This is the first Parsifal to be staged in COC history
Toronto – For the first time in decades, a fully staged production of Richard Wagner’s Parsifal will be presented in Canada, opening the Canadian Opera Company’s monumental 2020/2021 season with a company premiere at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts. Cast with more than 100 singers, an orchestra of 110 musicians, and a nearly six-hour run-time, this journey of one knight’s quest for the Holy Grail offers Canadian audiences a rare opportunity to experience Wagner’s thrilling final masterpiece in Toronto, in a celebrated COC co-production directed by François Girard.
“Mounting the first Parsifal in Canadian Opera Company history has been a journey all its own,” says COC General Director Alexander Neef. “To stage a production of this magnitude, dreamed into reality by the creative giants of our industry, says so much about the strength of Canadian opera. Parsifal was a goal that we set as a community of opera lovers and it brings me immense pride to know that what we’ve accomplished already is a direct result of the overwhelming and continued support of our passionate supporters.”
In a remarkable display of community support, hundreds of donors from all across Canada have already stepped forward to help bring Parsifal to the COC mainstage through the company’s Monumental fundraising campaign. Individuals can still play a part in bringing this landmark production to Canadian audiences, and enjoy special perks and behind-the-scenes opportunities to enhance the historic experience. Full details can be found at coc.ca/Monumental.
Parsifal anchors a season that moves from sweeping legends to deeply personal stories. In the fall, it is paired with The Marriage of Figaro by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, a subversive comedy where servants topple their masters and women prove wiser than the men around them. The winter spotlights two heroines who live by their own rules: Carmen by Georges Bizet, one of the most popular operas ever composed, and Katya Kabanova by Leoš Janáček, a rarely performed 20th-century masterpiece that hasn’t been seen at the COC in nearly 30 years. In the spring, audiences are transported from glittering Paris to the shadows of the underworld, with La Traviata by Giuseppe Verdi, featuring a cast headlined by Sondra Radvanovsky and Vanessa Vasquez, followed by a critically acclaimed production of Christoph Willibald Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice.
For COC General Director Alexander Neef, his final season with the company represents a full spectrum of human experience. “In curating this milestone season, we wanted audiences – whether they are joining us for the first time or as one of our regular subscribers – to come away from each performance as though they have completed a journey of their own,” says Neef. “Our 20/21 operas portray blissful highs and heart-plummeting anguish; they dive into and explore epic and intimate dimensions – sometimes all in the course of a single night.”
The COC welcomes back a number of internationally renowned artists to the Four Seasons Centre next season: Sondra Radvanovsky as Violetta Valéry and Joseph Calleja as Alfredo Germont in La Traviata; Russell Braun and Emily D’Angelo as the Count and Cherubino in The Marriage of Figaro, with Josef Wagner reprising the role of Figaro; Michael Fabiano as Don José and Joyce El-Khoury as Micaëla in Carmen; Alain Coulombe as Zuniga in Carmen and Dikoy in Katya Kabanova; Susan Bullock as Kabanikha and Cecelia Hall as Varvara in Katya Kabanova; and Johan Reuter as Amfortas with David Leigh as Gurnemanz and Titurel, in Parsifal. Directors David Alden, Arin Arbus, Robert Carsen, and Joel Ivany also bring their creative talents back to the helm of upcoming COC productions.
20/21 also marks the COC mainstage debuts of: Christopher Ventris as Parsifal, Tanja Ariane Baumgartner as Kundry, and Mika Kares as Gurnemanz in Parsifal; Louise Alder as Susanna and Johanni van Oostrum as the Countess in The Marriage of Figaro; J’nai Bridges as Carmen and Adam Palka as Escamillo in Carmen; Richard Trey Smagur as Tikhon, Amanda Majeski as Katya; Artur Ruciński as Giorgio Germont in La Traviata; and Iestyn Davies as Orfeo in Orfeo ed Euridice.
The COC is also deepening its commitment to new and young audiences in 20/21 with the launch of Vox, a membership program for patrons aged 19-40. Vox is a way for members to connect with other arts-lovers in the city, offering a flexible, à la carte opera experience that includes behind-the-scenes access and invitations to exclusive post-performance parties with fellow members. Membership begins at $10/month, with details at coc.ca/Vox.
20/21 SEASON AT-A-GLANCE
Parsifal by Richard Wagner
Seven Performances: September 25, 27 and October 3, 4, 9, 17, 18, 2020 Co-production with the Metropolitan Opera and Opéra national de Lyon Sung in German with English SURTITLESTM
Wagner’s final opera, based on the medieval myth of the Holy Grail, is an epic saga that transcends sheer musical experience, crossing over into poetic meditation and philosophic reflection. Above all else, Parsifal is a redemption story. The Knights of the Grail are at a loss after the stinging defeat of their king at the hands of a dark magician; Amfortas has been incurably wounded by the Holy Spear, but prophecy has told of a pure, chosen one who will arrive to restore order and heal all. Can young Parsifal – so innocent, he doesn’t even know his own name – be the one to conjure magic and miracles powerful enough to save them all?
Acclaimed French-Canadian film and theatre director François Girard presents Parsifal’s fabled journey through a post-apocalyptic world that has withered to near nothingness under continued global warming. Working with award-winning Canadian set designer Michael Levine and lighting designer David Finn, Girard depicts barren landscapes bisected by rivers of blood, shifting silhouettes against pillars of light, and mirrored curtains that invite audiences to literally reflect on their existence as part of a larger community. Clean lines and minimalist costuming from Belgian-born Thibault Vancraenenbroeck inject a sense of timelessness while choreography by Carolyn Choa adds a layer of subtle solemnity. Peter Flaherty is the interactive artist responsible for mesmerizing video projections of glowing red clouds and spinning planets.
British tenor Christopher Ventris, renowned for his performances of the Wagnerian repertoire, takes on the demanding role of Parsifal. Russian-born tenor Viktor Antipenko, known for his effortless, expansive sound, sings the title role for two performances. Danish baritone Johan Reuter sings the role of Amfortas, while German mezzo-soprano Tanja Ariane Baumgartner is the mysterious Kundry. Klingsor the sorcerer is sung by Canadian bass Robert Pomakov, and Finnish bass Mika Kares takes on the role of Gurnemanz. American bass David Leigh is Titurel and sings Gurnemanz in two performances. Canadian tenor and Ensemble Studio graduate Owen McCausland returns to the COC as the First Knight of the Grail. Current Ensemble Studio artist Vartan Gabrielian joins the cast as the Second Knight of the Grail, also taking on the role of Titurel for two performances in the run.
COC Music Director Johannes Debus leads the COC Orchestra through his first Parsifal. Price Family Chorus Master Sandra Horst masterfully guides the COC Chorus through some of opera’s largest ensemble pieces.
Cast and Creative Team
- Parsifal: Christopher Ventris and Viktor Antipenko*
- Amfortas: Johan Reuter
- Kundry: Tanja Ariane Baumgartner
- Klingsor: Robert Pomakov
- Gurnemanz: Mika Kares and David Leigh*
- Kundry: Tanja Ariane Baumgartner
- Titurel: David Leigh and Vartan Gabrielian*
- First Knight of the Grail: Owen McCausland
- Second Knight of the Grail: Vartan Gabrielian
- Conductor: Johannes Debus
- Director: François Girard
- Set Designer: Michael Levine
- Costume Designer: Thibault Vancraenenbroeck
- Lighting Designer: David Finn
- Video Designer: Peter Flaherty
- Choreographer: Carolyn Choa
- Price Family Chorus Master: Sandra Horst
- *Oct. 4 and 17
The Marriage of Figaro by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
In this wildly popular opera, it’s wedding day for Figaro and his bride-to-be, Susanna. But before these two can get to their vows, they’ll have to get to the altar in this twisting musical comedy – no easy task with Figaro’s boss, Count Almaviva, keen on laying claim to Susanna first. As staff scramble to outsmart Almaviva at his own game, it’s soon clear that, in this house, it’s the servants who outrank in cunning and class.
German theatre director Claus Guth, who draws inspiration from the dramatic works of Henrik Ibsen and August Strindberg, has created a darker take on the opera’s commedia dell’arte origins. Clean, monochromatic sets and classic, tailored costumes by German designer Christian Schmidt, shift focus to the rollercoaster plot unfolding onstage. Dramatic lighting design is by Olaf Winter with video design by Andi A. Müller and choreography by Ramses Sigl, a regular collaborator of Guth.
Austrian bass–baritone Josef Wagner reprises the role of wily Figaro from the COC’s 2016 presentation, opposite British soprano Louise Alder as Susanna and South African soprano Johanni van Oostrum as Countess Almaviva. Seasoned Canadian baritone Russell Braun reprises his role as the Count and rising Italian-Canadian mezzo-soprano Emily D’Angelo is Cherubino; the two reunite onstage after last co-starring together in the COC’s Cosi fan tutte (2019), with D’Angelo recently earning widespread accolades for her “magnetic” (Toronto Star) performance as Rosina in the COC’s The Barber of Seville (2020). Also reprising their roles from 2016 are Irish-Canadian tenor Michael Colvin as Don Basilio, Canadian bass Robert Pomakov as Dr. Bartolo, and American mezzo-soprano Helene Schneiderman as Marcellina. American soprano Jana McIntyre sings the role of Barbarina and Canadian baritone and Ensemble Studio graduate Doug MacNaughton completes the cast as Antonio.
The Marriage of Figaro features some of the most recognizable music Mozart ever wrote. British conductor and current Music Director at Santa Fe Opera Harry Bicket returns to lead the COC Orchestra with Price Family Chorus Master Sandra Horst leading the COC Chorus.
Cast and Creative Team
Figaro: Josef Wagner
Susanna: Louise Alder
Countess: Johanni van Oostrum
Count: Russell Braun
Cherubino: Emily D’Angelo
Don Basilio: Michael Colvin
Dr. Bartolo: Robert Pomakov
Marcellina: Helene Schneiderman
Antonio: Doug MacNaughton
Barbarina: Jana McIntyre
Conductor: Harry Bicket
Director: Claus Guth
Set & Costume Designer: Christian Schmidt