Conducting the COC Orchestra for the first time was Keri-Lynn Wilson, a Canadian conductor from Winnipeg who is a regular guest conductor with many leading international opera companies. Indeed, she has conducted fourteen major opera productions in the past two years. Wilson arrived in Toronto from the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow where she recently concluded an extended run of Don Carlos. Her conducting was joyful and dynamic. Wilson encouraged both singers and orchestra with an intelligent and enthusiastic approach. As for the orchestra, it filled the hall with glorious tutti effects and magnificent solos. The haunting opening of Act III with the horns and later, the clarinet solo in the E lucean le stelle aria were particularly poignant. According to the COC's Publicist and Publications Coordinator Kristin McKinnon, Keri-Lynn Wilson is just the third woman to conduct an opera for the COC since the opening of the Four Seasons Centre in 2006. Julia Jones (The Marriage of Figaro in 2007) and Anne Manson (A Midsummer Night’s Dream in 2009) have also guest conducted. Wilson however, is not new to Toronto audiences having guest conducted with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. She will be back in Toronto conducting the TSO on December 6th and 7th 2017 in an all-Tchaikovsky program. Wilson has been mentioned as a possible successor to TSO Music Director Peter Oundjian. Her performance yesterday created magic!

Review by David Richards
Toronto ON May 1st 2017

The Canadian Opera Company’s season is ending in the same manner as it began – with a popular opera featuring an internationally celebrated Canadian soprano in the title role. In October, Sondra Radvanovsky sang the role of Norma in the opera by Vincenzo Bellini. Yesterday, the COC’s final opera of the season opened a run of twelve performances, this time with Adrianne Pieczonka in the title role of Puccini’s Tosca

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Director Paul Curran, Set and Costume Designer Kevin Knight and Lighting Designer David Martin Jacques have put together a formidable production complementing the lush music with a cohesive and powerful visual and dramatic experience. This Tosca is a co-production with Norwegian Opera and Ballet. It includes opulently realistic sets of the church of Sant’Andrea della Valle , the Farnese Palace and the ramparts of Castel Sant’Angelo. The pageantry of the church procession was particularly striking with the COC Chorus, singers from the Canadian Children’s Opera Company and a large number of supernumeraries altogether creating an impressive and climactic finale to the opening act.

Tosca is a drama of power, love, jealousy, lust, and ruthless corruption set in Rome during the Napoleonic wars. The opera relies primarily on three central characters : Floria Tosca, Mario Cavaradossi, and Baron Scarpia. The story is about two lovers, a painter (Cavaradossi) and a singer (Tosca) caught in a plot conspired by the sadistic chief of the secret police (Scarpia). He exacts his revenge on the “traitor” Cavaradossi while attempting to satisfy his own lustful ambitions. From the first three fortissimo chords, the audience is thrust into gripping action. Pieczonka and co-star Marcelo Puente (Cavaradossi) are brilliant as the two lovers who find themselves torn apart by the heartless Scarpia played by Markus Marquardt.   

​Adrianne Pieczonka as Tosca and Markus Marquardt as Scarpia in the Canadian Opera Company's production of Tosca, 2017 

Photo credit:  Michael Cooper 

Also in his COC debut, Markus Marquardt played the role of Scarpia, the character audiences love to hate, with menacing cruelty. A longstanding ensemble member of the Semperoper Dresden, Marquardt has also performed in leading roles at Teatro alla Scala in Milan, Vienna State Opera, the Teatro di San Carlo in Naples, Oper Leipzig, Oper Stuttgart, Deutsche Oper am Rhein, the Dutch National Opera in Amsterdam and Opéra de Lyon. Let’s hope his stellar performance yesterday leads to future roles with the COC.

Others in the cast playing significant character roles included Musa Ngqungwana as Cesare Angelotti, Donato Di Stefano as the Sacristan, Joel Sorensen as Spoletta and Giles Tomkins as Sciarrone. Each of these singers contributed much from both a vocal and dramatic perspective with moments of humour and physicality.

Adrianne Pieczonka as Tosca and Marcelo Puente as Cavaradossi in the Canadian Opera Company's production of Tosca, 2017 

Photo credit:  Michael Cooper 

Tosca will continue with performances at the Four Seasons Centre on May 4, 6, 7, 9, 11, 12, 14, 17, 19 and 20. On May 7, 11, 14, 18, 20, the cast will include Kamen Chanev as Cavaradossi, Keri Alkema as Tosca, and Craig Colclough as Scarpia. The COC production of Harry Somers’ Louis Riel continues at the Four Seasons Centre with performances on May 2, 5, and 13. 

Guest Conductor Keri-Lynn Wilson; Photo credit: Daria Stravs Tisu

Marcelo Puente as Cavaradossi (seated) in the Canadian Opera Company's production of Tosca, 2017 

Photo credit:  Michael Cooper 

(l-r) Marcelo Puente as Cavaradossi and Musa Ngqungwana as Angelotti in the Canadian Opera Company's production of Tosca, 2017 

Photo credit:  Michael Cooper 

Pieczonka, who grew up in Burlington and who now makes her home in Toronto, is an internationally recognized operatic superstar. She has recently sung leading roles with the Metropolitan Opera Company, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Gran Teatre del Liceu Barcelona, and Nederlandse Oper Amsterdam. Pieczonka's aria Vissi d’arte could only be described as totally spellbinding and heart wrenchingly beautiful. She soared to the top B flat with clarity and passion.  I can’t imagine a better Tosca either dramatically or vocally.

Marcelo Puente, the Argentinian tenor, is rapidly gaining recognition as an important lirico-spinto tenor and has performed at theatres including the Deutsche Oper Berlin, Oper Stuttgart, Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires, Teatro de la Zarzuela in Madrid, State Opera Prague, the Royal Opera House – Covent Garden, Hamburg State Opera, Deutsche Oper am Rhein, and Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie in Brussels. In this, his COC debut in the role of Cavaradossi, his arias Recondita Armonia and E lucean le stelle were sung with utterly convincing lyrical soufulness and passion. The latter aria was a show-stopper. 

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COC’s TOSCA: a fitting star-studded finale to a great COC season!​