemble Studio alumni appear — soprano IleanaMontalbetti, tenor Roger Honeywell, and baritone Peter Barrett. AlanHeld, last year’s Gianni Schicchi, sings Captain Balstrode.The winter season opens on January 18, 2014, with Mozart’s Cosìfan tutte running in repertory with Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera.Così will be a new COC production by Canadian film directorAtom Egoyan, his third production for the COC (Salome, 1996 andDie Walküre, 2004). Debus conducts. Cast as the sisters are twoCanadians — soprano Layla Claire in her COC debut as Fiordiligi andmezzo-soprano Wallis Giunta returning for a second season in a row,this time as Dorabella. The sisters’ two suitors are American tenor PaulAppleby (Ferrando) and COC Ensemble graduate bass-baritone RobertGleadow (Guglielmo). Beloved Canadian soprano Tracy Dahl returnsto the COC stage after a 19-year absence in the role of the wily servantDespina. Famed baritone Thomas Allen makes his COC debut asDon Alfonso.For Un ballo in maschera Canadian soprano Adrianne Pieczonkaand Greek-American tenor Dimitri Pittas make their role debuts aslovers Amelia and Riccardo. British baritone Roland Wood is Renato,Amelia’s husband; acclaimed Canadian mezzo-soprano Marie-NicoleLemieux is the fortune teller Ulrica; and rising Ensemble Studiograduate, soprano Simone Osborne, is Oscar the page.A question that always arises with Ballo is where it will be set — in18th-century Stockholm, as Verdi intended, where King Gustav IIIwas assassinated in 1792, or in Boston during the British colonialperiod, where censors forced him to move the action because of itsincendiary plot. The directing duo Jossi Wieler and Sergio Morabitostir the pot again, by locating this production from the BerlinStaatsoper in the American South of the 1960s with its resonances ofKennedy-era tensions and assassinations.Spring 2014 brings the three premieres. First up on April 5 isHandel’s Hercules (1745) in a new co-production with Lyric Opera ofChicago directed by the renowned Peter Sellars. Sellars’ productionwhich moves the action from mythological Greece to the present daywon universal acclaim when it premiered in Chicago in 2011. The COCpresentation will use the Chicago cast, and what a cast. Americanbass-baritone Eric Owens makes hisCOC debut as Hercules; British mezzosopranoAlice Coote is Hercules’s wifeDejanira; American countertenor DavidDaniels returns to the COC as Hercules’trusted aide, Lichas; American tenorRichard Croft returns as Hercules’ son,Hyllus; and British soprano Lucy Crowemakes her COC debut as Iole, a princessHercules has taken captive. Conductingis Baroque specialist and COC favouriteHarry Bicket. In 2012 Tafelmusikpresented a staged concert version ofHercules directed by Opera Atelier’sMarshall Pynkoski. Anyone who saw itwill know that it is a powerful drama toldin glorious music.Beginning April 25, 2014, is a realrarity, Donizetti’s Roberto Devereux(1837). This opera, along with MariaStuarda (1835) and Anna Bolena (1830),comprises what is sometimes calledDonizetti’s “Three Queens” trilogy. It was first presented as a trilogyin 1972, with Beverly Sills as the slighted British monarch in each production.From 2007 to 2010 Dallas Opera mounted all three directedby Stephen Lawless and using a set inspired by Shakespeare’s GlobeTheatre. The COC’s Maria Stuarda was part of the Dallas Operaseries and so is this Roberto Devereux. Is there an Anna Bolena inthe wings?American soprano Sondra Radvanovsky, our Aida in 2010, makesher role debut as the central character Elisabetta, in love with thecourtier Devereux. Making his COC and role debut as Devereux isItalian lyric tenor Giuseppe Filianoti. Also making role debuts areCOC favourites, Canadian baritone Russell Braun and mezzo-sopranoAllyson McHardy as the Duke and Duchess of Nottingham. Italianconductor Corrado Rovaris makes his COC debut.The final presentation of the 2013/14 season is another rarity, DonQuichotte (1910), one of the last operas by French composer JulesMassenet (1842–1912). The last time the COC presented an operaby Massenet was Werther in 1992. Don Quichotte has become ashowcase work for great basses with Samuel Ramey, José van Damand John Relyea recently essaying the role. Italian Ferruccio Furlanettomakes his COC debut in the title role of the iconic idealistic dreamer.Metropolitan Opera star, Russian mezzo-soprano Ekaterina Gubanova,makes her COC debut as Quichotte’s beloved Dulcinée. Americanbaritone Quinn Kelsey, acclaimed here for his Rigoletto in 2011,returns to makes his role debut as Don Quichotte’s realistic sidekick,Sancho Panza. American Linda Brovsky, who helmed this productionat the Seattle Opera, makes her COC debut as director. JohannesDebus conducts. Many see this opera not only as Massenet’s lovingstudy of Cervantes’ hero but as the composer’s farewell to the age ofromanticism that had inspired him throughout his life and that hesaw fading with the dawn of the 20th century. The opera runs May 9 to24, 2014. Visit to inquire about subscriptions.Christopher Hoile is a Toronto-based writer on opera andtheatre. He can be contacted at ReST20 February 1 – March 7, 2013

Beat by Beat | In With the NewMusical FuturesWENDALYN BARTLEYFor the adventurously minded, the act of music making can beall about paving the way for the future of music to unfold. If youwere to think 50 years ahead or even 25, what would your predictionbe for how music will be created, experienced and listened to?This year’s New Creations Festival presented by the TorontoSymphony Orchestra from March 2 to 9 will be an opportunity tocatch a glimpse of what may be in store for the music lovers of 2050.When the TSO invited American composer and technology wizard TodMachover to both curate the 2013 festival and compose a new work forit, Machover began dreaming big.He started with the question — what does the city of Toronto soundlike? He added to that question the vision of opening up the creativeprocess to anyone who wanted to participate. This new symphonicwork was to be a collaboration on a massive scale with the citizens ofToronto, resulting in something that could not have been done by anyone individual. And with this mandate before him, Machover steppedonto the road of future music making where he envisions collaborationat the core of each piece, and professional musicians movingbeyond teaching and mentoring people to the act of “making thingswith them.”With such an expansive vision to live up to, the tools required forcreating A Toronto Symphony: Concerto for Composer and Cityincluded both new ways of composing and the invention of new technologies.And since Machover is renowned for his technologicalprowess as a major player at the MIT (Massachusetts Institute ofTechnology) Media Lab, designing new musical technologies is at theheart of how he thinks and creates.The collaborative activities began by inviting people to upload audiorecordings of what they considered to be distinctive Toronto sounds.People responded to the call with a wide variety of sounds, harmoniesand melodies that represented their experience of the city. OriginallyMachover thought that these exchanges would take place online, butby early July of last year, he knew that something more was needed.His answer was to get on a plane and fly north to engage directly withpeople by recording sounds, trading music and trying out variousideas. He met with musicians from the TSO, indie bands at TorontoIsland’s All Caps Festival, cyclists attending the Toronto Bicycle MusicFestival and a group called FYI Kids atop the CN Tower.Now what to do with this array of sounds and music? For someonelike Machover, the answer was obvious — develop software tools forcollaborative composing. Three music apps were designed by his colleaguesat MIT: Constellation, Media Scores and City Soaring. Thesegave people easy ways to create their own mixes and textures from thebank of sound recordings, to paint the quality of a composed melodyand to contribute their own variations on music that Machover hadalready written. No previous skill required, just an open mind, a senseof play and inquisitive ears.We’ll all get to hear the fruits of this groundbreaking processon March 9 at Roy Thomson Hall in the third concert of the NewCreations Festival. For those of you who want to dive deeper into thevarious components of this undertaking, the whole story — includingaccess to the music apps — is chronicled on Facebook: Toronto Symphony’s New Creations Festival begins on March 2,just as this month’s WholeNote cycle ends. When looking at theentirety of this year’s landmark festival curated by Machover, it isstriking to see the weaving together of visionary innovation amidst anhomage to the past. Symphony audiences will be introduced to composersnot that well known in this city — people such as Mason Bates,composer-in-residence with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, andSteven Mackey. Both these American composers turn to music fromother sources for their inspiration. In Bates’s work Alternative Energy,February 1 – March 7, 2013 21

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