Continuing my record of my thirteen years in Chicago - by 2009 we had reached the point when it was clear that the world was never going to be the same again. And we beat the banks and the markets to it by already reaching that conclusion when we announced the 2009 season in February 2008.
We cancelled our projected production of Rossini's Mosé in Egitto and replaced it with the Peter Brook adaptation of Bizet's masterpiece, renamed The Tragedy of Carmen. With just three principal singers, and no chorus, and an orchestra of a dozen, there were savings to be captured. And it made a difference. I had been involved with Peter Brook in the casting of this Brookification when it was first produced at the Bouffes du Nord in Paris in 1981. And I had attended the first three performances with three different casts on successive evenings. So I knew the piece pretty well and felt that under the circumstances it would be a good complement to the other two pieces in our 2009 season.
And so it proved to be, with Noah Stewart and Sandra Piques Eddy catching fire in this short adaptation (just 80 minutes of it without intermission) of this most popular of operas. But it was clear that this was an economy driven compromise but I think we got away with it particular in the context of a season which had two other remarkable productions on offer - Owen Wingrave and La clemenza di Tito.
Seen above are Ken Cazan (left) and Steuart Bedford who came up trumps with a wonderful production, superbly conducted, of Britten's Owen Wingrave, in the immensely successful reduced orchestration by Britten's collaborator the distinguished composer David Matthews. We assembled a really splendid cast - and the impact of the piece exceeded all reasonable expectations. This was something of which I was especially proud. And our remarkable young Owen, Matthew Worth, had the treat of the original Owen Benjamin Luxon attending a performance and giving his blessing to Matt's extraordinarily moving performance.
Jennifer Johnson Cano (Kate Julien) Matthew Worth (Owen Wingrave) and Robin Leggate (Sir Philip)
Continuing our Mozart thread La clemenza di Tito completed our trio - and it brought Jane Glover and Chritopher Alden together in what turned out to be a most happy collaboration. Christopher is the most musical of directors, and Jane is the most thoughtful, knowledgeable and passionate theatre animals of any conductor I have worked with. So we started off in the right direction. And again we were able to assemble a cast of excellent Mozartians including the then up and coming and now brilliantly established Amanda Majeski. But she was far from alone - Renata Pokupić was a thrilling Sesto, Dominic Armstrong in the title role produced his very best work, and supporting performances from Paula Murrihy, Charlotte Dobbs and Andrew Funk completed a most accomplished line up.
Renata Pokupić and Dominic Armstrong - La clemanza di Tito COT 2009
Tito is an opera with which I have been somewhat associated over the years. At a time when it was rarely performed anywhere I produced it in Wexford in 1968. I programmed it at Glyndebourne for the first time although it was actually produced there after I left for Canada in 1989. In Toronto we produced it in the Mozart bi-centenary year 1991. And now I am thrilled that this COT production will be seen in Toronto early next year - I will be so happy to get to Toronto to see it again.
Amanda Majeski, Dominic Armstrong, and Charlotte Dobbs COT 2009
So another very pleasing season came and went. We continued to live on the edge but managed to keep a steady hand on the artistic tiller at least. 2010 was to bring new stresses but more wonderful music making - that in the end is the purpose of all this. So more next week!