Janet LopinskiThe clock is ticking down to the 18th International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw in October 2020, and the Fifth Canadian Chopin Piano Competition and Festival – August 23 to 29, 2019 at the Royal Conservatory of Music – offers an interesting stepping stone on one path to the Warsaw event. Presented by the Canadian Chopin Society, the Festival part of the event celebrates Chopin’s legacy with a series of concerts, workshops and performance classes, highlighted by a solo recital by Polish-Canadian pianist Krzysztof Jablonski, third-place laureate at the 11th Chopin Piano Competition in 1985.

But the cornerstone of the week is the Competition, divided into Junior and Senior sections. The top three Senior finishers will travel to Warsaw in the fall of 2020, guaranteed a spot in the 18th Chopin Piano Competition. Second-prize winner Tony Yike Yang, in the Fourth Canadian Competition (2014), became the youngest laureate (at age 16) in the history of the International Chopin Competition in 2015, winning the Fifth Prize. (By coincidence, Yang’s teacher, Vietnamese-Canadian DangThai Son, had finished first in the 1980 International Competition.) Now pursuing a dual degree in economics and piano performance through the Harvard University-New England Conservatory of Music Joint-Degree Program, Yang’s recent accolades include being awarded the Jury Discretionary Award at the 15th Van Cliburn International Competition in 2017, where (at 18) he was the youngest competitor.

To learn more about the Chopin Competition and Festival I corresponded with Janet Lopinski, senior director of academic programs at The Royal Conservatory, and founder and artistic director of the Canadian Chopin Society. She was appointed artistic director of the Canadian Chopin Competition in 2008. By 2010, the 200th anniversary of Chopin’s birth, a year that saw the presentation of the Competition Winners Concert in Koerner Hall, it was clear that there was an appetite for a permanent Chopin Society. With strong support of the Polish Canadian community, particularly the Maximilian Kolbe Foundation, the Canadian Chopin Society (CCS) was incorporated as a not-for-profit entity in 2012. Its mission: “to celebrate the legacy of Fryderyk Chopin by promoting his music while nurturing the development of young artists.”

A full-blown Festival and Competition such as this one is presented every five years, in preparation for the prestigious International Fryderyk Chopin Competition, Lopinski informed me. In the years between, the Society presents concerts, workshops, lectures and masterclasses, and provides performance and scholarship opportunities for young Canadian pianists. Lopinski herself has performed as soloist and collaborative pianist, and has presented lectures, workshops and masterclasses across North America.

The relationship between the CCS and the Fryderyk Chopin Institute in Poland has evolved over the past decade, Lopinski said. Since 2000, the cost for the top prize winners’ travel to Poland has been covered. “We have also made it a point to include Polish pianists on our jury,” she added. As well, Lopinski was invited to participate in the first Chopin Competitions Conference, organized by the Fryderyk Chopin Institute. “The success of Tony Yike Yang certainly brought great visibility for the CCS,” she said.

At that 2015 conference there were 15 Chopin Competitions from around the world represented. Lopinski credits the Chopin Foundation of the USA with being both an inspiration and a model for the Canadian event. Other competitions whose winners may be accepted directly to the Warsaw Preliminary Round include those based in Darmstadt, Moscow, Beijing and Tokyo.

The Chopin Piano Competition is open to talented Canadian pianists up to age 29 who wish to further their performance skills and in particular, their playing of the works of Fryderyk Chopin. Application deadline was May 31, several days after our summer issue went to press. More information on the event and its participants can be found at canadianchopinsociety.com. The Senior competitors will participate in Preliminary, Semi Final, and Final rounds, performing selected works by Chopin, and will be adjudicated by a panel of respected Chopin experts. All competition stages are open to the public. Preliminary rounds will be held in Mazzoleni Hall; the finals will take place in Koerner Hall with the finalists performing Chopin Concertos with the Tokai String Quartet.

Krzysztof Jablonski chairs the jury comprised of U of T piano pedagogue Midori Koga, South African native Anton Nel (a familiar face at Glenn Gould School masterclasses), Irish pianist John O’Conor (another GGS faculty member and masterclass participant), and Juilliard faculty member Golda Vainberg-Tatz.

Mazzoleni Hall will also be the site of three special events: “Insights” – an evening with Alan Walker, author of the acclaimed biography, Fryderyk Chopin: Life and Times; “Conversations” – an evening with the competition jury, providing the opportunity to hear their thoughts on music-making, competitions, and careers in music; and “Portraits” – a glimpse into three stages of Chopin’s life through letters and music.

“Once the applications for the competition have been received, and the schedule finalized we will also be announcing additional masterclasses and performance showcases, to provide opportunities for pianists not entered in the competition to be a part of the Festival,” Lopinski said. “Please check our website (canadianchopinsociety.com) after June 10 for these updates,” she added.

I asked what she considered her proudest achievement as artistic director and she told me that founding the CCS and providing leadership for its development has “brought the opportunity to combine several things that are very important to me: my Polish heritage, my love for music, and my commitment to music education. . . Certainly witnessing the success of Tony Yike Yang at the International Competition in 2015, and observing his transition from student to young artist has been incredibly gratifying and inspiring.” 

Paul Ennis is the managing editor of The WholeNote.

Gemma New. Photo by Anthony ChangOne of the best things to come out of this wretched humanity of ours, Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde is always worth highlighting when spotted in concert announcements. A very good edition of Toronto Summer Music Festival is in the offing this year – check out our website for concert reports during summer – and will, on August 1, present the chamberized Das Lied at Koerner Hall in the Schoenberg/Riehn arrangement. Mezzo Rihab Chaieb and tenor Mario Bahg will sing. Conducting: the young, and already highly in demand across North America, Gemma New, the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra’s music director.

I took an express bus to Hamilton recently to catch the last HPO mainstage concert of the season, a program of Vivier’s Orion and Mahler’s Fifth Symphony. New and HPO’s executive director Diana Weir took a substantial bit of time to address the audience in the FirstOntario Concert Hall and talk of all the civic partnerships developed around that particular concert. There was a small crowd of students on the balcony thanks to the HPO’s Adopt-a-School program, and representatives from mental health and the healthcare sector marking Canadian Mental Health Week. The HPO seemed extremely proud of its multiple connections to its city and the province, and eager to deepen and multiply them. What New tells me when I phone her the week after for an interview confirms this.

“Our audience is almost always full capacity,” she says on the phone from San Diego, where she was conducting that week. “What we’re doing in Hamilton seems to bring more and more for our budget every year, so we are actually growing as an organization. I think that we found a way to connect with the community and that’s one of the things that have helped the HPO grow.” Programming is of course crucial, she says, and also how that programming is delivered. “Being able to program concerts that can relate to those who know a ton about music and to those who are coming first time. Making sure that programs are well paced. Making sure the experience is great for musicians too and with enough rehearsal time. Planning a season and having a look at partnerships and community collaborations. Being able to talk about music! This is a skill that conductors are increasingly in need of, so we can advocate not only for our orchestra and musicians but also the program itself. And finally being very involved in education – especially with the schools not having so much funding these days for music education. It’s the orchestra’s job to bring young people to this art form and get them to feel welcome in the concert hall.”

New is also experimenting with the concert format at the HPO. Away from the main stage, Intimate & Immersive is a chamber music concert series with HPO musicians that takes the audience to less typical concert spaces and seats them next to and around the orchestra. “There’s always a part of the audience that wants something a little bit more relaxed and intimate and maybe even more involved than the traditional concert. They want to be able to move around and mingle and get to know the music in a more casual environment. That’s what we’ve been doing with the I & I. We wanted to create an ambience that’s more like a place you go to for a good drink and meet new people and a have good night out.” The audience also has a chance to talk to the musicians before, during and after, in time segments reserved for that. “Everyone sits very close together. The orchestra is in the middle, and the seats are all the way around the orchestra. We encourage everyone to move seats for the second half.” A visual artist is engaged every time to create the lights or video that fit the program. “Next to last time we also had smells and things that you can touch of different substances that evoked for the audience the idea of paradise,” says New. The last one this season, on May 23 at the Cotton Factory in Hamilton, was programmed around the beat and pulse, with an all-contemporary composer lineup.

I ask her about the stamina needed to conduct Mahler symphonies. “I run quite a lot. I find that helps. If I can run 40 minutes straight, that usually means I won’t lose my breath during a Mahler symphony,” she says.” And just rehearsing it as well. The amount of emotional drama that the piece provides and the excitement of it, the powerful sound that everyone is giving – it’s all very motivating, and I feel energized by it.” The Lied von der Erde at TSM will be the chamber version. Does her approach to conducting differ depending on whether she is before a chamber orchestra versus a big symphonic crowd? “Yes, I approach an orchestra in a way that will make most sense to them. For a small orchestra, like the one I conducted recently in Santa Fe, New Mexico, we were doing Beethoven’s Second Symphony and that’s a much smaller environment. You don’t need to give a big gesture, you can be more subtle. It really depends on what I’m hearing and what message I want to give. For the Mahler Fifth, it is a massive orchestra and the sound is so powerful and loud at places, but also other times it’s incredibly soft and close-knit and subtle. You have to show that gamut in your physical expression as a conductor.”

Of Das Lied von der Erde itself, which New covered during her tenure as an assistant conductor of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, she says: “I fell in love with it. It was such a personal work for Mahler. It’s sad to think that he didn’t hear it in his lifetime.”

Are there any composers that she’d like to advocate for in her programming? “Claude Vivier,” she says. “He is a favourite. His music is so intense and clear. It’s really got something that moves many of us. I’d like to do more of his music in the future.” She’s also enjoyed playing pieces by Abigail Richardson-Schulte, the HPO’s resident composer: “Her compositions are positive energy!”

What about the standard rep? I have the impression, I tell her, that my home symphony, the TSO, never plays enough French music. “There could be practical reasons for that,” says New. “Ravel often needs six or eight percussionists. I find, especially with the regional orchestras when we plan our seasons, that that’s often a challenge. And the works are shorter. But Ravel is one of my favourite composers of all time. We’re doing Daphnis et Chloé in September, and just did Debussy’s Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun and Nocturnes in March. Every time I plan the season I look at what HPO’s done since 2002 – I have that much information going back – and think that French music is something that we want to do more. Many orchestras do La mer, that one is probably the most popular, but what about Alborada del gracioso or La valse? I’d love to do La valse.”

We too would love to hear that, and we’ll be there when she does. Whether it’s with the TSO or the HPO, just a Presto tap away. 

Lydia Perović is an arts journalist in Toronto.

Charles Richard-Hamelin. Photo by Elizabeth DelageWN: In addition to your concert on July 19 at this year’s Toronto Summer Music Festival, you have the honour of mentoring Fellows of the TSM Academy. Why is mentoring so crucial?

CR-H: In my student years, I attended many summer programs which I now realize were as important to my education as my university studies. Especially the chamber music programs, since they feel very close to the professional world: you have to very quickly get along with other players and be ready to give up some of your preconceived notions and be open to learn from others. Experience is something that demands to be shared and passed on, and I’m very lucky to have the opportunity to do that at the TSM Academy.

What is the most important thing a mentor can do? Please tell us about a memorable experience you had as a student with a mentor.

Inspiration. A great mentor, over a very brief period of time, can make you love the music you’re playing to a point where you don’t want to stop working until you’ve done justice to it. I’ve had many encounters like this, but most notably was getting working with Máté Szűcs in Denmark (at the Thy Chamber Music Festival) who was the Berlin Philharmonic principal viola for many years. He was extremely inspiring in his musicianship and in how he was able to communicate that love for the music.

What is the first piece of music you fell in love with? What musicians inspired you in your student days?

It’s hard to find a single piece, but I remember being obsessed with Chopin’s Four Ballades as a teenager, especially Krystian Zimerman’s recording of them. I remember not having a single clue in how he was able to make the piano sound like this and in how music can be so emotional and powerful. Later, I became obsessed with Radu Lupu’s recordings, all of them. To this day, his interpretations are the golden standard for me: everything he does is considered, impeccably balanced, yet completely in the moment and free as a bird. I also heard him live a few times and I always left the hall transformed. A truly magical artist.

I’m looking forward to hearing the Brahms First Piano Quartet with you and members of the Dover Quartet. Have you played with them before?

I have not, but I’ve heard them live a couple years ago with André Laplante in the Schumann Piano Quintet in Montréal. I was very moved and impressed by them and I really look forward to working with them.

How has your approach to Chopin’s Andante spianato et grande polonaise brillante evolved over the years?

It is actually a relatively new addition to my repertoire! However, the musical language of the young Chopin, which I’m used to playing quite a lot (the two Concertos, the Rondo Op.16, etc) is very much there in this piece too. It is especially inspired music, with very memorable themes and melodies everywhere, even in all the transitions.

Paul Ennis is the managing editor of The WholeNote.

La Monastère performing in St. Jax Anglican ChurchIt’s March 25, 2019 as I write this here at Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre for Faith, Justice and the Arts. That puts us right in the middle of Lent (the lead-up to Easter celebrations). We just struck St. Matthew’s Passion for Tafelmusik (which occurred on the same day as our meditative Compline service) and then headed straight into the University of Toronto’s student concerts. By the end of the week we’ll be onto Trio Arkel. And that’s just the sanctuary, one of ten available spaces in this large urban church.

Church. A place of faith. First and foremost, Trinity-St. Paul’s is that: a United Church, built 130 years ago for the gathering of a congregation of Christian worship. However, the intervening decades have seen this definition of its purpose adjust, with usage patterns and the will of the congregation, into something far more inclusive. Inclusive of different worship forms and inclusive of community in the broadest sense. On any given day you will see seniors exercising, children arriving for daycare, dance and music lessons, language classes and 12-step groups meeting, and professional arts organizations performing. It is a messy mélange of all the best things of community. And more and more T-SP (along with others) is serving as a model for faith buildings across Canada.

So, dear readers of The WholeNote magazine, why does this matter to you? Because the new models being built in these faith communities are providing new spaces for the arts and allowing for broad spectrum partnerships that could deepen our community’s relationship to the arts.

In 2013, Alan Brown of WolfBrown in the United States released a paper that talked about the increasing desire to create art rather than just witness it – to participate. He broke arts participation down into five “modalities”: inventive, interpretive, curatorial, observational and ambient (WolfBrown, A Fresh Look at Arts Participation, 2013). He argued that we deepen our relationship with the arts when we engage at all of these levels, acting as both practitioner and patron.

Our new hybrid faith-arts, community-centre spaces offer the opportunity to be inventive and observational in one venue, without the excessive costs of a full-scale theatre to hinder these explorations. The best centres create a dynamic in which audiences are allowed to feel a sense of ownership and the comfort of a home away from home. Unlike many large-scale recital halls, these are not “high art” places, even when the art being produced in them often is. The intimate scale of the work at Trinity-St. Paul’s, for example, can best be seen post-show in the lobby where artists pass through on the way to retrieve their things. There is a natural collapsing of distance, an ability to imagine oneself as being fully a part of the success of that venture, a part of a journey of art creation.

What We Know (and Don’t Know) About Canadian Arts Audiences

In a 2013 blog on the culturedays.ca website, titled What We Know (and Don’t Know) About Canadian Arts Audiences, Shannon Litzenberger quotes a National Endowment for the Arts (US) Periodic Survey of Public Participation in the Arts as saying “we are rapidly introducing new or blended forms … expanding beyond purpose-built arts facilities, moving into bookstores, community centres, schools, places of worship and especially the home.” These models aren’t particularly new; who hasn’t heard of the infamous Trinity Sessions by the Cowboy Junkies at Holy Trinity Anglican, after all? What is new, however, is that aging congregations, and the weight of often historical buildings, are putting the model of faith buildings as multi-disciplinary hubs under threat. Regeneration Works (a project of the National Trust for Canada and Faith & the Common Good) estimates that 9000 faith buildings will close in Canada in the next ten years. How many of these buildings currently house rehearsals, workshops or performances?

There is an opportunity here, to preserve these unique architectural spaces, creating new venues for the arts that can work in collaboration with community activation. Many models are being developed around Canada, but here are just a couple to consider.

After the congregation at Dominion-Chalmers United Church in Ottawa had shrunk to a point where it couldn’t maintain the building, Carleton University offered to purchase it. The new arts and education centre (yet to be named) will still house the faith community, but will also have Carleton University’s department of music, the Ottawa Symphony Orchestra, Ottawa Children’s Theatre and other amateur and professional practitioners. This can only strengthen the learning environment and provide a built-in future audience. Carleton is invested in this concept of a hybrid culture, creating a more nuanced educational experience that will also involve adult learner lecture series. Check out more on the project at https://carleton.ca/dcuc.

Meanwhile, in Montreal, St. Jax Anglican Church has just announced a partnership with La Monastère as the resident circus company. La Monastère describes themselves as a cabaret circus, interested in creating fully immersive events in St. Jax’s sanctuary in which the seating has been removed to allow for large-scale public gatherings and events. With a bar, full lighting and sound system and the gorgeous architecture of the church, the venue is proving to be divine (excuse the pun) for La Monastère. The sense of height and daring inherent in the circus arts seems to be enhanced by the curved architectural features of this Anglican church, creating a experience that is both intimate and death-defying. The Anglican congregation continues to worship there and the team at St. Jax is looking to expand its mission by bringing more co-users into its community hub embrace. As they curate their own particular hub they are considering a gym (possibly circus-based), co-working and café spaces, as viable options that would enhance their mission.

While both of these models have favoured the church remaining resident, on the East Coast there are models in which arts groups have fully purchased the faith building, creating wholly new venues centred on the arts. These include the Highland Arts Theatre Centre in Sydney, Nova Scotia and the Indian River Music Festival, in Prince Edward Island. The Indian River Music Festival has expanded its programming to encompass the entire summer, with musicians of all different genres from across Canada, including, this summer, Polaris Prize winner, Jeremy Dutcher. As well, a sensitive glass addition to the historically designated site allows room for audiences to gather pre- and post-show, without damaging the historic structure.

Regeneration Works continues to work on models like these across the country, inspired by what has been created and looking to the future of hybrid faith-arts centres. In Winnipeg and Kingston, mighty Vancouver and tiny little whistle-stop Kingsbridge, communities are embracing these civic assets and asking them to reoccupy a place in the broader public life. If you’re interested in seeing more models that are being tested, head on over to www.faithcommongood.org/places_of_faith to learn more; or consider joining us for a workshop in Kingston on June 1 at the Spire of Sydenham, another fantastic “arts in a faith building” project. Also feel free to join us on social media, and keep an eye out for our upcoming survey of how faith buildings are serving the broader not-for-profit community. We look forward to hearing about co-use projects from all over Canada via this two-year study.

As I finish writing this, a toddler has just chased the resident cat down the hallway and Dancing with Parkinsons is setting up for their weekly therapy/dance class/community gathering. In the sanctuary, a few tourists have come off the street and asked to pray, and rather unusually,the space was available. Someone tunes the piano for tonight while they pray. I cannot help but feel that this is a glorious use for this old place of sanctuary.

Trinity St. Paul's resident catKendra Fry is the general manager of Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre for Faith, Justice and the Arts and an associate of Regeneration Works: Places of Faith, a project of the National Trust for Canada and Faith & the Common Good. She is passionate about building places where communities can grow and thrive.

Svadba c Bernard Coutant bannerA Scene from Svadba. Photo by Bernard CoutantI remember the first time I heard Ana Sokolović’s music: I was in Paris, participating as CBC Radio’s delegate at the International Rostrum of Composers (IRC) in 1996. My Radio-Canada colleague, Laurent Major, had chosen to present a work for violin duo, Ambient V, composed in 1995 by Montreal composer Sokolović (b. 1968) who had come to Canada from her native Serbia in 1992. I recall thinking that this was a distinctly fresh musical voice. There were elements of Serbian folk music, minimalism, as well as choreographed movement by the two players. It all added up to a memorable impression of music that was playful, yet highly focused and purposeful.

I certainly was not the only person to be impressed by Ambient V. Another young Montreal composer, Jean Lesage (b. 1958), heard the work and recommended it to a colleague who was designing a program for the Société de musique contemporaine du Québec (SMCQ). The piece was programmed on the SMCQ concert, recorded for broadcast on Radio-Canada, and subsequently chosen as the Radio-Canada submission to the IRC. Ambient V is available on a recording on the SNE label called Nouvelle Musique Montréalaise II through the Canadian Music Centre. Incidentally, Sokolović and Lesage connected romantically, and were married in 1998.

Ana Sokolović. Photo by André PermanitierIn 1999, Sokolović was named Grand Prize winner in the CBC/Radio-Canada National Competition for Young Composers, for which I served as CBC’s coordinator. The work with which she won is titled, Géométrie sentimentale. It’s a work in which the thematic material is seen from three different angles: “music through different geometries,” as her program note states. It was through her success at the competition that I first met Sokolović, and since that time we have collaborated on numerous occasions.

Géométrie sentimentale had been commissioned in 1997 by the Ensemble contemporaine de Montréal (ECM+), a large chamber ensemble created in 1988 and led by its founder and artistic director, the Montreal conductor, Véronique Lacroix. Lacroix had also been in the audience for that same SMCQ concert in 1995 and had heard Sokolović’s Ambient V. Like many others, Lacroix, too, was struck by the distinctive voice she heard in the work. Over time, and at last count, she has commissioned four works from Sokolović. The most recent of these commissions is the violin concerto, Evta.

Andréa Tyniec. Photo by Sasha OnyshcenkoSokolović told me she based the concerto on ideas that surfaced in conversations with her soloist, the Montreal-born, but now Toronto-based violin virtuoso, Andréa Tyniec. Two areas of interest that Tyniec expressed were Gypsy violin music and yoga. Sokolović wrote, “Evta means ‘seven’ in the Serbian Roma language. Each of the seven movements of the concerto is inspired by the colours of the chakras and is associated with one of the notes of the scale: C/red, D/orange, E/yellow, F/green, G/blue, A/indigo and B/violet.” She further mentions, “The work is strongly influenced by Gypsy violin music played in the Balkans.” Tyniec told me: “Working with Ana on Evta after performing so many of her violin works during the past years, both solo and chamber, has been a real artistic highlight for me in my career. Playing Evta is a personal experience since some of its themes and structures are drawn from conversations Ana and I had years ago. Evta is also a wonderful challenge for any soloist, to be at once a prominent voice leading the narrative and still remaining a part of the bigger textures of the work. There is such joy in being able to both stand out, be oneself and belong.”

The concerto was premiered by Tyniec and ECM+, conducted by Lacroix at the 2017 World Music Days in Vancouver, sponsored by the International Society of Contemporary Music and Music on Main. I attended that performance. In my review of it for The WholeNote, I observed that Tyniec’s solo violin was an astounding traveller through the seven movements, flashing virtuosity in so many ways, one lost count. The thread of this fascinating composition never lost clarity as it swept through its intricate and surprising courses. It was a riveting experience to witness the unfolding of this exciting, highly original work.

Toronto audiences will at last get their chance to hear Tyniec perform Sokolović’s Evta on May 26 at 8pm when New Music Concerts (NMC) presents the work as part of their season’s final concert at Betty Oliphant Theatre. NMC artistic director Robert Aitken will conduct the NMC ensemble in a concert that also includes music by two rising young Canadian composers, Samuel Andreyev (b. 1981) and Matthias McIntire (b. 1986).

Evta is also available on a newly released CD on the ATMA label titled Sirènes (ATMA ACD2 2762.) The recording contains four major works by Sokolović, including the title track, Sirènes, a work for six female voices, written for Queen of Puddings Music Theatre (QOP) in 2000. In 2010 Sokolović wrote another, more ambitious work for six female voices for QOP, a 55-minute one-act opera in Serbian called Svadba (Wedding), arguably her greatest success to date.

In her note to the opera, Sokolović wrote: “When Queen of Puddings Music Theatre (1995–2013) approached me to write an opera for six female voices, I took the opportunity to explore the theme of a wedding, particularly the evening before the ceremony, during which the bride-to-be and her friends devote themselves to private ancient rituals. The text is based on original Serbian poetry but given a new context, adapting it to our contemporary culture, and the music is derived from traditional folklore.” Sokolović has told me that when she arrived in Canada as a student, she saw herself as a member of an international contemporary music community, and she tried to avoid any limitation to her music that might result from emphasizing her Serbian roots. However, she learned that, rather than being limiting, expressing her musical roots in a contemporary context enabled her to strengthen her voice as a composer.

Svadba has had 20 productions to date. John Hess, the co-founder (along with Dáirine Ni Mheadhra) of QOP told me, “I think it is easily the most performed Canadian opera ever. Our enchantment with Ana had a lot to do with her imaginative vocal writing and the unique exploratory quality of much of that. Her roots in Serbian traditional music and her ability to use that as a compelling ingredient of her work without becoming gratuitous or sentimental was important to us. Finally, her strong dramatic instinct left us with a body of works for the singing stage that continue to be performed.”

Sokolović’s proven success as an opera composer has led to a commission for a new mainstage opera from the Canadian Opera Company (COC). The Old Fools is an opera that Sokolović is creating with British librettist Paul Bentley. The two-act opera was inspired by a poem by English poet Philip Larkin, focusing on the fear of aging and death. In announcing the commission, COC general director Alexander Neef said: “One of the things I enjoy most about Ana’s works is that they are stories that tap into shared human experience, while simultaneously challenging our perceptions of what that is.” The Old Fools is currently in development, even as the exact production date has yet to be announced.

David Jaeger is a composer, producer and broadcaster based in Toronto.

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