New Canadian Opera Season Will Revive Riel and Complete Wagner’s Ring

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The revival of a Canadian opera about one of the most contentious figures in the nation’s history is the surprise production of the Canadian Opera Company’s 2016-2017 season, announced this week.

Louis Riel, by Toronto composer Harry Somers, was written and first produced in 1967 to mark the centennial of Confederation.

It’s being revived in 2017 in recognition of Canada’s 150th anniversary.

Reviled by Protestant Canada during his lifetime as a Metis rebel and executed for treason in 1885, he’s been resurrected as a Canadian hero, founder of the province of Manitoba and belatedly, as a father of Confederation.

His colourful life also led him to the U.S. where he became an American citizen and member of the Republican party.

The role will be performed by Russell Braun and his wife Marguerite will be sung by Simone Osborne. Directing the all-Canadian production is Peter Hinton.

Another landmark event is less of a surprise but no less notable. The diva proclaimed as the world’s greatest living Wagnerian soprano, Christine Goerke, returns to the COC stage to complete the Ring Cycle, making her worldwide debut as Brunnhilde in Gotterdammerung.

Goerke’s first performance ever as Brunnhilde kicked off the Ring Cycle in Toronto in 2014.

She’s currently here rehearsing Siegfried, the middle instalment, which opens Jan. 23.

Opera fans who enjoy lighter or more traditional fare will be pleased to find the season includes
Mozart’s The Magic Flute, Bellini’s Norma with COC favourite Sondra Radvanovsky sharing the title role with South African Elza van den Heever; Puccini’s Tosca with Adrianne Pieczonka and Keri Alkema sharing the title role; and Handel’s Ariodante with Alice Coote and Jane Archibald.

There was another announcement sure to please COC fans.

Both general director Alexander Neef and music director Johannes Debus have renewed their contracts, taking the dynamic duo through the 2020-21 season.