Jane Archibald as the Vixen and Carolyn Sproule as the Dog (behind) in the Canadian Opera Company’s production of "The Cunning Little Vixen" 2024.Somehow “We’re going to the opera!” doesn’t even just mean the building or the performance. It’s about both, and the alchemy of the immersive and transformative experience we anticipate. We go to the opera for the music and for the story, familiar or not. We go for the visual stimulation of the sets and costumes. But we also go for the shared experience and the shared excitement, and because one way or another, the experience is always larger than our own lives.

If you live in a big city with an internationally renowned resident company residing in its own purpose-made opera house, people will understandably assume that’s what you mean by “the opera.” But equally, you might live in a university town with a shared multi-use performance space, a community that is served by a regional performing arts centre, or a small town that has a church or legion hall where live performances happen. And if you say “We’re going to the opera!” chances are the response will still be something like “Oh - that’s exciting!” And then perhaps “Which one?” Or “What are you going to wear?” But there will be an immediate understanding that it’s kind of a big deal, no matter where you are going.

From where I live, in Toronto, I can go to a performance by the Canadian Opera Company and walk home from the Four Seasons for the Performing Arts, which I often need to do as a way of taking time to process and absorb the show. But I also remember how Toronto City Opera performed in the auditorium at Central Technical School on Harbord Street. That was “the opera” we went to in those days, and it felt like a big deal.Their ongoing commitment to “opera for everyone” never gets old. Southern Ontario’s current opera scene has much to offer and it will still be “the opera” no matter where you go. It’s a good time of year to lose yourself in a performance that will take you away, stir you up a bit, and leave you with something to process that wasn’t on the evening news.


The Canadian Opera Company presents Don Giovanni (Mozart) opening in Toronto on February 2 with additional performances February 7, 9, 15, 17 and 24, in a production by the Danish director Kaspar Holten, conducted by Johannes Debus. The design features Escher-like sets, video projections, all to evoke the dark drama of Don Giovanni: a glamorous seducer who thinks he can get away with murder. At the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts.

The COC’s other opera in this cycle is The Cunning Little Vixen (Janáček) opening on February 3, and continues February 8, 10, 14, 16. In this production by London-based director Jamie Morton the setting isn’t a green woodland, it’s a deforested landscape impacted by logging, and the story resonates strongly with our own urgent climate concerns. Janáček’s music is lyrical and compelling, with folk, Romantic and Impressionistic influences. Note: on February 13, the company is offering a Relaxed Performance, designed for audience members looking for a more casual opera experience, such as members of the Disability Community, Neurodiverse or Autistic individuals, anyone who may experience anxiety, and/or feel they may want extra support to attend an opera.

Mississauga Symphony’s Tosca cast includes: (l-r) soprano Angela Maria Sanchez as Tosca; tenor Ernesto Ramirez as Cavaradossi; baritone Andrey Andreychik as Scarpia.The Mississauga Symphony Orchestra presents Fully Staged Opera: Tosca (Puccini) on February 8 and 10, at the Living Arts Centre (Mississauga). Here you can soak up all the classic opera ingredients: a painter, a glamorous singer, a political prisoner and a corrupt police chief. There’s no shortage of gorgeous music as love, passion, rebellion, and tragedy unfold in Napoleonic Rome.

A scene from Toronto City Opera’s June 2023 production of Die Fledermaus.Toronto City Opera’s production of Susannah offers an opportunity to see “the second most popular American opera after Porgy and Bess.” Carlisle Floyd’s 1959 score is rooted in folk melodies and hymn tunes, and adapted from the Old Testament story of Susannah and the Elders. The opera is about an innocent 18-year-old girl targeted as a sinner by her conservative Tennessee community and its predatory preacher. At the Al Green Theatre (Toronto) February 22, 24 and 25.

Some upcoming student productions are worth noting.

The Don Wright Faculty of Music presents Opera at Western: Albert Herring (Britten) March 7 and 8 in the Paul Davenport Theatre at Western University (London). This is a fun comic opera that is a fine introduction to opera for people of all ages. Shy young Albert is offered the honour of becoming the “May King” after no one appropriate can be found to be the May Queen in his small community. There is spiked lemonade involved in his adventure.

The Royal Conservatory of Music’s Glenn Gould School Opera Series presents Music for the Soul (Poulenc), at Koerner Hall (Toronto) March 20 and 22. This one is set during the French Revolution. A young aristocrat decides to retreat from the world by joining a Carmelite convent. When the nuns are arrested and cast out of their convent, they take a vow of martyrdom. Blanche, the aristocrat, initially panics and flees but at the last moment, she finds her courage, and … (no spoiler here).


Burlington Performing Arts CentreBurlington Symphony Orchestra. An Afternoon at the Opera, on February 11. A concert of beloved arias and overtures with some exceptional guest opera artists at the Burlington Performing Arts Centre.

Catch Opera Revue’s Music for the Soul, at Beach United Church on February 17. Opera Revue began with a question: “Why does opera get such a bad rap?” There were several answers, such as “It’s expensive. You can’t get up and move around. You have to dress up. You can’t talk. You can’t drink It’s snobby” And this is what they set out to change. Are you curious?

VOICEBOX: Opera in Concert, on February 25. Ernani (Verdi). First performed in 1844 it became Verdi’s most popular opera until Il Trovatore. At the Jane Mallet Theatre (Toronto). And then on March 4 VOICEBOX Opera Salon: Opera in Concert’s 50th Birthday Party.

Alliance Française de Toronto on April 5: Opera Masterpieces with Jonathan Kravtchenko.- a concert of opera selections, performed by soprano, baritone, violin and piano.

VOICEBOX: Opera in Concert. La battaglia di Legnano, on April 7(also Verdi) is “A tale of love and jealousy set against the Lombard League’s victory over Frederick Barbarossa in 1176 CE that elicited an encore of the fourth act after every performance” That was in 1849. Will history repeat itself? Find out at the Jane Mallet Theatre (Toronto).

MJ Buell is a long-time member of The WholeNote team, and an occasional writer.

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