Our fall production of La Bohème
will be conducted by Canadian maestro Jordan de Souza. Formerly staff conductor at Berlin’s Komische Oper, de Souza has been hailed by The New York Times
as part of “the new generation leading Berlin’s classical music scene,” and we’re thrilled to welcome him back to the COC!
We asked him about returning to the city of his birth, the timeless appeal of Puccini’s music, and what excites him about the next generation of opera artists. Read on for his responses—and be sure to book your tickets to see him in action on the podium from October 6!
COC: What does it mean to you to be returning to Toronto to conduct La Bohème at the COC? De Souza:
It's a dream come true. To be back on that podium, in the city where my love for opera first ignited, will be a special experience. Bohème
is one of my favourite scores and I'm looking forward to sharing it with music lovers in Toronto: hopefully including some people discovering opera for the first time—like I was all those years ago!
COC: What are your favourite parts of La Bohème?
De Souza: Bohème
feels like a continuous chain of my favourite parts. It's an extremely compact 1 hr and 45 minutes of music, in which Puccini takes us on an incredible journey. But if I had to choose one favourite passage for today: the culmination of the “love at first sight” scene at the end of Act I, “O soave fanciulla.” The music is ecstatic but intimate, and Puccini manages to make it feel as if Rodolfo is improvising, inspired by his affection for Mimì.
COC: Are there any particular challenges when it comes to conducting an opera as beloved as La Bohème?
Opera, by nature, is a dangerous art form; it has the potential to go catastrophically wrong at almost every turn! The first measures of Bohème
are notoriously difficult for conductors (for very similar reasons as the opening of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony), but the truth is that once you're ready for the challenges the podium presents, Puccini is a conductor's dream. Incredible atmospheres, music that begs to be phrased and shaped around the text, and an extremely imaginative orchestration that needs sensitive transparency to shine.
COC: How do you explain the enduring popular appeal of Puccini’s music?
Puccini's music embodies humanity, sincerity, and passion. It is unpretentious and requires no explanation before you find yourself lost in his world. Feelings that you've felt before but couldn't name, Puccini is able to express in music. The charm needed to dispatch the landlord, the pangs of youthful love, relationships falling apart... we live the ups and downs of the relationships with the characters.
COC: You conducted two performances of The Marriage of Figaro at the COC in 2016 and have returned since then as a guest coach with the Ensemble Studio. In your opinion, what’s the most exciting thing about the upcoming generation of opera artists?
Music has always thrived in the hands and voices of young people. The new generation is aware that tradition is important but insufficient: it needs to be constantly refreshed. Preferably with a spirit of healthy irreverence!
La Bohème opens at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts on Friday, October 6.Buy your tickets now!