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Opera Ontario into the millennium

a profile of Canada's largest regional opera company
by Malcolm Miller


 << Continued from yesterday 

This season features leading Canadian theatre directors Jackie Maxwell for Susannah and, for La Traviata, Diane LeBlanc, whose credits include the Stratford and Shaw Festivals (Ontario) and as award-winning actress film and TV programmes going back to the 'Swiss Family Robinson'. LeBlanc's opera experience includes the Canadian Opera Company's Les Carmelites and COC's Ensemble production of Rape of Lucretia. I asked her about her concept for Traviata: 'I set the opera in fin-de-siecle Paris ... I was inspired by a dress I liked in Renoir's famous painting - of the couple dancing, and thought it would make the diva look great. My ideas branched out from there ... I really enjoy working with singers; some already have experience and have their own ideas, while others are more responsive to suggestions; I try to work with them all'.

A scene from Canadian Opera Company's production of 'Traviata'

As a launching pad for young Canadian singers Opera Ontario performs a valuable function, while also presenting experienced international stars, including, in next April's Faust soprano Wendy Nielsen, tenor Steven Harrison and baritone Stephen West. The superb cast for La Traviata included Lyne Fortin as Violetta, a star of L'Opera de Montreal who has appeared with Vancouver, Saskatchewan and Calgary operas. Alfredo is the Italian Carlo Scibelli, and Germont veteran Canadian baritone Allan Monk, regular member of COC and other Canadian companies, Baron Douphol in Zefirelli's famous film version. The conductor for Carlisle Floyd's Susannah, is Ward Holmquist, who has worked with the composer and premiered many of his works; the title role is taken by Sally Dibblee, who sang it with Vancouver Opera and has appeared with COC. The choruses, under the Toronto and Vienna trained Peter Oleskevich, are made up of dedicated semi-professional singers from the region.Ken Freeman, director


Clearly Opera Ontario has much to offer Canada audiences, as Ken Freeman maintains, 'Opera Ontario, the only regionally-based company in Canada, performs a key role in the movement to make opera more accessible and generally available.'  With such leadership and superb casts there is a promising future ahead in the next Millennium, one which will surely continue to attract full houses in ever-increasing seasons to come.


Copyright © Malcolm Miller, November 29th 1999


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