Opera Diary (Includes News on Daniele Leblanc; University of Toronto's Opera Division; Yves Abel; David Agler; Kathleen Broderick; Dale Harris; Daniel Taylor; Theodore Baerg)

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MONTREAL MEZZO-SOPRANO Daniele Leblanc was a winner in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions held at the Met on March 17, and she performed at a Met Gala on March 31. LeBlanc is a graduate of l'Atelier Lyrique de l'Opera de Montreal and has performed several roles with O de M, including that of Berta in Il Barbiere di Siviglia. She repeated this role in her debut performance with Opera Hamilton in November and December 1995.

THE UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO'S OPERA DIVISION IS CELEBRATING ITS 50th anniversary this year. A quick look down the list of graduates--Russell Braun, Norine Burgess, Sally Dibblee, Mark DuBois, John Fanning, Ben Heppner, Joanne Kolomyjec, to name only a few--shows that the program has been the starting point for many of Canada's well-known singers. The list of illustrious participants also includes the division's first director, Arnold Walter, as well as its first music director and conductor, Nicholas Goldschmidt, and the third founder of the school and long-time stage director, Herman Geiger-Torel. The Opera School's first presentation in 1946 was an evening of opera scenes, given just four months after the program began on a budget of $500. In two years, the budget grew to $10,000 for a production of The Marriage of Figaro. The Opera Division has always been committed to the presentation of Canadian premieres, such as the two it mounted in 1976: The Crucible by Robert Ward, and Richard Rodney Bennett's The Mines of Sulphur. As for the future, the Faculty of Music may hold a summer opera program and the division hopes to return to offering two major productions each year.

FRESH FROM A SUCCESSFUL DEBUT at the Paris Opera, where he led performances of Faust, Yves Abel, conductor and founder of l'Opera Francais de New York, will spend the summer in Italy at the Festival dei Due Mondi in Spoleto, for performances and a film of Amahl and the Night Visitors in honor of Gian Carlo Menotti's 85th birthday. Then it's on to the Rossini Opera Festival in Pesaro for the new edition of Matilde di Shabran. In September, Abel makes his debut with the San Francisco Opera, opening the season conducting a new production of Thomas's Hamlet. Future engagements include a return to the Paris Opera for Faust, and a debut with the Opera de Nice for a new production of Thais, which he will then record for Decca. The future holds debuts with the Glyndebourne Festival, the Lyric Opera of Chicago, the Netherlands Opera and the Opera de Monte-Carlo, as well as return engagements with the Met, the SFO and the Seattle Opera.

THIS SUMMER, DAVID AGLER, music director of the Vancouver Opera, will conduct the world premiere of a new work by Bruce Rudell, entitled Earth Prayers, for the 11th International AIDS Conference in Vancouver. Shortly thereafter, Agler will travel to Australia to conduct Falstaff with the Western Australian Opera Company. At the start of the fall season, he will make his debut with the Wexford Festival, conducting a new production of Sarka by the Bohemian composer Zdenko Fibich.

SOPRANO KATHLEEN BRODERICK HAS BEEN BUSY OF LATE. SHE has just spent a season in Europe, where she sang a wide variety of roles for the Staatstheater Saarbrucken and the Pfalztheater Kaiserslautern. A review in Opernwelt of her performance as Rusalka spoke enthusiastically of "her cultivated musicality, her dedication to style and the appealing timbre of her clear lyric soprano." She also debuted as Turandot for the Minnesota Opera, and then reprised the part for both Opera Omaha and Scottish Opera, where her engagement will end mid-June. Next on her schedule is her first Isolde in Mexico City, and then an appearance in Opera Hamilton's Un Ballo in Maschera in the fall.

IN BRIEF: A CONCERT FEATURING THE WORLD'S MOST FAMOUS three tenors--Luciano Pavarotti, Jose Carreras and Placido Domingo--is at last scheduled for Canada on January 4, 1997 at Toronto's SkyDome. It will be their only North American appearance in a world tour. Ben Heppner won a Juno award in March for best classical album. Of his several recent releases, the jury chose Ben Heppner sings Richard Strauss, in which he performed with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Andrew Davis. A new musical publication, Pulse, has appeared in Toronto. Covering the city's classical music, the monthly newsprint magazine contains not only articles but useful day-by-day listings of performances around town. It is available in music stores, or readers can subscribe for $24/year by writing to 60 Bellevue Ave., Toronto, Ont. M5T 2N4. In March, Adrienne Pieczonka sang the part of Tatyana in Eugene Onegin at the Cologne Opera. She will take the same role at the Vienna Staatsoper in the forth-coming season. OPERA CANADA's Austria reviewer, Professor Clemens Gruber, has completed his book, Operatic World Premieres. The three-volume work runs 1,136 pages and is the result of 40 years' research by Prof. Gruber and his wife. It lists 8,385 operas written by 3,000 composers from Austria, Germany and Switzerland between 1627 and 1992. The edition costs approximately $370, and can be obtained by writing to Prof. Gruber at Minorgasse 53A, Vienna, Austria A-1140. The Festival of the Sound at Parry Sound is on again this summer, from July 19 to August 11. Among its many enticing offerings are performances by Russell Braun, Mark DuBois, Rosemarie Landry, Mary Lou Fallis and Daniel Neff.

WE ARE SORRY TO REPORT THAT DALE HARRIS PASSED AWAY IN NEW York in March. A long-time reviewer for this magazine, he also wrote for the Wall Street Journal, The New York Post and Opera News. Anyone who enjoyed his popular opera lectures at New York's Metropolitan Museum might like to know that Harris recorded introductions (each lasting over an hour, with musical illustrations) to Rossini's The Barber of Seville, Puccini's Madama Butterfly, Verdi's Aida and Donizetti's Lucia Di Lammermoor (Enjoying Italian Opera with Dale Harris, available on cassettes or CDs; Highbridge Audio 1-56511-121-4). Harris provided a brief historical context for each work, outlined the plot and then discussed each composer's theatrical conceptions and characterizations in music. The talks provide useful observations on the works in question. Certainly, his thoughtful and informed reviews will be missed from these pages.

DANIEL TAYLOR'S RECENT EUROPEAN OPERATIC DEBUT WAS QUITE A success. He appeared in a semi-staged performance in London of Handel's Rodelinda, directed by Jonathan Miller, in which Taylor sang the Senesino role of Bertarido. The Times reviewer, Rodney Milnes, wrote that Taylor performed "with astonishing purity of tone and musicianship." He recently sang in Britten's Canticles with The Aldeburgh Connection in Toronto, and will appear in the St. John Passion at the Elora Festival in July.

IN MARCH, BARITONE THEODORE BAERG MADE HIS DEBUT IN THE title role of Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin in Calgary, alongside Joanne Kolomyjec as Tatiana. Coinciding with his performances, the Dean of Music at the University of Western Ontario, Dr. Jeffrey Stokes, announced the appointment of Baerg as associate professor at the university's Faculty of Music, effective July 1996. This appointment is one of 10 specially designated and funded by the university to recruit new senior faculty members in areas of exceptional academic reputation. Baerg will continue with his singing engagements in conjunction with his more scholarly duties. In fact, the same month he is due to begin at Western, he will be back in New York, re-engaged by Kurt Masur for the New York Philharmonic's Great Performers Series, this summer as Don Fernando in Beethoven's Fidelio.

ON THE MOVE: ON APRIL 21, IN THE YEAR OF ITS 25TH ANNIVERSARY, Michigan Opera Theater moved to new premises in the old Grand Circus Theater in downtown Detroit. The occasion was celebrated by a gala in which Luciano Pavarotti and Joan Sutherland participated. What is now called the Detroit Opera House was originally built in 1922 as a movie theatre to a design by C. Howard Crane, one of America's pre-eminent theatre designers. The present building retains parts of the original, including portions of the marble interior, the Tiffany-style glass, the crystal chandeliers and intricate moldings, but the enormous 7,000-square-foot stage is new, as is the orchestra pit that fits 90 and the state-of-the-art technical facilities. Following the opening, Opera Lyra Ottawa's Jeannette Aster will direct a production of Salome (June 1-9) as the last production of the season, which will resume next spring.

For its part, Washington Opera, which has appeared at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts for 25 years, is planning to move to the old (and abandoned) Woodward & Lothrop store in downtown Washington. The company recently paid $18-million (U.S.) for the building, and plans to gut it, leaving its historic exterior intact. The money for the building was donated by philanthropist Betty Brown Casey, who chairs the opera company's board of directors.


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