A month or so ago I speculated on what might be in the 2013/14 Canadian Opera Company season. Today I attended the official launch. I got two out of seven right. Yes, I officially suck as a seer (a seersucker?). Oddly, the two I got right were ones I’d worked out for myself and the two I’d based on hot tips turned out to be wrong. So it goes.
So what’s new and exciting? The biggest excitement for me is Peter Grimes. Ben Heppner will sing Grimes which is great though part of me really wants Stuart Skelton. Alan Held will sing Balstrode, which is also terrific casting, and Ileana Montalbetti will sing Ellen. I think casting Ileana is a wonderful decision and I really look forward to seeing her in a major role. The production is by Neil Armfield and has been seen previously in Houston and at Opera Australia.
I’m also pretty stoked about the Peter Sellars Hercules. The cast; Eric Owens, Alice Coote, David Daniels, Lucy Crowe and Richard Croft is spectacular and Harry Bicket will conduct. Sellars and Handel is a great combination. His Glyndebourne Theodora remains for me one of the greatest examples of how to bring a 250 year old work to a contemporary audience
I’m intrigued by Jossi Wieler and Sergio Morabito’s Un ballo in maschera. It’s set in the deep South in the Kennedy era so could be quite interesting. Again it’s a strong cast. Adrianne Pieczonka sings Amelia with Dimitri Pittas as Riccardo. Simone Osborne sings Oscar which is a bit of a departure from her previous soubrette type roles. Interesting!
There’s also a new Atom Egoyan Così fan tutte. It looks quite promising with convincing casting for the lovers;Layla Claire, Wallis Giunta, Paul Appleby and Robert Gleadow, a return for Tracy Dahl as Despina and a COC debut for Sir Thomas Allen as Don Alfonso. We’ll have to see what the local Durham alumni/ae can do about that. This production will also get an Ensemble Studio performance.
A Stephen Lawless Roberto Devereux is also strongly cast with Sondra Radvanovsky making her role debut ahead of appearing in McVicar’s production at the Met. Russell Braun, Giuseppe Filianoti and Allyson McHardy round out the cast.
I’m not a huge Massenet fan but I’d go see a Don Quichotte with Ferruccio Furlanetto, Quinn Kelsey and Ekaterina Gubanova any day. Alexander Neef seems not dissimilarly inclined. I forget his exact words about Manon but it could be paraphrased as “over my dead body”. The photographs of Linda Brovsky’s production suggest that this is pretty trad with a real horse and so on.
Last (and probably least) there’s a La Bohème from John Caird. Alexander Neef talked up the production concept but I’m guessing while the staging may be technically slick it will be basically traditional and short on ideas. I hope to be proved wrong. It’s the bums on seats production with twelve performances and is double cast. It’s a bit short on star names though it’s good to see David Lomeli back as Rodolfo and Simone Osborne is the second cast Musetta. It’s a bit of a shame they are not singing together as they showed exceptional chemistry in Rigoletto.
So what’s the bottom line? The strongest feature is the starry casts. The ability of the COC to attract the very best talent is now clear for all to see. The productions look a bit of a mixed bag. I can’t complain about Sellars, Armfield, Egoyan or Wieler/Morabito. Some of the others look a bit Gelbish. I’m a bit disappointed in the choice of rep. It will be two seasons running with nothing less than fifty years old and two seasons with nothing, musically, remotely edgy. Still, better here than in Philadelphia!
Also, I’ve just done the sums and it appears that their will be a total of 57 performances (plus the Ensemble Studio Cosi) down from 61 plus the ES show this year. Nothing was said but I think it’s a smart move. There was a fair amount of discounting at the start of this season and, as I’ve pointed out in previous analyses, discounting is a slippery slope where price realization drops much more steeply than utilisation.
As ever, thanks to Jennifer at the COC for the excellent press kit from which the photographs are taken.