Calgary Herald

Calgary opera announces offerings

Company has high hopes for 40th season

- BOB CLARK

A blast from the past, a new whale of a tale with a Canadian superstar on board and a double bill with a tragic clown and a sublime aria by Puccini.

Welcome to Calgary Opera’s 40th season, announced on Wednesday.

In true celebrator­y fashion, the coming year for the healthy company kicks off with a pairing of Ruggiero Leoncavall­o’s blending of commedia dell’arte setting and murder, Pagliacci (with the iconic Caruso aria, Vesti la giubba), with Puccini’s one-act comedy of wills Gianni Schicchi (its soprano aria Mio bambino caro is a movie soundtrack favourite).

The Montreal-built Pagliacci/ Gianni Schicchi production stars Marc Hervieux, John Fanning and Sally Dibblee, all well-known to Calgary operagoers in recent years.

Next up is Jake Heggie’s Moby Dick, which premiered to rave reviews at Dallas Opera last spring.

Starring are tenor great Ben Heppner, who created the role of Captain Ahab in Dallas. The Canadian premiere also features baritone Brett Polegato as Starbuck.

“It’s a huge production,” says Calgary Opera CEO and general director Bob McPhee, noting that it took the combined support of five opera companies — Dallas, San Diego, San Francisco, Melbourne’s State Opera of South Australia and Calgary — to get the work onstage.

There are eight male principals, 40 men in the chorus, and 15 supers to climb the rigging, McPhee says.

And Heppner, he adds, has not appeared in an opera production in Canada “for a long, long time.”

The 2011-12 season closes with Puccini’s La Boheme — fittingly, McPhee says, “because it’s our 40th anniversar­y and our first production was La Boheme.”

The La Boheme cast, many from Quebec — “and many of them making their debut with our company” — is in keeping with the youthfulne­ss of the opera’s story.

“You want young, hot, up-andcoming singers (for the roles),” McPhee says.

Calgary Opera seems headed for a sellout of Aida, the final offering of the current season, which premieres Saturday, and last November’s production of Lucia di Lammermoor did very well at the box office, too. But how does the lukewarm reception of the Calgary Opera-commission­ed The Inventor, mainly due to patrons preferring more traditiona­l fare, figure in the scheme for the company’s future?

“It was not without its controvers­y, but I was very proud of The Inventor,” McPhee says, adding,“I need the next generation (as patrons).

“If we don’t keep doing some new operas (such as The Inventor and the upcoming Moby Dick), and thrill them, then . . . .”

 ?? Courtesy, Calgary opera ?? Tenor Ben Heppner is Captain Ahab in Moby Dick, one of Calgary Opera’s 40th season offerings. The production received rave reviews at the Dallas Opera last spring.
Courtesy, Calgary opera Tenor Ben Heppner is Captain Ahab in Moby Dick, one of Calgary Opera’s 40th season offerings. The production received rave reviews at the Dallas Opera last spring.

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