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Bass-baritone Eric Owens plays Hercules in George Frederic Handel’s oratorio staged by Canadian Opera Company and the Lyric Opera of Chicago. The production is directed by Peter Sellars.
Bass-baritone Eric Owens plays Hercules in George Frederic Handel’s oratorio staged by Canadian Opera Company and the Lyric Opera of Chicago. The production is directed by Peter Sellars.

Opera

Five highlights of the opera season Add to ...

Canadian Opera Company: Hercules

Director Peter Sellars takes a Sophoclean tragedy about a Greek hero, reworked by George Frederic Handel into an oratorio in the 18th century, and turns it into a harrowing but beautiful opera about soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Superb performances by a cast that includes mezzo-soprano Alice Coote and soprano Lucy Crowe make an ancient story about war and its aftermath into an intense, personal, absorbing experience about eternal human realities. Definitely worth a visit. Four Seasons Centre, April 15, 19, 24, 27, 30.

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COC: Roberto Devereux

This spring is the season for rarely heard classics at the Canadian Opera Company. Fresh from its April performances of Handel’s Hercules comes Roberto Devereux, a gem from the pen of Gaetano Donizetti. Despite its name, this is a story of Queen Elizabeth I and her rebellious courtier, the Earl of Essex. However, don’t head to the Four Seasons Centre to learn much about English history – the plot of the opera has only a passing relationship to real events. Instead, go for the role debut of the great Sondra Radvanovsky, who adds to her stable of other Donizetti Tudor heroines – Maria Stuart and Anna Boleyn. Four Seasons Centre, April 25, 29, May 3, 10, 15, 18, 21.

COC: Don Quichotte

If Roberto Devereux is rarely performed these days in the world of international opera, that goes double for Jules Massenet’s Don Quichotte. Incredibly popular and prolific in his lifetime in the late 19th and early 20th century, Massenet has been reduced to a few-hit wonder. Quichotte is late Massenet, first performed in 1910, and today is best known as a vehicle for world-famous bass Ferruccio Furlanetto, who makes his COC debut with the role. Joining him will be Georgian mezzo-soprano Anita Rachvelishvili as Dulcinee and Quinn Kelsey as Sancho Panza. This is the season for the famous Spanish Don, with Man of La Mancha featured at the Stratford Festival this summer. The Massenet has better tunes. Four Seasons Centre, May 9, 11, 14, 17, 20, 22, 24.

Opera Atelier: Persée

Opera Atelier ends its season with a revival of its famous production of Jean-Baptiste Lully’s Persée, the show that put the Toronto-based company on the international map. The lush and exotic story of the Greek hero that beheads Medusa and slays sea monster Cetus, Atelier’s authentic baroque production pulls out all the stops, as usual, recreating the ornate and mannered style of 17th-century court entertainment. After Toronto, Opera Atelier is taking Persée back to its birthplace, to the Royal Opera of Versailles (see accompanying feature). Elgin Theatre, April 26, 27, 29, 30, May 2 and 3.

Soundstreams: Airline Icarus

A new Canadian opera is always an event, especially one by composer Brian Current, one of our most accessible and interesting writers. Current and librettist Anton Piatigorsky have created a work, set on a plane bound for Cleveland, that explores the conjunction of our most ancient dreams of flight and its contemporary reality. With a cast headed by the superb Krisztina Szabo and Alexander Dobson, this fully staged piece should be a welcome addition to a repertoire of Canadian opera that increases, slowly but surely, every year. Daniels Spectrum in Toronto's Regent Park, June 3 through 8.

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