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7 reasons we're amped for the COC's 2018-19 season

Robert Rowat

After teasing us for a week with cryptic "Love is the problem" and "Love is the answer" posts on social media, the Canadian Opera Company (COC) has announced its 2018-19 season, built on the theme of (surprise?) love.

"In our 2018-19 season, we’re challenging ourselves and our audience to look at a fundamental human experience — love — through an unexpected array of works that has the capacity to reshape how we understand our hearts and minds,” says COC general director Alexander Neef via press release.

That array of works comprises six productions:

  • Tchaikovsky: Eugene Onegin
  • Wainwright: Hadrian (new production, world premiere)
  • Strauss: Elektra
  • Mozart: Così fan tutte
  • Puccini: La bohème
  • Verdi: Otello

They've invited an impressive roster of singers, ranging from notable newcomers to established veterans making important role debuts, to bring these operas to life.

Below are seven reasons we're amped for the COC's new season. Consult their detailed listing here.

1. Because we want to see if Rufus Wainwright's Hadrian lives up to the hype

The commissioning and eventual production of Rufus Wainwright's first opera, Prima Donna, was a convoluted affair with mixed results. With Hadrian, the COC has been methodical and intelligent, pairing Wainwright with librettist Daniel MacIvor to turn this chapter of ancient Roman history into a viable gay-themed opera, and enlisting superstars Thomas Hampson and Karita Mattila to lead the cast. The Four Seasons Centre is the place to be on opening night, Oct. 13. Complete details here.

2. Because we can't miss another role debut by Gerald Finley

We've been so envious of everyone catching Canadian baritone Gerald Finley in his role debut as Scarpia in the Royal Opera House's current production of Tosca that we've vowed not to miss his first staged performance as Iago in Verdi's Otello at the COC. He has recorded the role, but never performed it in public. (He also told us that Otello is the best opera ever.)

3. Because Christine Goerke is a beast

Christine Goerke wowed the Toronto crowd as Brünnhilde in Wagner's Götterdämmerung back in 2017, and now people across North America are flocking to hear her sing Strauss's Elektra — she sang it in San Francisco last September, is performing it in Houston this month, and will sing it at the Metropolitan Opera under Yannick Nézet-Séguin in March. By January 2019, when the COC's production opens, we will be so ready.

4. Because Eugene Onegin will be so real

The COC has cast four rising singing actors (including three Canadians) as the age-appropriate principals in its season-opening production of Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin, bringing what we predict will be a chilling realism to the tragic story. Making his title role debut, baritone Gordon Bintner will sing opposite scene-stealing soprano Joyce El-Khoury as Tatyana, with tenor Joseph Kaiser (Lensky) and mezzo Varduhi Abrahamyan (Olga) getting entangled in their doomed liason.

5. Because Tracy Dahl is reprising Despina

We're so glad Atom Egoyan's production of Mozart's Così fan tutte is coming back in 2019, with the same Despina! If you've never seen Tracy Dahl's sparkling, hilarious take on this role, this is your chance. She will crack you up. Of course, Così is an ensemble piece and the rest of the cast includes some exciting newcomers — soprano Kirsten MacKinnon (Fiordiligi), mezzo Emily D'Angelo (Dorabella), tenor Ben Bliss (Ferrando) and baritone Johannes Kammler (Guglielmo) — with veteran Russell Braun (Don Alfonso) keeping watch.

6. Because there'll be more Russell Thomas

The tenor who triumphed in both Carmen and Norma at the COC in 2016 will be back in 2019 to take on the hefty title role in Verdi's Otello. While Russell Thomas sang the role for the first time last October, in a concert version with the Atlanta Symphony, this COC production will mark his first fully staged performance. Expect a more lyrical vocal performance than is customary in this role, amplified by Thomas's commanding presence.

7. Because John Caird's beautiful Bohème is back

There's got to be Puccini, and we don't know of a more enchanting option than Tony Award-winning John Caird's 2014 production of La bohème, making a welcome return to the COC in April 2019. Its gorgeous sets and costumes, seemingly summoned from a Raoul Dufy painting, will provide the backdrop for the ups and downs of Puccini's lovable bohemians, double-cast in this production: sopranos Angel Blue and Miriam Khalil (Mimì), tenors Atalla Ayan and Joshua Guerrero (Rodolfo), sopranos Andriana Chuchman and Danika Lorèn (Musetta), and baritones Lucas Meachem and Andrzej Filończyk (Marcello).

While you wait for the 2018-19 season to begin, catch the COC's current production of Verdi's Rigoletto, opening Jan. 20 at the Four Seasons Centre in Toronto. Head over to the COC's website for details.

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