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The COC’s 2020-2021 season

The Four Seasons Centre (© Lucia Graca)

The Canadian Opera Company has announced its 2020-2021 season with the usual number of six productions. In the casts listed below an asterisk denotes a COC debut.

Opening the season is the long-awaited Parsifal, a co-production with Lyon (where it played in 2012) and the Met, where it has been produced in 2013 and 2018. Not only is it the COC premiere, it has never been produced in Canada before. The title role will be shared with Christopher Ventris* and Viktor Antipenko*, and Gurnemanz shared by Mika Kares* and David Leigh. Tanja Ariane Baumgartner* will be Kundry, Johan Reuter, Amfortas, and Robert Pomakov, Klingsor. Johannes Debus will conduct the seven performances September 25 to October 18. A special fund-raising campaign for the big-budget work is still in progress.

Also in the fall: the Claus Guth production of Le nozze di Figaro, last produced here in 2016. Harry Bicket will conduct, with Josef Wagner as Figaro, Louise Alder* as Susanna, Johanni van Oostrum* as the Countess, Emily D’Angelo as Cherubino, and Russell Braun as the Count. Eight performances from October 20 to November 7.

The winter season will see the return of the Michael Yeargen-designed Carmen under the direction of Joel Ivany who also directed its last appearance here in 2016. J’nai Bridges* will assume the title role, with Michael Fabiano as Don José, Joyce El-Khoury as Micaëla, and Adam Palke* as Escamillo. Johannes Debus will conduct the nine performances January 23 to February 21.

Accompanying Carmen will be another opera with a doomed heroine, Janácek’s Kátya Kabanová, last produced by the COC back in 1994, this time in David Alden’s production from ENO. Amanda Majeski* will play the title role, with Susan Bullock as Kabanikha, Michael König as Boris, Richard Trey Smagur* as Tikhon, and Matthew Cairns as Vanya. Johannes Debus will conduct the seven performances February 6 to 20.

The spring season will see a return of La traviata, last seen here in 2015. Stephen Lord will conduct; Sondra Radvanovsky will share the title role with Vanessa Vasquez, with Joseph Calleja as Alfredo and Artur Rucinski* as the elder Germont. (Many will assume this is Joseph Calleja’s debut with the COC but his previous role here was Rodolfo in La bohčme back in 2000.) Nine performances April 17 to May 16.

Closing the season will be a revival of Robert Carsen’s emotionally cogent production of Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice, last seen here in 2011. The seven performances (opening May 1) will be conducted by Bernard Labadie, and will feature Iestyn Davies* in the title role with Anna-Sophie Neher as Euridice and Mireille Asselin as Amore.

The upcoming season will be General Director Alexander Neef’s 13th and last with the company before he goes to head the Paris Opera but, given the advance planning required in the opera world, his influence will be felt for some time to come. There are two commissions on the way, by Ana Sokolovic and Julien Bilodeau, and co-productions such as the William Kentridge production of Lulu and Kaija Saariaho’s Only the sound remains.

His tenure here is considered a great success despite persistent audience shrinkage (a problem not unique to the COC). In 2007-2008 the COC gave 76 performances of seven operas when the new and very successful theatre, the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, helped draw an enthusiastic audience. It has been downhill since; by 2014-15 there were 56 performances of just six works. Next season: just 47 performances. Lets hope his successor maintains Neef’s strengths (casting a particular strong point) while attracting more patrons.

Michael Johnson



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