Stage Door News

Toronto: Canadian Opera Company announces its 2019/2020 season

Monday, February 4, 2019

The Canadian Opera Company offers three bold new productions in 2019/2020 that hone in on the stories and myths that shape our perceptions – and the ones that offer escape from all things ordinary. This 69th season features new productions of Puccini’s TurandotDvořák’s Rusalka, and Humperdinck’s Hansel & Gretel, as well as COC revivals of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, Verdi’s Aida, and Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman.

“The need to hear and share stories is essential to the human experience,” says COC General Director Alexander Neef. “It begins with the fairy tales told to us as children, is developed through the history and literature learned as students, and later inspires the art we seek and create as adults. Stories can entertain, but they are also a powerful way to inform and give voice to important topics and perspectives. This season, we have curated a selection of operas that are magnetic for their extraordinary scores and vivid storytelling – and remarkable for their ability to tap into the emotions and motivations that unite us.”

“Our 19/20 operas also represent a valuable opportunity for ourselves, as creators, to challenge existing notions of how best to tell these stories,” says Neef. “Opera, by its very nature, is a collaborative art form, and presents us with endless ways to reimagine them for a renewed sense of resonance, amid changing times and better cross-cultural understanding.”

The COC welcomes back to the Four Seasons Centre a number of internationally acclaimed artists who have thrilled Toronto audiences in previous seasons, including: soprano Sondra Radvanovsky in Rusalka’s title role with soprano Keri Alkema as the opera’s Foreign Princess; soprano Tamara Wilson as the title roles of Turandot and Aida; soprano Joyce El-Khoury as Liù in Turandot; mezzo-soprano Emily D’Angelo as Rosina in The Barber of Seville; tenor Michael Colvin as The Witch in Hansel & Gretel; tenor Russell Thomas as Radames and baritone Roland Wood as Amonasro in Aida; and tenor Michael Schade as Erik in The Flying Dutchman. Directors Tim Albery, Christopher Alden, Joan Font, and Joel Ivany also return for the 19/20 season.

This season also marks the COC mainstage debuts of some of the most accomplished opera artists in the world, including tenor Sergey Skorokhodov as Calaf in Turandot; bass Matthew Rose as Vodnik in Rusalka; baritone Vito Priante as Figaro in The Barber of Seville; and bass Vitalij Kowaljow as the Dutchman in The Flying Dutchman. This season is also the first to showcase visionary directors Robert Wilson and David McVicar, as well as the orchestral leadership of Italian conductors Speranza Scappucci and Jader Bignamini.

TURANDOT by Giacomo Puccini

Nine Performances: September 28, October 4, 9, 15, 17, 19, 23, 25, 27, 2019

New Production (COC co-production with Teatro Real Madrid, Houston Grand Opera, and the Lithuanian National Opera and Ballet Theatre of Vilnius)

Sung in Italian with English SURTITLESTM

Princess Turandot has a fierce reputation that precedes her royal name. Adamantly opposed to being passively matched with a husband, she counters with a high-stakes challenge to admirers: answer her three riddles and win her hand in marriage. Answer incorrectly and pay dearly – with your life. As a steady stream of suitors find themselves face-to-face with the executioner, Prince Calaf takes on the deadly game and has a mystery of his own that turns the tables on icy Turandot.

Renowned theatre director Robert Wilson lends his innovative visual artistry to this production; he and designer Stephanie Engeln have created a distinctly modern set that echoes Turandot’s glacial demeanor in its clean lines and sleek minimalism. Wilson and lighting designer John Torres paint the stage in dramatic chiaroscuro. Against this backdrop, costumes designed by Jacques Reynaud create striking figures, cloaked in rich colour, shape, and texture. Makeup design is by Manu Halligan; and Tomek Jeziorski completes the creative team as projection designer.

American soprano and Richard Tucker Award-winner Tamara Wilson shares the title role with soprano Marjorie Owens; Turandot is a role debut for both artists. Russian tenor Sergey Skorokhodov and Bulgarian tenor Kamen Chanev share the role of the daring Calaf while Slovak bass Stefan Kocan takes on the role of Calaf’s father, the vanquished King Timur; all three performances are COC debuts. Lebanese-Canadian soprano and Juno nominee Joyce El-Khoury and Colombian-American soprano Vanessa Vasquez share the role of the devoted Liù. Taking on the roles of Turandot’s ministers are three internationally acclaimed artists: Moldovan baritone Adrian Timpau as Ping; Korean-American tenor Julius Ahn as Pang; and Taiwanese-American tenor Joseph Hu as Pong.

Italian conductor Carlo Rizzi is praised by singers and audiences alike for his mastery of the operatic craft; he leads the COC Orchestra through a score that was designed to thrill and that features the widely-performed classical crossover aria, “Nessun dorma.” The COC Chorus, led by Price Family Chorus Master Sandra Horst, performs some of opera’s most epic music together with the Canadian Children’s Opera Company.

Cast and Creative Team

Tamara Wilson and Marjorie Owens*
Sergey Skorokhodov and Kamen Chanev*
Joyce El-Khoury and Vanessa Vasquez**

Carlo Rizzi
Robert Wilson

RUSALKA by Antonín Dvořák 

Seven Performances: October 12, 16, 18, 20, 22, 24, 26, 2019

New Production (Lyric Opera of Chicago production)

Sung in Czech with English SURTITLESTM

Rooted in classic mermaid mythology, Rusalka is the tale of a sensitive water nymph that falls for a charming prince. Desperate to join him, she enlists the help of the witch Ježibaba, and sacrifices her voice and idyllic immortality in water for human life on land. But the prince has a fickle heart and Rusalka soon finds that she’s an outcast in both realms. Haunting her is the knowledge that a single dark solution remains if she’s ever to reverse her fate.

Sir David McVicar makes his COC debut at the helm of this dreamy production. Knighted in 2012 for his services to opera, McVicar has worked with the world’s leading opera houses, including Royal Opera House, Lyric Opera of Chicago, and the Metropolitan Opera. Scottish set designer John Macfarlane brings Rusalka’s watery realm to life, while Moritz Junge has created the cast’s elaborate and whimsical costumes. Moody lighting by David Finnimmediately transports the senses, while Welsh choreographer Andrew George lends his expert touch to whirling ballet sequences.

Canadian-American soprano Sondra Radvanovsky returns to the COC following her triumphant run in Anna Bolenain spring 2018. The star singer takes on the title role of Rusalka with Czech tenor Pavel Černoch as the Prince who captures her heart. In role debuts, British bass Matthew Rose and Slovakian bass Stefan Kocan share the role of Rusalka’s father, Vodnik. They are joined by Russian mezzo-soprano Elena Manistina as the witch Ježibaba and American soprano Keri Alkema as the Foreign Princess, who reunites with her Anna Bolena co-star, Radvanovsky.

Dvořák’s sweeping score is full of nocturnal serenades and includes the beloved “Song to the Moon” aria; it’s conducted by COC Music Director Johannes Debus, leading the COC OrchestraPrice Family Chorus Master Sandra Horst leads the COC Chorus.    

Cast and Creative Team

Sondra Radvanovsky
Matthew Rose and Stefan Kocan*
Elena Manistina
Pavel Černoch
Foreign Princess
Keri Alkema

Johannes Debus
Sir David McVicar

THE BARBER OF SEVILLE by Gioacchino Rossini

Eight Performances: January 19, 22, 25, 30, February 1, 2, 4, 7, 2020

COC Revival (COC co-production with Houston Grand Opera, Opéra National de Bordeaux, and Opera Australia)

Sung in Italian with English SURTITLESTM

Fast-talking Figaro is everyone’s go-to guy. He cuts hair, he trims beards, and – given the chance – he’ll help land the girl. So when Count Almaviva shares his heartache over the lovely Rosina, Figaro has a plan to help. But first, the pair will have to outsmart Rosina’s lecherous guardian Bartolo, who has been angling to marry the wealthy orphan himself, and they’re sparing no long-shot schemes along the way. Delightful chaos and infectiously catchy music have made this an audience favourite for centuries and this production from Spanish theatre troupe Els Comediants does not disappoint.

Spanish director Joan Font is the founding member of Els Comediants and has brought more than 30 productions to the stage; he leads this lively and exceptionally animated version of The Barber of Seville. Joan Guillén takes on set and costume design, creating colourful, asymmetrical backdrops and larger-than-life characters that mimic the comedy unfolding onstage. The production features lighting by Albert Faura and buoyant choreography by Xevi Dorca

Italian baritone Vito Priante makes his COC debut as the wily Figaro, opposite fast-rising Italian-Canadian mezzo-soprano Emily D’Angelo; D’Angelo, a graduate of the COC Ensemble Studio, returns to the COC in her role debut as Rosina. Argentinian tenor Santiago Ballerini makes a COC debut as Count Almaviva, and Italian baritone Renato Girolami takes on the role of Bartolo. American bass-baritone Brandon Cedel rounds out the cast as the cunning Don Basilio. 

Italian-born and Julliard-trained conductor Speranza Scappucci is considered one of the leading conductors of her generation; she makes her COC mainstage debut in leading the COC Orchestra through Rossini’s playful score, chock-full of the most memorable melodies in all opera. Price Family Chorus Master Sandra Horst leads the COC Chorus.

Cast and Creative Team

Vito Priante
Emily D’Angelo
Santiago Ballerini
Renato Girolami
Brandon Cedel

Speranza Scappucci
Original Director
Joan Font

HANSEL AND GRETEL by Engelbert Humperdinck

Seven Performances: February 6, 8, 11, 15, 16, 19, 21, 2020

New Production (COC co-production with the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity)

Sung in German with English SURTITLESTM 

The familiar childhood fable gets the full-scale opera treatment in this exciting new production. When Hansel and Gretel’s mother sends them into the woods to gather berries, the pair finds a candy-coated cottage – and a witch who’s looking to make them her next meal. But the evil sorceress is no match for these siblings, who gamely launch a cunning storybook showdown to reunite with their parents.

Joel Ivany, the award-winning Canadian stage director and artistic director of Against the Grain Theatre, brings his theatrical vision to this well-loved classic. Ivany’s cutting-edge work has been credited with “chang[ing] the opera game” (National Post) and, together with Katherine Syer as dramaturg, the pair have created something entirely unique for the COC stage. S. Katy Tucker is set and projection designer and Toronto-based Ming Wong is behind the costume design. Lighting is by JAX Messenger, who designed the lighting for the COC’s world premiere presentation of Pyramus and Thisbe in 2015.

American mezzo-soprano Emily Fons, called one of opera’s rising stars by Opera News, sings Hansel. She is joined by three acclaimed COC Ensemble Studio graduates: soprano Simone Osborne as Gretel, mezzo-soprano Krisztina Szabó as the children’s mother, Gertrude, and tenor Michael Colvin as the diabolical witch. Distinguished Canadian baritone Russell Braun sings the role of the children’s father, Peter.

COC Music Director Johannes Debus conducts the COC Orchestra through Humperdinck’s lighter musical take on the darker Grimm fairy tale, with the Canadian Children’s Opera Company.

Cast and Creative Team

Emily Fons
Simone Osborne
Russell Braun
Krisztina Szabó
The Witch
Michael Colvin

Johannes Debus
Joel Ivany

AIDA by Giuseppe Verdi

Seven Performances: April 18, 22, 26, 30, May 2, 5, 8, 2020

COC Revival

Sung in Italian with English SURTITLESTM

Love charges past borders in this powerful war-time epic. The opera begins in Egypt where Aida, an Ethiopian princess, is held as a political pawn in the ongoing conflict between nations. Unbeknownst to all, she has developed a tender relationship with the Egyptian general Radames – a situation that pits Aida’s love for him against her love for country when Radames is suddenly called to lead the troops in Ethiopia.

Stage director Tim Albery creates a clean, modernist Aida that transposes the opera’s action from ancient Egypt to the modern Middle East with the help of award-winning German set designer Hildegard Bechtler. Costume designerJon Morrell draws inspiration from the geometrical influence and colour palette of iconic 1960s style, while lighting designer Thomas C. Hase uses moody light and striking shadows to play up the drama on stage. Canadian Laila Diallo returns to the creative team as choreographer for the production. 

The production’s all-star cast features American soprano Tamara Wilson, who returns to Toronto after singing Turandot in the COC’s fall 2019 production, to take on the title role; her performance as Aida was declared “flawless” (Schmopera) when she sang it for Washington National Opera. American tenor Russell Thomas brings his “immense voice and gleaming high notes” (Opera Wire) to the role of Radames. Georgian bass Goderdzi Janelidze is the high priest Ramfis and French mezzo-soprano Clémentine Margaine is the princess Amneris, while Welsh bass Richard Wiegold sings the part of her father, the king of Egypt. Baritone Roland Wood makes his role debut as Amonasro.

Italian conductor Jader Bignamini returns to Toronto to make his COC mainstage debut, leading the COC Orchestra in one of Verdi’s greatest gifts to grand opera; Bignamini last conducted the COC Orchestra in 2017’s dazzling Trio Magnifico concert, featuring soprano Anna Netrebko. Price Family Chorus Master Sandra Horst leads the COC Chorus through Aida’s rousing choral numbers.

Cast and Creative Team

Tamara Wilson
Russell Thomas
Clémentine Margaine
Roland Wood
Goderdzi Janelidze

Jader Bignamini
Tim Albery


Seven Performances: May 1, 3, 6, 9, 12, 14, 16, 2020

COC Revival 

Sung in German with English SURTITLESTM

The Dutchman has been damned to an eternity of sailing the sea. Every seven years he’s given one chance to find the love of a faithful woman and finally unshackle himself from the hateful curse. When he crosses paths with Senta, a sea captain’s daughter, fresh hope flickers in the darkness; Senta is already engaged to the huntsman Erik, but is drawn to the mysterious stranger, whom she knows by legend and feels fated to love and save. With the clock counting down until the Dutchman sails again, the opera charges ahead to a stormy finale.

American theatre director Christopher Alden revives this seafaring thriller, last seen at the COC in 2010. Designer Allen Moyer creates a haunted set with an enormous, tilted ship; its presence is an inescapable reminder of the sea captain’s curse. Moyer is also behind the production’s sea-weathered costume design. Lighting by Anne Militelloevokes a ghostly pallor over the Dutchman’s crew.

Vitalij Kowaljow takes on the role of the Dutchman in a COC and role debut for the Ukrainian bass. Soprano Marjorie Owens returns as the object of the Dutchman’s infatuation, Senta, and Polish mezzo-soprano Ewa Płonka sings Mary. Russian bass Dmitry Ulyanov makes his COC debut as Daland and American tenor Miles Mykkanen is the Steersman, in a role debut. Noted German-Canadian tenor Michael Schade completes the cast with his role debut as Erik. 

COC Music Director Johannes Debus conducts the COC Orchestra in what is considered the first true representation of Wagner’s mature style as a German Romantic composer. Price Family Chorus Master Sandra Horst leads the COC Chorus through a number of roiling choral numbers.

Cast and Creative Team

The Dutchman
Vitalij Kowaljow
Marjorie Owens
Dmitry Ulyanov
The Steersman
Miles Mykkanen

Johannes Debus
Christopher Alden


Centre Stage Ensemble Studio Competition and Gala will take place October 30, 2019. This annual event consists of two separately ticketed parts: an elegant fundraising dinner and a vocal competition featuring Canada’s best young opera singers compete for prizes and the opportunity to join the COC’s prestigious Ensemble Studio training program. Audience members also have a chance to vote for their favourites. Further competition details to be released at a later date

Operanation takes over the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts on May 21, 2020. The massive annual party combines fashion, music, and interactive art, all in support of the COC Ensemble Studio.


General Public

Subscriptions to the 19/20 season are available now and may be purchased online at, by calling 416-363-8231, or in person at the Four Seasons Centre Box Office, 145 Queen St. W., Toronto.

Single tickets to all six mainstage operas are available to the public as of Monday, August 26, 2019

Programs for Specialized Audiences

Opera Under 30 offers patrons under the age of 30 the ability to buy mainstage tickets at a discounted rate as well as subscription packages at an accessible price point.

Opera Access for New Canadians is a partnership with the Institute for Canadian Citizenship that provides access to the COC’s mainstage operas and special events for refugees and newcomers to Canada.

Photo: Sondra Radvanovsky as Aida. © 2010 Michael Cooper.