Canadian Opera Company Announcement

Against a snowy backdrop at the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre in The Four Seasons Centre, the COC dropped a bit of a surprise announcement into their 2009-2010 Season unveiling when General Director Alexander Neef introduced the company's new Musical Director, Conductor Johannes Debus.

Apparently Debus's time at the helm of the COC Orchestra during War And Peace was a great experience for all involved, to the point where Neef decided to cut short the process of Musical Director selection, expected to take up to two years, and offered the position to Debus immediately.

"Finding a music director has been my priority from the moment I was appointed General Director. It’s a crucial position for a company with an orchestra and chorus of such a high calibre and one that has been without a musical leader for over a year," said Alexander Neef. "Watching Johannes throughout War and Peace, I realised that we not only had a remarkable talent here, but one who has truly exceptional chemistry with the performers. I decided to act quickly instead of putting the company through a long wait without a musical leader. Johannes’s background and training is without parallel, and he has a very rare rapport with the musicians and the whole company. We have caught him on the verge of a great career and we are lucky that he was able to make himself available as soon as next season."

It's a bold move that ensures that Debus, who would have been near the top of the selection committee’s picks anyway, is not committed to other projects that might have hindered his availability for the top slot.

And it seemed a popular decision with the crowd of subscribers at the press conference who applauded the announcement heartily (there were even a couple Bravos thrown in) in a warm welcome to the company.

And Mr. Debus seemed equally pleased to be in Toronto, at the helm of an excellent orchestra, playing in one of the most highly regarded halls in the world.

"I cannot tell you how delighted and honoured I am to be appointed as the Music Director of the Canadian Opera Company," said Mr. Debus. "The two months last fall in Toronto and my experiences with everyone at the COC have been so positive that I felt at home immediately. War and Peace was such a wonderful production and the orchestra and chorus so fine that I am sure the next few years will exceed even my highest expectations. I can’t wait to get started!"

As for the coming season next year, there are some really exciting developments not the least of which is the inclusion of Puccinni's Madama Butterfly, a production potentially so popular the COC has double cast it in order to do twice the number of performances, and the return of Robert Lepage to the COC stage.

The 60th anniversary season opens with a revival of Giacomo Puccini’s treasured masterpiece Madama Butterfly.

A favourite amongst audiences, Madama Butterfly is the story of Cio-Cio-San (Butterfly), a young geisha who marries an American naval officer only to be deserted when he takes an American wife. Her hope for his eventual return and her longing for a lifetime together, make the opera’s tragic ending even more heartbreaking.

The cast is led by Romanian soprano Adina Nitescu and former COC Ensemble Studio soprano Yannick-Muriel Noah as the innocent Cio-Cio-San.

Madama Butterfly runs for 15 performances on September 26, 29, 30, October 8, 10, 14, 16, 18, 21, 23, 25, 27, 29, 31, and November 3, 2009 and is sung in Italian with English SURTITLES

The fall season continues with a world premiere of visionary Canadian director Robert Lepage’s new creation of Stravinsky’s works – The Nightingale and Other Short Fables.

Mr. Lepage returns to the COC for the first time since the 1993 award-winning production of Bluebeard’s Castle/Erwartung, considered to be "one of the COC’s finest achievements" (Opera).

The Nightingale and Other Short Fables includes The Nightingale, inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s fairytale, as well as the folk-based melodies of his darkly comic barnyard fable The Fox, and the jazz-tinged orchestral piece, Ragtime.

This co-production with the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence and Opéra national de Lyon, in collaboration with Robert Lepage’s production company Ex Machina, draws on storytelling traditions from both ancient and contemporary culture, incorporating the charm and mystery of southeast-Asian puppetry.
Making her COC debut as the devoted Nightingale is Russian sensation, soprano Olga Peretyatko.
Ms Peretyatko began her singing career with the Hamburg State Opera, and in 2007 was awarded the second prize at Plácido Domingo’s Operalia competition. The Fisherman, is sung by German tenor Lothar Odinius, and the Emperor is sung by bass Ilya Bannik.

The Nightingale and Other Short Fables runs October 17, 20, 22, 24, 30, and November 1, 4, 5, 2009 and is sung in Russian with English SURTITLES

Opening the winter run is a COC revival of one of the world’s most popular operas, Georges Bizet’s Carmen.

A tantalizing masterpiece of lyric theatre, Carmen is a tragic love story about the alluring gypsy’s seduction of a young soldier.

Carmen is a co-production with Opéra de Montréal and San Diego Opera, and runs January 27, 30, February 2, 5, 7, 9, 11, 14, 17, 20, 23, and 27, 2010 and is sung in French with English SURTITLES

One of Giuseppe Verdi’s penultimate operas, and considered by many to be his greatest tragedy, Otello continues the winter season.

Based on the Shakespearean tragedy, Othello, a former slave has risen to the rank of general and has found love with his devoted wife, Desdemona. Iago, Otello’s lieutenant, plays on Otello’s main weakness, jealousy, and manipulates him causing Otello to lose everything.

Otello runs February 3, 6, 10, 13, 16, 19, 22, 25 and 28, 2010 and is sung in Italian with English SURTITLES

A revival of Richard Wagner’s haunting music drama, The Flying Dutchman opens the COC’s spring season.

The story of a ship captain condemned by Satan to sail for eternity until he finds salvation in the unconditional love of a woman, is set to some of Wagner’s most gloriously romantic music.

The Flying Dutchman runs April 24, 28, May 2, 8, 11, 14, 17, and 20, 2010 and is sung in German with English SURTITLES

Continuing the spring season is a COC premiere and Canada’s first fully-staged production of Gaetano Donizetti’s Maria Stuarda.

Based on Schiller’s play, Donizetti draws from the historical conflicts between Mary, Queen of Scots and her cousin Queen Elizabeth I.

Maria Stuarda, a Dallas Opera production, runs May 1, 4, 10, 13, 22, 26, 28, and 30, 2010 and is sung in Italian with English SURTITLES

The 2009/10 season closes with a new production of Mozart’s early masterpiece Idomeneo.

Idomeneo, King of Crete, returns home following victory in the Trojan War, when a sudden and violent storm overpowers his ship. He is saved by Neptune, God of the Sea, and in exchange for his life, rashly promises to sacrifice the first mortal he meets, but, when safe on shore he is horrified to encounter his only, and much-loved son Idamante.

Idomeneo is a co-production with Opéra national du Rhin, and runs May 9, 12, 15, 18, 21, 25, 27, and 29, 2010 and is sung in Italian with English SURTITLES

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