The Opera World Mourns the Loss of Beloved Lotfi Mansouri

Toronto Mourns beloved Lotfi Mansouri

Lotfi 2

Toronto, ON – The Canadian Opera Company is deeply saddened to learn of the sudden passing of former general director Lotfi Mansouri, who guided the company from 1976 to 1988.

“Lotfi Mansouri was a legend. There is no question he was one of opera’s most influential general directors; whether it be his passion for promoting young performers, his zeal for attracting new audiences to the art form, or his undeniable love of opera and all its idiosyncrasies,” says COC General Director Alexander Neef.  “The international prestige that this company now enjoys is due in no small part to his strong leadership and tireless efforts.  I am personally very grateful for his friendship and the advice he shared with me ever since I joined the COC.”

Mansouri was the COC’s third general director and played a significant role in launching the COC’s international reputation for artistic excellence and creative innovation, and growing the company into the largest producer of opera in Canada and one of the largest in North America.  During his tenure, Mansouri’s focus was on implementing a longer performance season, audience development, more adventurous repertoire and productions, and advance planning both financially and artistically, the accomplishments of which are essential elements of the COC’s operations today.

Lotfi 1

The COC’s international reputation was most certainly launched with the growing number of singers of world-renown that Mansouri was able to attract to the company with greater regularity.  Mansouri brought with him to the COC an extensive network of friends and associates developed during his time as a resident stage director at Zurich Opera and Geneva Opera, as well as guest director at major opera houses in Italy and the United States.  Not long into his term the COC presented what has been called an unprecedented season with preeminent opera stars of the day Joan Sutherland, Tatiana Troyanos, Elisabeth Söderström and James McCracken all appearing in the 1980 – 1981 performance year.

Mansouri is also credited with establishing the COC Orchestra and COC Chorus, which have become two of the company’s most distinguished attributes.  The company’s orchestra and chorus are internationally acclaimed for the skill and musicianship possessed by their artists.

A great ambition of Mansouri’s was the creation of a specialized training program for young opera artists that would serve as a bridge to professional life.  This goal was realized in 1980 with the launch of the COC Ensemble Studio, which has become Canada’s premier training program for young opera professionals.  To date, over 180 young professional Canadian singers, opera coaches, stage directors and conductors have acquired their first major professional operatic experience through the Ensemble Studio, claiming such alumni as Ben Heppner, Isabel Bayrakdarian, John Fanning, Wendy Nielsen, Joseph Kaiser, David Pomeroy, Lauren Segal and Krisztina Szabó.

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It was also during Mansouri’s time as general director that the COC established permanent administrative offices at the Joey and Toby Tanenbaum Opera Centre and its own production shop, an essential requirement of any major opera company.

Under Mansouri’s tenure, one of the greatest contributions to the COC and the opera world was the creation of SURTITLES™, which were unveiled at the company’s 1983 production of Elektra.  The occasion marked the very first time any opera house in the world had projected a simultaneous translation of the opera for its audience, and the advent of SURTITLES™ allowed the COC to make opera more accessible to audiences.  The idea of titles, once revolutionary to the international opera community, is now accepted practice in all major opera houses worldwide.

Mansouri left the COC in 1988 to become general director of San Francisco Opera.  He returned on multiple occasions to give masterclasses to the young opera professionals of the Ensemble Studio and to direct on the company’s mainstage.

Met Opera Soprano, Aprile Millo comments on Mansouri’s passing

“This man was a true gentleman of opera: cultivated, innovative, and expertly in love with opera.  He fought for opera in general but especially for those artists he loved.  I was thrilled to be one of them.  He and his brother Zerin mean a lot to me and I send sympathy and solidarity to his immediate family and to the opera family that he leaves much less rich at his passing.”    A. Millo


Mansouri brought Millo to Toronto in the early 90s for a spectacular production of Andrea Chenier with Ermano Mauro, Jean Stilwell.

Tenor, Brian Gow comments on Lotfi’s influence on young Canadian Singers

Brian Gow

Canadian Tenor, Brian Gow who was in the chorus for that Andrea Chenier mentions, “He nurtured so many singers like Ben Heppner and Richard Margison and single handedly created the next generation of Canadian singers.  He brought new repertoire to the company, like Wozzeck which was beneficial to a young group of Canadian singers. He allowed us to hear and sing along with some of the greatest singers in the world, like Joan Sutherland, Tatiana Troyanos, and Aprile Millo which gave us hope that there was a venue in which to learn the craft of opera without going to Europe, especially with the creation of the Ensemble Studio.”  Brian Gow

Canadian Mezzo-Soprano Jean Stilwell comments on Mansouri’s passing


“For me, Lotfi gave me many opportunities as a young singer.  At first small roles so I could be around experienced people.  It gave me great experience on stage.  Lotfi could always demonstrate what he wanted beautifully.  He would show what he wanted in a very meticulous way and was a fine actor himself. He would get exactly what he wanted from me by demonstrating.  He loved the voice, good musicians, and he knew right from wrong, what was good and what wasn’t.  He was a master at creating excellent casts. I feel extremely fortunate to have been around at the time when he was at the Canadian Opera Company and I learned so much from him.  I am grateful for the time that he was here.”  Jean Stilwell

 Canadian Mezzo-Soprano Kimberly Barber comments on Mansouri’s development of the Canadian Opera Company

Kim Barber

“He put the Canadian Opera Company on the map and was responsible for creating the ensemble studio.  He was like a father figure to many, including me.  I performed by very first Komponist with him.  Mikado, Magic Flute, Tales of Hoffman, and the world premiere of Ann Mortisee’s Rose is a Rose.  Every time he saw me he would say, “I always remember you.  You were my Rose.”  Other singers he helped nurture are Ted Baerg, and Kathleen Brett.  He was definitely a champion of opera and young singers. He brought amazing artists during his tenure and the COC owes its tremendous stature to the seeds that Lotfi planted back then.  He will be tremendously missed.”  Kimberly Barber

In Mansouri’s memory:

Mezzo ALERT! Poll: Whose is the most frightening “Condotta ell’era in ceppi” (Azucena)?

Published in: on August 29, 2013 at 8:08 pm  Comments (1)  
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Opera Lyra Ottawa featured in

BroadwayWorld is excited to expand its popular feature series outside the U.S. borders setting our sights on showcasing performance companies around the world! Each month we will introduce you to an intearnational theater, dance and opera company located in one of our coverage countries.

International Opera Company of the Month: Opera Lyra Ottawa

Today, we’re thrilled to present you to Opera Lyra Ottawa in Ottawa, Canada!

Opera Lyra Ottawa (OLO) was founded by soprano Diana Gilchrist in 1984 to fill the void created when the National Arts Centre cancelled its annual opera festival in 1983. It has since developed a considerable reputation for its acclaimed mainstage productions, becoming one of the largest independent arts organizations in the National Capital Region.

OLO’s first production, “The Impresario” by Mozart took place in February 1984 at the York Street Theatre in Ottawa’s Byward Market. Produced, directed and performed by Gilchrist herself, OLO’s first opera was the product of vision and teamwork. In the wake of the success of “The Impressario” Opera Lyra’s first season was born. Performing no less than two performances (opera concerts or staged operas) each season, Opera Lyra began to achieve its goal of becoming Ottawa’s premiere opera company.

International Opera Company of the Month: Opera Lyra Ottawa

OLO’s first production, “The Impresario” by Mozart took place in February 1984 at the York Street Theatre in Ottawa’s Byward Market. Produced, directed and performed by Gilchrist herself, OLO’s first opera was the product of vision and teamwork. In the wake of the success of “The Impressario” Opera Lyra’s first season was born. Performing no less than two performances (opera concerts or staged operas) each season, Opera Lyra began to achieve its goal of becoming Ottawa’s premiere opera company.

Opera Lyra Ottawa’s productions have evolved significantly from its first community-based production. Many notable Canadian artists have performed with Opera Lyra including tenor Richard Margison in La Bohème (1988), baritone Louis Quilico in Rigoletto (1994), sopranos Maria Pelligrini in Madama Butterfly (1996) and Liping Zhang in Madama Butterfly (2004), soprano Wendy Nielsen in Don Giovanni (2007) and Russell Braun in Eugene Onegin (2008). As one of Canada’s leading regional companies, many Canadian artists consider OLO as a good opportunity to perform roles for the first time. Recent examples include Gaetan Laperriere in the title role of Falstaff (2006) and Laura Whalen as Violetta in La Traviata (2008).

International Opera Company of the Month: Opera Lyra Ottawa

In 1999, OLO expanded upon its programming when Tyrone Paterson, OLO’s current Artistic Director, founded the Young Artists Training Programme. The program has grown in stature and structure and is now known as the OLO Opera Studio Program. It remains one of the few Canadian training programs for up-and-coming Canadian opera professionals during the early stage of their careers. The OLO Opera Studio offers a blend of professional instruction and practical experience for aspiring Canadian singers, stage directors, conductor/repetiteurs and stage managers. Many of the program’s former members have moved on to appear in mainstage productions in Canada and abroad.

In 2002 Opera Lyra Ottawa was awarded the prestigious Lieutenant Governor Award for the Arts for its outstanding achievements in private sector support and increased community involvement.

International Opera Company of the Month: Opera Lyra Ottawa

Opera Lyra believes that education in the performing arts is vital to its community, and offers a variety of programs to introduce children and youths to the power and beauty of opera. These programs, which include student-only performances and productions complete with teacher resources, help to foster an appreciation for the art form and lasting memories for thousands of young people in the National Capital Region each year. The company’s most recent achievement in its education outreach has been the addition of a student-only matinee for one mainstage opera each year, which was made possible through the support of local entrepreneur Michael Potter.

The 2012-2013 production season will continue with LA TRAVIATA taking the stage March 21 and 23 at the NAC – Southern Hall. For tickets, please click here.

To learn more about Opera Lyra Ottawa, click here.

If you know of an international performance company we should feature, send your suggestions to

Info courtesy of OLO. Photo Credit: Sam Garcia, OLO.

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Published in: on August 29, 2013 at 3:47 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Canadian Opera Company 2013-2014 Season


The Four Seasons Center for the Performing Arts

Some exciting upcoming productions for opera in Canada.  Support Canadian singers and this beautiful opera house in the heart of Toronto, Ontario

La Boheme

La Boheme:  October 3-30, 2013


Mimì: Grazia Doronzio / Joyce El-Khoury
Musetta: Joyce El-Khoury / Simone Osborne
Rodolfo: David Lomelí / Eric Margiore
Marcello: Joshua Hopkins / Phillip Addis

Conductor: Carlo Rizzi
Director: John Caird
Set & Costume Designer: David Farley

Peter Grimes

Peter Grimes:  October 5-26, 2013


Peter Grimes: Ben Heppner
Ellen Orford: Ileana Montalbetti
Balstrode: Alan Held
Auntie: Jill Grove

Conductor: Johannes Debus
Director: Neil Armfield
Revival Director: Denni Sayers
Set Designer: Ralph Myers
Costume Designer: Tess Schofield

Cosi Fan Tutte

Cosi Fan Tutte:  January 18-February 21, 2014


Fiordiligi: Layla Claire
Dorabella: Wallis Giunta
Ferrando: Paul Appleby
Guglielmo: Robert Gleadow/Don Alfonso: Sir Thomas Allen

Conductor: Johannes Debus
Director: Atom Egoyan
Set & Costume Designer: Debra Hanson


Un Ballo in Maschera: February 2-22, 2014


Amelia: Adrianne Pieczonka
Riccardo: Dimitri Pittas
Renato: Roland Wood

Conductor: Stephen Lord
Directors: Jossi Wieler & Sergio Morabito
Set Designer: Barbara Ehnes
Costume Designer: Anja Rabes


Hercules:  April 5-30, 2014


Hercules: Eric Owens
Dejanira: Alice Coote
Lichas: David Daniels
Hyllus: Richard Croft

Conductor: Harry Bicket
Director: Peter Sellars
Set Designer: George Tsypin
Costume Designer: Dunya Ramicova


Roberto Devereux:  April 25-May 21, 2014


Elisabetta: Sondra Radvanovsky
Nottingham: Russell Braun
Roberto Devereux: Giuseppe Filianoti
Sara: Allyson McHardy

Conductor: Corrado Rovaris
Director: Stephen Lawless
Set Designer: Benoit Dugardyn
Costume Designer: Ingeborg Bernerth


 Don Quichotte: May 9-24, 2014


Don Quichotte: Ferruccio Furlanetto
Sancho Panza: Quinn Kelsey
Dulcinée: Ekaterina Gubanova

Conductor: Johannes Debus
Director: Linda Brovsky
Set Designer: Donald Eastman
Costume Designer: Christina Poddubiuk

Purchase Tickets Here

Happy 100th Birthday to American Tenor Richard Tucker

Richard Tucker

The Magnificent Richard Tucker

Richard Tucker was unquestionably America’s greatest tenor. As with many of his contemporaries, the Second World War gave him the opportunity to establish himself in this country, and for the next quarter of a century, no one surpassed this native son in terms of voice, commitment, integrity, and devotion to the lyric art. His standing in his community, both civic and devotional, equaled his renown in the world of music, and his standards are the level by which all are now judged.

Deeply religious, Richard Tucker brought the same compelling feeling to all of his efforts – be they his 724 performances with the Metropolitan Opera in New York and on tour; his extensive catalogue of recordings – classical, popular, religious; his never ending work on behalf of Israel, or his knowledge of himself and his place as a model citizen, artist, and ideal for succeeding generations of singers and Americans, both here and abroad.

He was more than a great singer; he was a great man.

– Merle Hubbard



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Richard Tucker 3

His wife accompanied him to every operatic performance he gave and would always wait in the wings, and accompany him back to his dressing room.

When he died, a funeral service was held for him on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera House. The service ended with the stage bare, except for Tucker’s coffin, as the curtain came down on him for the final time.

August 28, 2013 – Richard Tucker Day

On Wednesday August 28, we will be celebrating Richard Tucker’s 100th Birthday and Mayor Michael Bloomberg has designated it Richard Tucker Day. There will be several events celebrating the event but the highlights of the days will be a very distinguished afternoon panel discussion about Richard Tucker and his legacy at Julliard and an evening concert at the Naumburg Bandshell in Central Park. All events are free and open to the public.

At 4:00pm at the The Julliard School’s Peter Jay Sharp Theater, Renée Fleming will lead a discussion featuring Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a life-long Richard Tucker fan and opera enthusiast, tenor Neil Shicoff, who was born in New York and the son of a cantor, Barry Tucker and other distinguished guests. The entrance to the Peter Jay Sharp Theater is at 155 W. 65th Street.  No tickets are required.  Entrance to the event is general seating and open to all.

At 7:30pm at the Naumburg Bandshell in Central Park, there will be a free concert featuring several Richard Tucker Grant and Award winners, including Ailyn Peréz, Jamie Barton, Erin Morley, Wendy Bryn Harmer,  Brandon Cedel, Stephen Costello and Paul Appleby and others. Brian Zeger will be the pianist. The Naumburg Bandshell can be reached from either side of the park entering at 72nd Street.  The concert is general seating.

Both events are free and open to the public.

Other events on Richard Tucker Day will include an Ariathon in Richard Tucker Park (at Broadway and 65th Street) beginning at 2 PM featuring Richard Tucker recordings,  a special Richard Tucker Reuben at Junior’s of Brooklyn, and the voice of Richard Tucker being played all day on WQXR and in live performances on Sirius Radio’s Metropolitan Opera station.

Please join us to celebrate Richard Tucker Day in New York City.

Which Soprano Best Expressed Violetta’s Letter Scene?

Published in: on August 27, 2013 at 2:56 pm  Comments (1)  
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Who do you think is the greatest tenor of the 20th century?



Published in: on August 24, 2013 at 12:42 am  Leave a Comment  

The Greatest Love Story Ever Sung: La Boheme Returns to the COC

Canadian Opera Company Media ReleaseLa Boheme COC 2013

Toronto – The Canadian Opera Company launches its 2013/2014 season with a new production of one of the world’s greatest love stories, La Bohème. Puccini’s masterpiece of youthful flirtation, passionate love and heartbreaking tragedy returns to the COC for 12 performances at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts on October 3, 6, 9, 12, 16, 18, 19, 22, 25, 27, 29, 30, 2013.

Canadian-born Tony Award-winning director John Caird (Les MisérablesNicholas Nickleby), last with COC in 2007 to stage the monumental Don Carlos, premieres for the company this new production of one of opera’s favourite love stories. He’s joined by one of world’s best Puccini conductors, Italian Carlo Rizzi, who makes his company debut leading the COC Orchestra and Chorus through a score of soaring and impassioned orchestrations filled with dramatic intensity and beautiful melodies.

La Bohème is set in the raucous streets of Paris’s Latin Quarter in the late 19th century and explores the loves and lives of a group of young Bohemians. The COC production has cast an equally young group of singers, many Canadian, who are making names for themselves internationally.

Already acclaimed for their renditions of this starring role, two recent graduates of the Metropolitan Opera’s prestigious Lindemann Young Artist Development Program make their COC debuts as the fragile seamstress Mimì: Italian soprano Grazia Doronzio and Canadian soprano Joyce El-Khoury(Oct. 9, 19, 27, 30). Doronzio, called “splendid” by the New York Times and a “fascinating discovery” by the Chicago Tribune, has made recent notable engagements at Oper Frankfurt, Hamburgische Staatsoper, Angers Nantes Opéra, Seattle Opera and the Metropolitan Opera. El-Khoury has earned praised from Opera NewsWashington Post and The Financial Times, among other publications, for performances across North America and Europe, and recently made her recording debut with the BBC Symphony Orchestra at London’s Barbican Hall.

El-Khoury is double-cast in La Bohème. In addition to Mimì, she sings the role of the flirtatious singer Musetta for eight of the 12 performances of the COC’s production. Sharing the role of Musetta is COC Ensemble Studio graduate soprano Simone Osborne (Oct. 9, 19, 27, 30). A favourite with audiences and critics, Osborne returns to the COC after recent engagements with Opera Hamilton, Vancouver Opera and Carnegie Hall, appearing in the world premiere of the classical music show Viva Verdi! in Zurich and in the Saito Kinen Festival with renowned maestro Seiji Ozawa, as well a debut performance with the LA Philharmonic.

The role of the poet Rodolfo, Mimì’s lover, is sung by two rising young tenors, Mexican David Lomelí and Italian-American Eric Margiore (Oct. 9, 19, 27, 30). Lomelí has built a growing reputation in opera houses and concert halls across North America and Europe since becoming a first-prize winner of Plácido Domingo’s prestigious Operalia competition in 2006. First introduced to Toronto audiences in 2011 as the Duke in the COC’s Rigoletto, he returns in a role that “from both vocal and dramatic perspectives, you [would] have a difficult time finding a tenor more suited” ( Margiore recently made his European debut with Deutsche Oper am Rhein and is quickly establishing himself as an international contender in the principal Italian bel-canto and romantic tenor repertoire. He makes his COC debut as Rodolfo, a role for which Margiore’s been called “an ideal fit” (Opera News).

In the role of the painter Marcello, Musetta’s lover, are two standout Canadian baritones: Joshua Hopkins and, in a company debut, Phillip Addis (Oct. 9, 19, 27, 30). Last with the COC in 2005 inCarmenHopkins has been hailed as “an outstanding young baritone with a virile, vigorous yet velvety sound and an immediately evident dramatic authority” (Globe and Mail) and was chosen byOpera News in 2012 as one of 25 artists poised to break out and become a major force in the coming decade. A rising star on the international stage, Addis has performed in opera, concerts and recitals throughout Canada, the United States, Europe and Japan. He’s been called “a star in the making” (MusicOMH) and praised for his creamy, bright, smooth voice as much as for his spell-binding, daring, yet sensitive interpretations.

In addition to Marcello, Addis takes on the role of the musician Schaunard for eight of La Bohèmes 12 performances. He shares the role with COC Ensemble baritone Cameron McPhail(Oct. 9, 19, 27, 30), whose “impressive voice” (barczablog) had its company mainstage debut last season in the acclaimed production of Dialogues des Carmélites.

The role of the philosopher Colline is shared by two celebrated bass-baritones: American Christian Van Horn and Canadian Tom Corbeil (Oct. 9, 19, 27, 30). Quickly becoming a regular in the world’s most prestigious opera houses with a voice described as “a true balm of vocal happiness” (ResMusica), Van Horn returns to the COC after his 2012 debut in ToscaCorbeil is praised throughout North America for his vocal presence and stage craft. Last with the COC in 2010’s Death in Venice, he returns after spending a recent season singing Lurch with the first national tour of Broadway’s The Addams Family Musical.

Rounding out the cast is acclaimed American bass-baritone Thomas Hammons (an impressive Henry Kissinger in the COC’s recent Nixon in China) as the Bohemians’ landlord Benoît and as Musetta’s wealthy gentleman suitor Alcindoro. COC Ensemble tenor Owen McCausland is the toy vendor Parpignol, Ensemble Studio baritone Clarence Frazer makes his mainstage debut as the Customs House Sergeant, and Ensemble Studio bass-baritone Gordon Bintner makes his mainstage debut as a Customs Officer. He shares the role with Ensemble Studio graduate baritoneDoug MacNaughton (Oct. 12, 16).

In creating this new production of La Bohème, Olivier Award-winning and Tony Award-nominated set and costume designer David Farley has taken inspiration from France’s Belle Époque to capture the romance and artistic brilliance at the heart of this opera. The set design, in particular, is conceived as a collage of canvases by the painter Marcello that frame the action within the opera’s changing Parisian locales. Michael Clark creates the romantic lighting design.

La Bohème is based on the 1851 Henri Murger novel Scènes de la vie de bohème, a collection of stories about bohemian life in Paris. While the opera was not a great success at the time of its 1896 premiere, it has since become Puccini’s best-known work and one of the most loved and performed operas in the world. The tale of doomed romance in Paris has inspired many books, films and theatrical productions. The most notable adaptation in recent history is the rock musical RENT.

This new production of La Bohème is a COC co-production with Houston Grand Opera and San Francisco Opera. The opera was last performed by the COC in 2009, and is sung in Italian with English SURTITLES™.


Single tickets for La Bohème are $12 – $365 (includes applicable taxes). Tickets are available online at, by calling 416-363-8231, or in person at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts Box Office, located at 145 Queen St. W.

Standing Room 

Sixty $12 Standing Room tickets are available at 11 a.m. the morning of each performance, in person only at the Four Seasons Centre Box Office. Limit of two tickets per person. Subject to availability.

Young People
Special young people’s tickets are priced from $26 to $365 (includes applicable taxes). These ticket prices apply to those who are 15 years of age or under, accompanied by and sitting next to an adult.

Opera Under 30
Patrons between the ages of 16 and 29 may purchase $22 Opera Under 30 tickets as ofSeptember 21 at 10 a.m., online at, or in person at the Four Seasons Centre Box Office. Program patrons may opt to pay $35, whereby their seats are automatically upgraded to the best available on the morning of the performance they are attending. Opera Under 30 is presented by
TD Bank Group

Student Group Tickets 
Student group tickets are $22 per student and may be purchased by calling 416-306-2356.

Rush Seats
Rush seats, starting at $25 and subject to availability, go on sale at 11 a.m. on the morning of each performance at the Four Seasons Centre Box Office. Limit of two tickets per person.