Tag Archives: North American opera

COC mounts ‘Cenerentola’ with sensational cast . . . and cute contest!

Lawrence Brownlee (foreground) as Don Ramiro in ‘La Cenerentola’

Tenor Lawrence Brownlee as the Prince? Elizabeth DeShong as Cinderella? The two talents together singing classic Rossini?  North American opera simply doesn’t get much better than that.

The Canadian Opera Company’s (COC) spring 2010/2011 season opens with Gioacchino Rossini’s Cinderella (La Cenerentola) featuring a glittering cast in a whimsical rendition. La Cenerentola, an opera for all ages, was created by the Spanish artist collective Els Comediants and led by director Joan Font. Leading the COC Orchestra and Chorus is rising young Italian conductor Leonardo Vordoni, recognized across the United States and abroad for his interpretation of the Italian repertoire.  

COC’s production also includes a Cinderella Outfit Challenge called “Send your Doll to the Ball!” (My aunt and grandmother used to crochet outfits for my Barbie. Is this contest a way cute idea or what?)

Inspired by the crocheted dress-wearing doll used in the creative campaign of the Canadian Opera Company’s production of Cinderella, the opera company launches the Cinderella Outfit Challenge. The gauntlet has been thrown to designers, fashionistas, and those handy with a needle and thread to create a doll’s hand-crafted costume inspired by the classic fairytale.

Participants who submit a photo of their homemade doll costume, inspired by Cinderella, will have a chance to win a prize package including four tickets (plus lounge pass and drink tickets) to the opening night of the Canadian Opera Company’s production of Cinderella (La Cenerentola), an overnight stay at the Hilton Hotel in downtown Toronto, a gift basket from Cheese Boutique valued at $200, and a chance to meet the members of the cast after the performance.

Sung in Italian, Cinderella runs for nine performances at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts on April 23, 28, May 1, 7, 10, 13, 19, 22 and 25, 2011.

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Filed under 21st Century Opera, North American Opera, opera firsts

WNO’s ‘Butterfly’ simply glorious

WNO's elegant 'Butterfly'

In the spirit of full disclosure, I need to say that I was predisposed to write a generous review of Washington National Opera‘s ‘Butterfly’–I received two premium tickets for winning their opera songwriting contest last fall.  However, I  am not the most ardent Puccini fan, which I’ve mentioned on this blog, once comparing him to Nicholas Sparks, also on this blog, so there’s no shrinking from that comment. 

However, WNO’s Madama Butterfly was a synthesis of beauty and artistry–the best live opera production I’ve seen this year. And I’ve seen a bunch–more shows than ever. All the elements worked this time–music, direction, design, costumes, lighting–in tandem to produce a seamless opera experience that was nothing short of transcendent. 

I can scarcely describe the fulfillment I experienced as an audience-goer from such careful shepherding of all production elements toward a common end. 

Credit must go to WNO General Director Plácido Domingo and WNO management for selecting to present the Ron Daniels’ version that was so successful in San Francisco, despite the fact that it’s not a brand spanking new production. It’s a luminous treatment that deserves to be seen and appreciated by audiences on this coast. 

It’s no straight revival, but this version does honor the spirit of more traditional productions. All the artistic choices served the opera, and not the other way around, which, if I may say so,  is becoming annoyingly common  and tiresome these days. 

Audience members were wiping tears away by this scene, when Butterfly waits for Pinkerton

Ana María Martínez was a brave and graceful ‘Butterfly’–her voice was as strong and supple as a nylon string. Under the lithe and lively baton of Plácido Domingo, the orchestra supported the singers as if cradled in a gloved hand. We heard every nuance of Martínez’s performance, and there were so many to enjoy–the gentle trills, the beautifully controlled decrescendos on the highest notes the role demands. Her “Un bel di vedremo” was simply a triumph. She has a pure sound–never overdone–as some Puccini sopranos are wont to do. During a question and answer session after the show, I asked her what goes through her mind at the moment before she sings one of the most famous arias Puccini wrote and she said, “Of course, I’m in character. And after that I am only thinking how much I love singing it.” 

The curtain call was perfectly conceived. After the final scene, the curtain rose, and Martínez took a solitary bow. How fitting. It really is Butterfly’s show. Then the curtain fell and the traditional bows began. Though Martínez had already brought the audience to its feet, the standing ovation continued in sincere appreciation for the part that everyone played in making the production a stunning whole. 

Clearly, Plácido Domingo is that remarkable hand guiding each WNO production to its artistic zenith and will be sorely missed when he steps down at the end of this season. Here’s hoping the next general director will possess even half of his talent, taste, discretion, and maganimous spirit.

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North American Opera . . . the answers

I promised answers to yesterday’s quiz today, and here they are. True confessions time: I didn’t have to work very hard identifying them. One reader, John Gilks, came up with most every answer I needed. I was so tickled I told John he earned a prize,* which will soon be speeding toward his home.

  1. Dmitri Hvorostovsky in SF Opera's Simon Bccanegra/Photo by Terrence McCarthy

    Most people can name the largest opera house in North America. What is the second largest?
    John thought it was Sante Fe, but according to my research, it’s  the Civic Opera House in Chicago, with 3,563-seats, home to Lyric Opera of Chicago; whereas the Metropolitan Opera has 3,800 seats and more than 300 spaces for standing room. The second largest company is San Francisco, by their own accounting.

  2. What is North America’s oldest continuously operating summer opera company?
    It’s Chautauqua Opera, in Chautauqua, New York, founded in 1929.
  3. Can you name three of the most popular operas produced in North American in 2009-10?
    According to OPERA America, the most frequently produced operas in the 2009-2010 season were: The Marriage of Figaro, La bohème, Carmen, Tosca, La traviata, Madame Butterfly, The Magic Flute, Hansel and Gretel, The Elixir of Love and Don Giovanni.
  4. Can you name three of the most popular North American operas presented in 2009-10?
    Per OPERA America, the most frequently produced North American operas in the 2009-2010 season were: George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, Stephen Sondheim’s A Little Night Music, John Adams’s Nixon in China, Lewis Spratlan’s Life is a Dream, Jake Heggie’s Three Decembers and Gian Carlo Menotti’s Amahl and the Night Visitors.
  5. To the closest hundred, how many new operatic works have been produced by professional opera companies in North America since 1990.
    This is OPERA America’s stat, and here’s how they answered it: Over 400 new operatic works have been produced by professional opera companies in North America since 1990.
  6. Name five Canadian cities currently producing opera.
    John actually nailed these answer, so here’s what he said: “Toronto, Hamilton, Waterloo, Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg, Victoria, Richmond Hill, Kawartha Lakes, Quebec, Saskatoon, Regina, Edmonton, Halifax. I’m sure I’m missing some.” (Anyone who reads this blog knows about all the extraordinary opera in Toronto! Or they haven’t been reading “Operatoonity.”)

How I love these audience participation posts! And thanks again, John, for making tonight’s work easier. (I’ll get those nails filed and polished after all.)

*So what did John win? Why, a Manet’s Masked Ball Mouse Pad personalized with the Operatoonity website address.

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Filed under Audience participation, North American Opera, quiz

North American opera . . . a quiz

Winspear Opera House, Dallas, Texas

March came in like a lamb today into the US Northeast where  I live. And just as unobstrusively, Operatoonity’s editorial calendar rolled over to a new theme: North American Opera.

In honor of this month’s theme, I thought a little quiz was in order (Bwahahahaha!)

  1. Most people can name the largest opera house in North America. What is the second largest?
  2. What is North America’s oldest continuously operating summer opera company?
  3. Can you name three of the most popular operas produced in North American in 2009-10?
  4. Can you name three of the most popular North American operas presented in 2009-10?
  5. To the closest hundred, how many new operatic works have been produced by professional opera companies in North America since 1990.
  6. Name five Canadian cities currently producing opera.

(Answers revealed tomorrow . . . right here.)

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Filed under 21st Century Opera, Audience participation, Classic Opera, North American Opera