Archive | May, 2012

Interview with Alan Held – Star of the COC’s ‘A Florentine Tragedy / Gianni Schicchi’ Double Bill

25 May

Yin yang, that’s not a bad way of describing the Canadian Opera Company‘s double bill of Zemlinky’s subtle and cutting three-hander, and Puccini’s uproarious ensemble comedy. There are two elements that tie this pair of contrasting one-act operas together: the setting of Florence (whose skyline is beautifully unveiled in Gianni Schicchi), and the welcome presence of celebrated American bass-barritone Alan Held. We spoke with the outgoing and affable Mr. Held, who was kind enough to share his thoughts on the challenge and pleasure of playing such different parts over the course of one night, the physical experience that is an opera performance, and a great story from his youth about an unexpected run in with a legend of the operatic stage.

For more information about A Florentine Tragedy and Gianni Schicchi, head over here, and check out the beautiful production shots below.

High-Energy Handel, An Ancient Temple, and a Chat with Alexander Neef

9 May

Opening tonight at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts is the Canadian Opera Company‘s lavish production of Handel’s Semele. Now if it wasn’t enough that this production, directed by acclaimed Chinese-born artist Zhang Huan and staring Canadian opera darling Jane Archibald, is rife with with saucy theatrical surprises and unexpected touches like a authentic pair of scene-stealing Sumo wrestlers (and yes, they do go at it on stage), it can also claim to have the oldest set in the world of opera.

That set is a 450 year old Ming Dynasty temple purchased and salvaged by the director, and literally rebuilt on the stage of the Four Seasons Centre. This 17 ton camphor wood behemoth took four nights, a team of imported Chinese specialists, and one specially-built crane to assemble. Not only is it a beautiful structure, but one rife with history; the story of the family that lived in the oft-repurposed temple is appropriately marked by operatic themes of infidelity and revenge.

Have a listen below to our chat with COC General Director Alexander Neef (my apologies for mistakenly calling him ‘artistic director’ in the interview) about this unique production of Semele and the story behind the temple, and below that, check out the time lapse video of the temple being assembled and a couple of bonus production photos.

For tickets and more information about Semele, head over here.