The Canadian Opera Company is celebrating its Diamond Anniversary this year. Based in Toronto, the COC as it is commonly referred to, is one of the largest opera companies in North America. The company recently moved to its new theatre in the downtown core (pictured above), after spending decades near the waterfront at the O’Keefe Center, and before that, the Royal Alexandra Theatre. Acoustically the new theatre has gained a reputation which surpasses virtually every other house across the globe. Not an easy feat when you are obliged to share your pied de terre with a ballet company; one art form is all about sound from the stage, while the other is the direct opposite. Here are some opening night reviews on the theatre;
“The interior of the hall has the intimacy and elegance of a great European opera house and yet has a simple, refined, contemporary look.
“One American critic noted approvingly that it is a very welcoming house. It’s not your stuffy old gilt stucco and red velvet. It doesn’t look like an elitist culture palace for the privileged rich. It’s for everyone. . . . Toronto has an opera house to rival the best in the world.” CBC Radio 1
“The new Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts is a glorious setting for opera.” Variety
“Canada’s largest city has a new opera house with a near-perfect balance of clarity and spaciousness. . . .” Dallas Morning News
“. . . [R. Fraser Elliott Hall] is a splendid auditorium in the traditional horseshoe configuration with four upper rings. The house boasts handsome blond wood floors and comfortable seats with plenty of leg room. Best of all, there are only 2,000 seats and the acoustics, the work of the acoustician Robert Essert, seem excellent.” New York Times
“The warm acoustics have ample clarity and promote excellent balances between orchestra and stage. ” Cleveland Plain Dealer
“The 2,100-seat theatre, with lots of beech and maple wood and a sea of taupe-coloured surfaces, hasn’t a note of ostentation or pretension in it. The relative intimacy of the space underlines that it is very much a people’s place, not a temple to opera snobs.” Baltimore Sun
“What a difference the new Toronto opera house makes. The experience of going to the opera here has been lifted to a new level: acoustically, visually, maybe even socially.” National Post
“The new Four Seasons Centre itself emerged triumphant…displaying a splendidly accommodating acoustic and a spacious stage and pitarea with near perfect sight lines from practically all its 2,000 seats.” Opera~Opera magazine (Australia)
And just how popular is the COC? very VERY popular. Here is what they had to say on this point: The Diamond Anniversary season, Madama Butterfly and The Nightingale and Other Short Fables, closed to 99.6% capacity. A total of 22 of the total 24 performances in the fall run played to 100% capacity with over 49,000 people attending. Madama Butterfly ran for 15 performances and the world premiere of The Nightingale and Other Short Fables ran for nine performances—one more than originally scheduled due to an unprecedented demand for tickets. This statistic continues a sustained series of record attendance numbers for the COC, averaging at least 99% since the opening of the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts in 2006. I do not know of another house across the gobe that does this well. COMMANDOpera can speak from personal experience of the difficulty attempting to reach the martini and wine bar during intermissions. Here is a promo clip from The Madama Butterfly this past season;
Under the auspices of the company, their audience has been thrilled over the past 60 years by the most illustrious artists of every discipline. Conductors, singers, stage directors, set designers, recognise the importance and prestige of having their art displayed with the COC; Horne, Vickers, Sutherland, Caballe, Pavarotti, Domingo, Pons, Bonynge, Nilsson, Rydel, Sass, Heppner, Morris,……. and the list continues unabated. To add to the cool factor of turning 60, the COC in conjunction with its Broadcast Partner, CBC Radio 2, each opera in the COC’s 2009/10 season will be aired twice nationally on CBC Radio 2 and Radio-Canada’s Espace Musique, and the broadcasts of COC recordings also will be available for internet streaming on both the Canadian Opera Company website, coc.ca, and on CBC Concerts on Demand, cbc.ca/radio2, for a period of 12 months after the initial streaming date. Broadcasting COC productions hasn’t happened in twenty years, due in large part I suspect because it requires co operation from numerous unions, associations, et al. This reminds me some, of the goodwill the Lyric Opera has with its unions, and it only speaks well of the management of the COC. COMMANDOpera understands the COC’s Madama Butterfly will air on CBC Radio 2’s Saturday Afternoon at the Opera on November 28, 2009; The Nightingale and Other Short Fables will air on December 5, 2009. Concerts on Demand and future broadcast dates are yet to be confirmed.
The COC making history. The acclaimed soprano Dame Joan Sutherland in her first portrayal on stage as Anna Bolena (I was in attendance of this very performance, 6 rows from the orchestra slight left of center).