Within the first decade of the eighteenth century, George Frederic Handel was already ‘wow-ing’ the London crowd with Italian opera seria. His famous Rinaldo was all the rage but by 1735, another performance took the stage achieving the utmost success.

Love, honour, and deception run back and forth throughout Ariodante with libretto based on the work by Antonio Salvi. The story revolved around the King of Scotland’s daughter, Ginevra, betrothed to Prince Ariodante. Polinesso, the Duke of Albany, is also madly in love with Ginevra who has convinced her father that she has been unfaithful to her betrothed. Of course, love conquers all in the opera world, and both Ginevra and Ariodante, fight their way back to one another defeating those who tried oh so hard to selfishly keep them apart.

On October 16th, the Canadian Opera Company will perform its first ever Toronto production of Ariodante featuring, as always, a stellar cast, including Canadian soprano Ambur Braid. Playing the role of Ginevra’s truest friend and confidant, Dalinda, we had the opportunity to ask the B.C. native, on returning to her first home, the COC, along with her preparations for another exciting opera season.


MC: How would you explain Dalinda’s character?

AB: In this Richard Jones production of Ariodante, Dalinda is the maid, a passion-driven, yet tortured soul who just can’t quite attain what she thinks she deserves. There’s a lot of internal conflict and a fair amount of abuse, as she falls for the wrong man and ruins her life and the lives of the people around her. It’s a rough show for poor Dalinda.

MC: Many would say that “psychology is a fact of Handel’s work”. How do you interpret this when preparing for this role in particular or others that you have played by the composer?

AB: Psychology is a big part of opera in general. The plots are interesting because they tell the stories of humans in extreme situations. However, for Handel, one needs to dig a bit more into the psychology than you might for, say, Puccini as it’s not always transparent and one needs to find the motivation for all of those da capo arias. This makes Handel an intensely emotional experience and it is great when a director has a clear vision and concept. Personally, I always love the third act in Handel operas, when everyone is losing their mind and going completely bonkers. It’s fabulous music.


A scene from Ariodante (Festival d’Aix en Provence, 2014), photo: Pascal Victor/ArtComArt


MC: You were quite busy this summer performing at various festivals – what do you love most about the beginning of a new opera season?

AB: This season is particularly delightful for me as it’s my return to my home company, the Canadian Opera Company. That means that I get to see the people that I love and sleep in my own bed.

For more information on upcoming performance please visit

Camille VOST


With experiences behind brands such as Diane Von Furstenberg and The Row, Camille Prévost  is a name that everyone should start paying attention to this side of the Atlantic. Parisian at heart from head to toe, she graduated from L.I.S.A.A (L’institut des arts appliquées de Paris) with a first place award as Stylist-Designer (textile division). New York brought new opportunities where she worked for other designer greats feeding her passion for fine fabrics and high-end fashion. The need to create her own brand came to life with CAMILLE VOST.


MC: When did you first start your collection?

CV: I started to work on the collection when I was in New York City back in 2014. When I came back to Paris in 2015, I found the production in Italy and the project began. We officially launched the brand earlier this summer.

MC: What inspired you to focus on handbags in particular?

CV: I always had a handbag addiction. I studied ready-to-wear back in design school and I was always curious about working with materials such as leather and suede. And I’m completely satisfied with my choice today!


MC: From a design perspective, what creative process do you go through?

CV: I draw two collections of flaps per year and usually work on the collections from the images that I kept during my travels. For example, the colour combinations on the Jarod flaps are from the color nuances that I saw in the Amazonian desert.

I design two shapes of bags responding to the needs of the women of today: the Paulette is handy, perfect to fit your computer for example, and the Jarod is classy to wear every day at work or for a night out.


MC: What would be the ideal outfit combination when wearing one of your handbags?

CV: I like matching different styles together. The bags are definitely the chic touch of the outfit. You can mix them with a pair of jeans and sneakers or even a floral print dress for a bohemian look. Thanks to their simplicity, they are really easy to match with any style.

MC: Can you share a little bit with us on what you have in store for your next collection?

CV: I’m now finishing the winter collection with the production. All I can say is that there will be a large choice of exotic skins and embroideries, which will be the new touch for this collection.

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A Shakespeare Serenade

Two years ago, to mark his 460th anniversary, an international survey[1] was released sharing results based on the following question – to name the number one person people associated with contemporary UK arts and culture. William Shakespeare.

This year’s theme for Toronto Summer Music would not be complete without paying musical tributes to this unforgettable icon. His plays and poems have inspired more music than any other English-language author.

Tomorrow evening, Patrick Hansen will direct A Shakespeare Serenade. Young singers from across the country will channel every facet of the music and texts through musical settings by composers such as Britten, Verdi and others. A unique concert like this should not be missed and here are a few more reasons why.

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MC: What is the beauty in directing a performance such as this one with such a rich and dynamic group of artists?

PH: Each of the singers are individual artists, varied in their experience and talent, so that usually creates a lovely “garden” of performers who each bring something to the table. This program is unique in that all of the singers are present on the stage while each sings a song. They are creating imaginary relationships between each other and the songs’ texts. The pianists are also present in the space – not off to the side – and so they become part of the interaction between the players. Some of the singers have performed often together, some only know each other. This performance is giving them a chance to get to know each other better as singing actors.

MC: How do you get in inspired when interpreting Shakespeare through the works of Barber, Britten, Finzi, Gounoud, Tippett and Verdi?
PH: My inspiration as a director starts with the music. My inspiration as a conductor and pianist, when dealing with opera and song, is oftentimes more focused on the text than the music.  I try to look at both through these two lenses with equanimity. In this program, it is Shakespeare’s voice that is the most present – overriding the composers’ as a group. However, one of the exciting things about the program is that it looks at a few texts multiple times (“Come Away Death”, for example where we feature Quilter’s, Korngold’s and Finzi’s take on the text), and we also play with gender, which adds a different subtextual view not necessarily found when these songs are sung by one performer.

MC: When you hear ‘Shakespeare and Music’, what 3 to 5 words first come to mind?

PH: I hear the obvious: If music be the food of love…

But actually, my mind turns to four words:


[1] (2014, April 23).  Shakespeare ‘a cultural icon’ abroad. Retrieved from

The Rape of Lucretia

Festival season is in the air and another year of Toronto Summer Music is among us. This year’s theme, “London Calling” features artists collaborating to perform the works by some of Britain’s greatest composers.

Since 2010, Against the Grain Theatre has been dazzling audiences with their fresh, daring re-interpretations of classical repertoire. For this year’s festival, Artistic Director Joel Ivany and  Music Director Topher Mokrzewski will present Britten’s  The Rape of Lucretia – a  “haunting chamber opera about the ill-fated Lucretia, whose was rape by Tarquinius Sextus — son of the Etruscan King of Rome — and consequent suicide spurred the revolution that toppled the monarchy and brought about the Roman Republic”.

Amidst the preparations for tonight’s performance at Winter Garden Theatre, we chat with the lovable soprano Chelsea Rus about Lucretia and what can be expected from the entire opera collective.

soprano chelsea rus

MC: The collaborative efforts behind this performance has received so much praise. Can you share more about your behind-the-scenes experiences with the production?

CR: Benjamin Britten believed that it is essential to have a true marriage between text and music, and that these forces work side by side to create an effective story. The Rape of Lucretia is a shining example of this. Our team of directors, designers and musical staff has made sure that this comes through in our production and we have thoroughly considered the context and themes of this piece. On the first day of the rehearsal we had a read through Ronald Duncan’s libretto as a cast with the entire company. This allowed us to find deeper meaning, symbolism and the subtext that is riddled in Duncan’s text, and mirrored by Britten’s music.

As a chamber piece, there are eight characters and the orchestra is made up of thirteen members. The intimate size of cast allowed us to form trusting relationships with one another, which is absolutely essential to a piece with such sensitive subject matter. In only a few days, we created a safe place in rehearsal to try and fail at new concepts, techniques and emotions. Therefore, as a team we have carved out a story that for each individual has so much truth in it.

The costume, lighting and design team have worked together to create a production that is visually spectacular, haunting and realistic. The setting is war time, and the Male and Female chorus observe all the action on stage as people from present day. All elements of this show have come together to create a world where past and present collide.

Photos by Don Lee, courtesy Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity

Photos by Don Lee, courtesy Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity

MC: This is a unique opportunity when it comes to hearing Britten’s chamber operas. How did you musically prepare for this?

CR: Both musically and dramatically, this piece has been a huge undertaking for all members in the cast and orchestra. Britten’s use of irregular phrasing and meter may not be apparent to the ear of the audience, but required months upon months of mastering by the cast. However the most difficult part of preparing for this piece was no doubt the delivery of text as it is incredibly dense with history, mythology and double meanings. In the case of both Female and Male chorus, there are many sections of extended recitative, which take time to shape musically and dramatically. We took so much care in dissecting phrases, and finding subtext in every sentence in order to find the true meaning in Duncan’s words. It has been such an artistically fulfilling experience.

MC: In general, what does Britten’s work mean to you?

CR: The Rape of Lucretia is an incredibly important and relevant piece of music and literature. The original myth takes place twenty-five hundred years ago, yet you turn on the news to find similar if not exact situations in present day. Exploring a subject that a lot of us are uncomfortable talking about is crucial to finding a path to change. We must become aware of how even with all of the knowledge, technology and intelligence in the world, history has and will repeat itself which I think is the most frustrating theme in this opera. The aim of Duncan’s libretto and Britten’s music is not to leave the audience with immediate resolve to change the world, but instead to invoke important questions about humanity.

The Nord Vision

What do you get when a rising male model and fashion photographer join creative forces? A collaborative project where ideas can come to life and dialogues ignite between various industries including fashion and the arts. Myles Sexton and Jonathan Hooper are no strangers to the editorial world and are well known in their realms of focus As a result, Nord Magazine was born – a luxury triannual online and print publication based out of Toronto covering local and international themes.

Nord [nawrd], deutsche for magnetic north, just launched its very first issue titled “Skins”. Each issue is constructed around one main theme with a strong focus on the visual content surrounding its subject matter.

As the magazine’s artistic and creative directors, both Sexton and Hooper have decided to follow a different publishing perspective not driven by consumerism or sponsored messages. Their ultimate goal is for every issue to be a curated capsule of ideas, artists and concepts.

Toronto is very lucky to have such a duo and having recently bumped into both of them at a fashion show, it was quite the privilege to see these boys in action. With a bright future ahead of them and another great addition to their many talents, I learn more about Nord’s very beginnings.

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Jonathan Hooper (left) and Myles Sexton (right)

MC: What was the inspiration behind launching NORD?

M/J: The lack of inspiration is really what inspired us. We live in a fashion market that really could not move any slower in the forward direction. Yet we have a city full of ridiculously talented models, designers, artists, and they get little to no recognition. As artists, we wanted to collaborate with these individuals not only just locally but internationally, while giving them a luxe publication to feature them in. Thus, Nord was born.

MC: Both you and Jonathan have established fantastic careers for yourselves – how have the two of you combined your creative visions together for the magazine?

Myles: Jonathan and I are pretty much the polar opposites of each other. From our style, personalities, taste in men (haha), we are both very different individuals. Due to our differences ,I think that we are able to see a bigger picture. We are able to collide our ideas and morph them into something more beautiful than either of us could dream of. Since the day we first became friends three years ago, we have been collaborating together – the artist, and the muse.  When it came time that we both wanted to create Nord it was almost second nature to combine our creative visions. Now we are able to create without limits through this publication of ours.

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Nord cover model Winnie Harlow

MC: From modeling to managing the magazine, Myles, what have you learned the most so far?

Myles: I love learning. When I feel like I am not growing and learning ,I go a bit crazy. That’s why I am working in many different careers paths currently. I keep gaining new perspective and skills from each of them. Though I work in many different fields, they have all  taught me that the only thing truly standing in the way of your dreams is yourself.  

MC: Jonathan, you’ve photographed runway shoots, campaigns, the list goes on. With your own magazine, what approach is taken for planning the visuals behind every issue?

Jonathan: The visuals behind every issue ties into the major theme we approach. Our pilot looked at the meaning and interpretation of skins, and was predominantly produced by yours truly, to set a bar for our aesthetic moving forward and accepting submissions. Now, visuals still must tie into the thematic framework of each issue, but it’s a process of curation between our in-house content, submissions and collaborations between creative.

MC: How do you stand out from other online and print publications?

M/J: We are not just another fashion magazine; we are a collaboration of artists showcasing their talents without limits. We make you adjust your gaze when looking at beauty. We elevate the up-and-coming with the established. We create conversation and share the dialogues of these individuals. Nord is designed as an incubator and an artist colony. We are the highest point under the sun, just to the left. 

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