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Opera in the news: tracking Canadians at home and abroad.


Canadians were extremely successful at the recent George London Foundation Competition, taking home a total of five awards. Soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian won the George London-Leonie Rysanek Award and soprano Cheryl Hickman the George London-Kirsten Flagstad Award, each worth US$7,500. Encouragement Awards of $1,000 each went to soprano Measha Bruggergosman, baritone Joseph Kaiser and bass Robert Pomakov. Bruggergosman's award was given in honor of Lucy Purdy Posik by the Canadian Women's Club of New York, and is designated for a Canadian citizen, while Kaiser's award was given in memory of Robert Jacobson, the former editor of Opera News.

Tenor Ben Heppner received a Juno Award for his recording German Romantic Opera (RCA Red Seal 09026-63239-2), in the category of best classical album, vocal or choral performance.

Theatre Lyrichoregra announced the winners of the Cinquieme Concours d'interpretation de Musique Tcheque et Slovaque. First prize and the Special Jury Prize went to soprano Monica Pauline Huisman and second prize to baritone Sergei Stilmachenko. The third prize was shared by soprano Marina Shemesh and mezzo-soprano Olivia Saragosa.

Opera News chose Kalman's Die Herzogin von Chicago (Decca 466 057-2), conducted by Richard Bonynge and featuring baritone Brett Polegato, as one of the best complete opera recordings for 1999.


This spring, soprano Adrianne Pieczonka, who made a rare Canadian appearance at the Roy Thomson Hall Millennium Opera Gala on New Year's Eve, sang Donna Anna (Don Giovanni) and Elsa (Lohengrin) at the Vienna State Opera, where she has been singing regularly since 1991. Late this year, she will appear as Eva (Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg) in Munich, Tatiana (Yevgeny Onegin) in Vienna and Desdemona (Otello) in Hamburg. In January 2001, Pieczonka will be in Munich for Alice Ford opposite the Falstaff of Bryn Terfel. In May 2001, she returns to Toronto for a recital as part of the Roy Thomson Hall Vocal Series.

Baritone Gino Quilico is making a steady diet of Escamillo these days. He recently appeared in Act IV of Carmen opposite Jose Carreras (Don Jose) and Lorraine Hunt Lieberson in the title role at the Metropolitan Opera Pension Fund Gala. In September, Quilico will reprise the role in Munich, where he is also scheduled to sing Chorebe (Les Troyens) in June 2001.

Soprano Karina Gauvin will have a busy summer. She sings Pamina in Die Zauberflote with Opera de Quebec in June, and in July, she travels to France for Tamerlano with Les miens lyriques, before coming back to Canada to sing at the Elora Festival, Festival of the Sound, Domain Forget and Petronille. In August, she returns to Europe once again to sing at the Holland Early Music Festival in Utrecht. Engagements next season include a tour with Tafelmusik, a debut with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and a recording with the CBC Vancouver Orchestra.

Tenor Robert Breault joins Chautauqua Opera this summer for La Rondine. Other summer appearances include Purcell's Te Deum, Bruckner's Requiem and a solo recital at the Elora Festival. Next season, Breault sings Fenton in Falstaff with the Atlanta Opera, and will also sing in the world premiere of The Elephant Man.

Tenor Michael Schade will be singing Ulysse in a concert version of Faure's Penelope twice next year. In June 2001, he performs the role at the Theatre des Champs-Elysees in Paris, and two months later, he will reprise the role at the Edinburgh Festival. Charles Dutoit will also appear at the Theatre des Champs-Elysees. In September of this year, he conducts a concert performance of Stravinsky's Oedipus Rex.

INfact, many Canadians figure prominently next season on the rosters of major opera houses around the world. Some of these appearances include:

* At the Metropolitan Opera, John Fanning sings in The Gambler and Der Rosenkavalier, John Relyea performs Masetto in Don Giovanni; Michael Schade sings Tamino in Die Zauberflote; Wendy Nielsen will appear as Fiordiligi in Cosi fan Tutte; Richard Margison sings Bacchus in Ariadne auf Naxos and Calaf in Turandot; Gerald Finley will perform Papageno in Die Zauberflote and Marcello in La Boheme; and Ben Heppner sings Florestan in Fidelio.

* At the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Richard Margison will appear in Attila, and Russell Braun in The Great Gatsby.

* Ben Heppner will assay his first Otello in concert form in Munich in July 2001, to be followed by a fully staged production in Chicago in the Fall of 2001.

* San Francisco Opera will feature Richard Margison as Radames in Aida; James Westman as Germont in La Traviata; Judith Forst as Augusta Tabor in The Ballad of Baby Doe; and Gidon Saks as Wurm in Luisa Miller. A revival of Semele will star Tracy Dahl as Iris and John Relyea as Cadmus/Somnus.

* The Paris Opera production of Don Giovanni (Jan.-Feb. 2001) will star three Canadians: Gerald Finley as the Don, Philip Ens as the Commendatore and Gordon Gietz as Don Ottavio. Ben Heppner will make his Paris Opera debut as Peter Grimes in April 2001. In addition, Russell Braun will sing Valentin in Faust (May-June 2001); Nathan Berg will appear as Huascar/Ali in Rameau's Les Indes galantes; and Kimberly Barber will perform Annio in La Clemenza di Tito.

Conductor Yves Abel, artistic director of L'Opera Francais de New York, led a sold-out concert performance of Herold's 1831 opera comique, Zampa, on April 3 at New York's Alice Tully Hall. Zampa had not been heard in New York in over 100 years. Anthony Tommasini of the New York Times praised Abel's conducting for its "elegance, vigor and technical aplomb," and reported that soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian "triumphed as Camille, singing with plush, clear tone and deftly dispatching coloratura."

Bass Paul Sketris, who sang his first Hunding in Die Walkure in Magdeburg, Germany, last September, performed his Canadian program Lieder und Tierische Geschichten aus Kanada for the opening of a new puppet theatre in Schwerin, Germany. The program included Canadian folk songs and a song cycle by the late Canadian composer Violet Archer. Sketris will add Heinrich in Lohengrin to his repertoire later this year, and in September, he sings in the world premiere of Der Machinist by Austrian composer Schanderl in Hannover, Germany.

IN April, baritone Robert de Vrij performed the title role in Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro at the Ithaca Opera Association, Ithaca, NY., as part of the company's 50th anniversary season. De Vrij is a former executive director of Opera Canada and an occasional contributor to the magazine.

Conductor Jacque Lacombe made his Covent Garden debut in April, conducting the ballet Coppelia. Following the run, he returned to Metz, where he is artistic director of the Philharmonie de Lorraine, to lead a new production of Berg's Lulu. Another Canadian, soprano Ray-Anne Dupuis, made her debut in Metz in the title role, while the rehearsal pianist was Montrealer Esther Gonthier, who is also a rehearsal pianist at l'Opera de Montreal, l'Atelier de l'Opera de Montreal and with the Montreal Symphony.


This summer, Opera Atelier undertakes its third Asian tour in three years. Its production of Don Giovanni will debut at the New National Theatre in Tokyo, the first of 12 performances that will encompass a total of nine cities. The 70-strong touring company includes artistic director Marshall Pynkoski, choreographer Jeannette Zingg, music director David Fallis, sopranos Meredith Hall (Donna Elvira) and Nathalie Paulin (Zerlina), baritone Curtis Sullivan (Masetto), bass-baritone Paul Grindlay (Leporello) and tenor John Tessier (Don Ottavio), as well as a 32-piece orchestra led by Andrew Parrott. Three additional performances will be held at the Canadian ambassador's official residence, and the final performance will honor Prince and Princess Takamado.


Richard Armstrong, extended vocal specialist for music theatre and opera programs at the Banff Centre for the Arts, is collaborating with composer Linda Bouchard as director and librettist on a new opera to be based on Eduardo Galeano's Book of Embraces. Vancouver New Music will perform the work later this year.

IN March, Autumn Leaf Performance presented the world premiere of its newly commissioned work Electric Flesh, an electroacoustic opera in one act by Wende Bartley and Thom Sokoloski, as part of the Musiques-en-scene festival at Opera de Lyon. The opera is scored for mezzo-soprano, baritone, signal-processed soprano, 16-voice children's choir and electroacoustic tape, combining sound textures built from acoustic instrumental, vocal and soundscape sources. It featured an all-Canadian cast including baritone Gregory Dahl, mezzo-soprano Marcia Whitehead and dancer Susanna Hood. Direction and production design was by Sokoloski, with costume design by Heather MacCrimmon.


The Chateau Ramezay Museum in Montreal has announced the creation of l'Opera du Chateau, a new troupe specializing in 18-century opera, particularly opera comique. The company mounted Joseph Quesnel's Lucas et Cecile in April, and will present its next production in May 2001 as part of the conference on Jean-Jacques Rousseau and music, organized by the Music Department of the Universite du Quebec a Montreal.


The Canadian Opera Company Ensemble Studio for the 2000-2001 season will include sopranos Martha Guth, Cheryl Hickman, Shannon Mercer and Jennie Such; tenors Roger Honeywell and David Pomeroy; and baritone Joseph Kaiser. Returning for a third season will be mezzo-soprano Krisztina Szabo and baritone Andrew Tees. Vivienne Wang will be the apprentice coach. The program was founded in 1980 with a continuing grant from Imperial Oil Ltd. and with assistance from the federal government. Auditions take place every fall in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver and, if numbers warrant, Calgary. For more information, contact the COC's director of music administration at (416) 363-6671.


This season marks the 50th anniversary of the Canadian Opera Company, and the COC chose La Boheme, one of the three operas produced in its inaugural season, as the centrepiece for its golden anniversary celebration. On the April 6 opening night, many of the principals involved in the first season attended a gala performance at Toronto's Hummingbird Centre for the Performing Arts. A special announcement honoring these artists was made before curtain, followed by a post-performance reception. The guests of honor (and the roles they performed in 1950) included Elizabeth Benson Guy (Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni), George Crum (chorusmaster and assistant conductor), Mary Morrison Freedman (Mimi in La Boheme), Patricia Snell (Musetta in La Boheme; Countess Ceprano in Rigoletto), June Kowalchuk-Eggleton (Gilda in Rigoletto), Joan Hall (Maddalena in Rigoletto), Glenn Gardiner (Benoit in La Boheme; Masetto in Don Giovanni; Usher in Rigoletto), Margaret DesJardins (Donna Elvira's maid in Don Giovanni; Page in Rigoletto), Nicholas Goldschmidt (conductor and co-founder of the COC) and Joanne Mazzoleni (widow of Dr. Ettore Mazzoleni, principal of the Royal Conservatory and supporter of the opera company).


IN March, L'Opera de Quebec celebrated the millennium with a special production of Mozart's Die Zauberflote directed by Bernard Labadie with Les Violons du Roy and set design by Michel Nadeau. What made this production particularly unusual was that, some months earlier, a competition had been held in Quebec elementary schools in which students were invited to submit sets and costume designs for the opera. A panel of judges chose the winning designs, which were intended to serve as inspiration for the final staged production. All the designs accepted by the panel were on display at the Grand Theatre de Quebec during the run of the opera.
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Author:So, Joseph
Publication:Opera Canada
Date:Jun 22, 2000
Previous Article:Opera in review.
Next Article:Debut: Measha Bruggergosman.

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