A duet of classic Italian operas hits all the right notes.
—By Amy Baker
Soaring arias, stunning sets, tales of tragedy—this month, experience dramatic performance at its finest as the Canadian Opera Company presents tour de force works by Giacomo Puccini and Giuseppe Verdi.
One of the most celebrated operas in history, La Bohème sets the stage for a love affair guaranteed to captivate the whole audience. Based on French novelist and poet Henri Murger’s autobiographical novel, Scènes de la vie de bohème, this four-act opera tells the story of Mimi and Rodolfo, two bohemians struggling over issues of infidelity, jealousy and poverty in 1830s Paris. Created by Puccini and his two librettists, Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa, the show premiered at Turin’s Teatro Regio in 1896 and received mixed reviews. However, more than a century later, it is a staple of the Italian repertory and one of the most widely performed operas in the world. As Thomas Edison once said: “Men die and governments change, but the songs of La Bohème will live forever.” The COC’s production, starring Canadians David Pomeroy and Frédérique Vézina in the lead roles, is sure to be a worthy addition to the canon of this timeless classic.
A second tale of doomed passion is brought to life in Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra. Scored by the Romantic-era composer known for revitalizing Italian music and giving it a distinct and recognizable sound, this three-act opera traces the rise and fall of its title character, the first Doge of the Republic of Genoa, as he comes to terms with the return of his long-lost daughter and navigates the corrupt alliances that threaten to plunge his city-state into chaos. Veteran Italian baritone Paolo Gavanelli lends gravity to the lead role of Boccanegra, whose life and ambitions are undone by both political and personal intrigues.
Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts (145 Queen St. W.), $60 to $290; call 416-363-8231 for tickets.
La Bohème April 17, 25 and 30 at 7:30 p.m., April 19 at 2 p.m.
Simon Boccanegra April 11, 14, 22, 24 and 28 at 7:30 p.m., April 18 at 4:30 p.m.
Enhance your operatic experience with these nearby restaurants and shops:
Operas provide food for thought; stimulation for the taste buds comes from one of many nearby restos, boasting a variety of mouth-watering dishes to satisfy any bohemian, doge or diva before or after an evening’s entertainment. Within walking distance of the Four Season’s Centre, find succulent seafood at Mediterra and Fisherman’s Wharf, and top-grade beef at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse. The pre-theatre prix fixe menus at Nota Bene and quintessentially Canadian Tundra garner rave reviews, while Vertical conjures up Mediterranean and Italian classics and world-renowned Lai Wah Heen delivers a gourmet Hong Kong culinary experience in the heart of downtown Toronto.
Located in the Four Seasons Centre (145 Queen St. W.) and open during all performances, the COC Opera Shop is the ideal spot to find unique and collectible items for every music enthusiast. Sales of operatic ephemera—from rare recordings and performance DVDs to books and jewellery including Murano glass pendants—help support the Canadian Opera Company. A short walk east, The Bay offers a true-north retail experience. Part of the country’s oldest corporation (the Hudson’s Bay Company has been thriving since 1670), this large retailer stocks women’s and men’s apparel, electronics, beauty products and much more. Connected to The Bay by a pedestrian overpass is the Toronto Eaton Centre, which takes up an entire city block and features more than 230 high-end retailers, restaurants and services—Coach, Pottery Barn, Lacoste, M.A.C. Cosmetics and Apple among them.