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The COC'S Johannes Debus on Lepage and Stravinsky

Senior Arts Editor Mark Wigmore speaks with The Canadian Opera Company's Music Director Johannes Debus about the remounting of the international-renowned opera experience, "The Nightingale and Other Short Fables". Johannes explains the vision of Director Robert Lepage and the music of Stravinsky.

Johannes Debus

German-born conductor Johannes Debus was appointed Music Director of the Canadian Opera Company in 2009, having already established himself in many of the great opera houses and festivals of Europe. He made his COC debut in 2008 conducting War and Peace, and has captivated Toronto and international critics alike in the years since his appointment to the COC. Recently with the COC, he has conducted Ariodante, Götterdämmerung, and Louis Riel.

When he is not conducting at the COC, Mr. Debus is very active with international engagements that include appearances with the BBC Proms, the orchestras of Boston, Baltimore, Cleveland, Aspen, the National Arts Centre, Houston, and Toronto, at the Spoleto, Bregenz and Tanglewood festivals, and at opera companies such as San Francisco, Berlin Staatsoper, Komische Oper Berlin, Opera Frankfurt, and Bayerische Staatsoper, among many others. In 2016, he made his Metropolitan Opera debut conducting Salome, and returned there in the fall of 2017 to conduct The Tales of Hoffmann.

The Nightingale and Other Short Fables

Hailed as a masterpiece at its sold-out 2009 world premiere in Toronto and subsequent 2011 tour to the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Canadian Opera Company presents the revival of Robert Lepage’s theatrically transcendent production of Stravinsky’s The Nightingale and Other Short Fables. Nine performances take place on April 13, 14, 22, May 1, 2, 10, 12, 13, 19, 2018, at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts.

A co-production between the COC, Festival d’Aix-en-Provence, Dutch National Opera and Opéra de Lyon, in collaboration with Lepage’s own Ex Machina, The Nightingale and Other Short Fables bears the unmistakable signature of Canada’s theatrical visionary. It’s a visual feast that turns the operatic experience on its head, placing the orchestra on stage while singers perform and manipulate puppets in an orchestra pit flooded with water.

COC Music Director Johannes Debus conducts a program featuring the best of Stravinsky’s music. The production opens with the short vocal and instrumental pieces of the jazz-tinged "Ragtime," "Pribaoutki," "Two Poems of Konstantin Balmont," "Berceuses du chat," "Four Russian Peasant Songs," and "Three Pieces for Solo Clarinet"; followed by the satirical one-act opera-ballet The Fox; and concluding with The Nightingale, a Russian conte lyrique based on the tale by Hans Christian Andersen.

Internationally acclaimed Canadian soprano Jane Archibald, the COC’s Artist-in-Residence, leads a cast of established and rising stars, and makes her role debut as the Nightingale. Also making role debuts are COC Ensemble Studio graduate tenor Owen McCausland as the Fisherman, who discovers the Nightingale; American bass-baritone Christian Van Horn as the Emperor, whose life is saved by the Nightingale; and Lindsay Ammann as Death, who threatens the Emperor.

The Nightingale and Other Short Fables is an international cultural showcase that draws costume and set inspiration from the Vietnamese water puppetry and bunraku (traditional Japanese puppet theatre) featured in the production. Puppets were designed by Tony and Emmy award-winning American puppet designer Michael Curry, whose work has appeared in The Lion King on Broadway, Cirque du Soleil, the Olympics, and the Super Bowl, among other credits.

All performances of the COC’s production of The Nightingale and Other Short Fables feature the COC Orchestra and Chorus. The opera is sung in Russian and presented by the COC with English SURTITLES™.

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Senior ArtsEditor Mark Wigmore is heard at 8:40 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. on weekdays during the Jazz FM91 Arts Report. And don’t miss his arts and culture interview and entertainment magazine program, Arts Toronto, Sundays between 8-9 a.m.

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