Back when my home company was four-per-year Edmonton Opera, the formula for their season planning was pretty easy to figure out. It typically consisted of:
- Gilbert & Sullivan in alternate years, with Mikado, Pinafore, and Pirates in rotation
- One of Puccini’s “big three” (Tosca, Boheme, Butterfly) alternating with popular Verdi or equivalent cash cow (Carmen)
- One generally well-liked but slightly less well-known opera (L’Elisir, Hoffmann, any Mozart comedy)
- One “challenge” (The Rake’s Progress, Bluebeard’s Castle)
For someone just getting into opera, as I was in the late 90′s, this season setup was actually pretty good – a chance to see the classics that had taught me to love the form, plus a toe in the waters of “difficult” operas. But as I listened to more recordings and attended more performances, I started to get tired of the same-old and yearned for a little more variety. The COC’s new season appears to be a delight – out of seven operas, the only two qualifying for “cash cow” status are Aida and The Magic Flute, and those are borderline cash cows anyway next to this season’s (dull) Butterfly.
So, what’s on the list?
Aida – I’ve seen this only once on stage, at Edmonton Opera in 1999-ish (or maybe twice? I might have gone to both the dress rehearsal and the “regular” performance for this one). The production involved an enormous golden eagle under which the principals cowered. I hope elephants will factor into the COC’s take.
Death in Venice – completely unfamiliar to me. I’m not the biggest Britten fan but will be excited to see this.
The Magic Flute – possibly my very first “favourite opera”, thanks to the Classical Kids cassette tape my mom bought for me as a young’un. I would start singing the Queen of the Night’s aria at various inappropriate moments. Despite this history, I still feel slightly annoyed when I see parents bringing their young children to “real” productions of this opera. There are long stretches with no dragons, bird catchers, or beautiful sparkly star dresses, and I’m pretty sure my 8-year-old self would have been bored.
Nixon in China – AWESOME YAY
La Cenerentola – meh. I went through a Rossini phase and it’s mostly over now. Still, I’m glad to see a non-Barbiere Rossini pick.
Ariadne auf Naxos – This was the first opera I saw outside of Canada, in Barcelona’s Gran Teatre del Liceu. Edita Gruberova was Zerbinetta. It was part of a backpacker-style trip to Spain with two friends. Our seats were in the highest balcony, and we could only see half of the stage. The surtitles were in Catalan and Spanish, and I had only a vague idea of the plot. Still, it remains one of my most fondly-remembered operatic experiences. Having only seen opera in the not-acoustically-rich Jubilee Auditorium in Edmonton, I marveled at how the sound at the Liceu seemed to hang suspended in the air. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing this again.
Orfeo ed Euridice – I’m usually bored by baroque opera (except when Opera Atelier is responsible). Still, someone has to do it. And people seem to like Isabel Bayrakdarian.