May 22, 2019

Kelly Robinson to direct Manitoba Opera’s Susannah

Award-winning director, dramaturge and choreographer Kelly Robinson has been secured as the director of Manitoba Opera’s premiere of Susannah which opens the 2019/20 season this November. He last directed for the company in the 1990’s when he was at the helm of The Marriage of Figaro (1992), The Dialogues of the Carmelites (1993), The Pearl Fishers (1994), and The Turn of the Screw (1998).

With a career that spans theatre, opera, and film, Kelly’s work has been seen at the Stratford and Shaw Festivals, the National Arts Centre, CanStage, the Palace Theatre in New York, the Eugene O’Neill Theatre Centre, Theatre Royal in Plymouth, England, and in London’s West End. His work in opera includes the companies of Vancouver, Calgary, Portland, Dallas, Minnesota, Montreal and Québec City. Film and television credits include choreography for Columbia Pictures, CBC, NBC, and ABC Television.

Recent work as a director includes the world premiere of the dance musical, VIDA! for The Luminato Festival and Mirvish Productions at Toronto’s Royal Alexandra Theatre, The Inventor for Calgary Opera, High Society for the Shaw Festival, Guys And Dolls for the Stratford Festival, and Dead Man Walking for Calgary Opera. Kelly’s production of Evita broke the record for highest tickets sales in Vancouver Opera’s history; his West Side Story at Stratford and High Society at Shaw both set new attendance records as well.

He is a former artistic and executive director of theatre arts for The Banff Centre. Kelly holds a law degree from York University, and continues as Director of New Work Development for Toronto’s Mirvish Productions.

For more information on Kelly Robinson, go to

View Press Release

May 17, 2019

Carlisle Floyd

Carlisle Floyd is one of America’s most celebrated composers of opera. His operas are rooted in America, both in subject and in style, and are widely performed in the United States and abroad. They include Susannah (1955), The Passion of Jonathan Wade (1962; revised, 1990), Of Mice and Men (1970), Bilby’s Doll (1976), Willie Stark (1981), and Cold Sassy Tree (2000).

As he celebrated his 80th birthday in 2006, he told the Houston Chronicle he considered the acclaimed Cold Sassy Tree to be his professional finale. However, he went on to write another opera, Prince of Players, which received its premiere at Houston Grand Opera in March 2016.

“With a commitment that rivals Smetana’s in Bohemia or Britten’s in Britain, Floyd has striven to create a national repertory … He has learned the international language of successful opera in order to speak it in his own accents and to enrich it with the musical and vernacular idioms of his own country.”  – Andrew Porter, The New Yorker

Born in 1926 in Latta, South Carolina, the son of a Methodist minister, Floyd earned both a bachelor and master of music degree in piano and composition at Syracuse University. He began his teaching career in 1947 as part of the piano faculty at Florida State University (FSU), eventually becoming a professor of composition. It was at FSU that he wrote his first nine operas, including Of Mice and Men (1969) and his most popular, Susannah (1953–54).

Aside from composing, Floyd is also his own librettist, having written the libretto for all 12 of his operas. His works are among the most performed operas by American composers. He is said to speak in a uniquely American voice, capturing both the cadences and the mores of that society.

“It is my opinion that Susannah and the Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess mark the two finest American operas ever composed. It brings me great joy and satisfaction to bring Carlisle’s important work to San Francisco Opera’s main stage season where it rightfully belongs.” – David Gockley, General Director, 2006 – 2016

Carlisle Floyd taught at Florida State University from 1947 to 1976, and in 1976 became the M. D. Anderson Professor of Music at the University of Houston. In Houston, he and David Gockley established the important Opera Studio, which for more than three decades has helped train young artists in the full spectrum of opera. Graduates include Erie Mills, Denyce Graves, and Joyce Di Donato.

A 2001 inductee of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Floyd has received numerous honors, such as a Guggenheim Fellowship and the National Opera Institute’s Award for Service to American Opera. He was the first chairman of the NEA’s Opera/Musical Theater Panel, which the agency created in 1976. In 2004, he received a National Medal of Arts. In 2008, Floyd was the only composer to be included in the inaugural National Endowment for the Arts Opera Honors.

“When I began writing my operas, there was no American opera, and there were very few American opera companies, and just to see what has happened in my lifetime is just… extraordinary.” – Carlisle Floyd

View Press Release

Mar 28, 2019

Stage Director’s Notes: The Barber of Seville

Stage Director’s Notes: The Barber of Seville

By Alain Gauthier


‘’What on earth is all this love which makes everyone go mad?’’

– Berta’s Aria, Act II


Berta’s commentary summarizes perfectly the whole atmosphere of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, one of the most beloved works in the repertoire. Nothing in this opera goes the way it should be (just like every good comedy, no?) and the intrigue is, on purpose, jubilantly entangled and crazy.

The challenge with directing this opera is to make sense out of the inextricable chaos originally created in 1775 for the theatre by Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais, son of a clockmaker. Beaumarchais was also a clockmaker prior to becoming one of the greatest writers of his time. And one must admit that it helps to have a watchmaking mind (not to mention a twisted one!) to imagine such an intricate plot, for under this apparent chaos lurks the mechanisms of relentless clockwork.

For me, comedy is like a clock mechanism. It has to be very precise to work. My goal when directing a piece like The Barber of Seville is to make sure that all the elements of this mechanism work perfectly together. In the opera version of this story, the music adds an even more accurate degree of preciseness. One of my tasks is to try to illustrate visually how this crazy machine works and how it affects the characters on stage. Maybe Rossini, with his notorious sense of humour, deliberately alluded to Beaumarchais’ clock-making background when he wrote the brilliantly silly finale of the first act where the orchestra and the singers seem to imitate the sound of a screwy clock!

Supported by a genius libretto, the opera is filled with bewildering, dazzling, and inventive music. What’s more, the arias and ensemble appear to be packed with a kind of humorous craziness. In The Barber of Seville, madness is contagious, and the common disease making all the characters go a little crazy seems to be love.

As a starting point of many classic comedies, love (ideally an impossible one) leads the action. Here, the ardent and youthful Almaviva falls for the sparkling Rosina, unapproachable pupil of Doctor Bartolo. We witness, throughout this joyful adventure, a passionate love obstructed, of course, by countless difficulties. And it’s precisely those obstacles, brilliantly orchestrated by Rossini, that make this opera such a thrilling piece of art.

In this world completely disturbed by love, Figaro alone seems to be sane. Adept at managing the craziness, he takes an amused look at those disrupted characters. With our barber’s lucidity, combined with his wit, and his obvious excitement for handling this craziness, he becomes the audience’s accomplice and turns out to be our guide throughout this crazy journey.

The Barber of Seville’s energetic music and witty plot has no other purpose than to charm you and make you laugh. In this same candid and unpretentious way, we’ll try to give life to this masterpiece, hoping  – if it’s not already happened – to make you mad about Rossini!

View Press Release