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First Look: Love Complex

Canadian Opera Company presents the world premiere of Hadrian, a new opera by Rufus Wainwright.
By F. Paul Driscoll 

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Hadrian composer Rufus Wainwright and librettist Daniel MacIvor
Canadian Opera Company
Hadrian opens in Toronto on October 13.
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Concept sketch for Hadrian by designer Gillian Gallow
Canadian Opera Company

HADRIAN, A NEW OPERA by Canadian–American composer Rufus Wainwright and Canadian playwright and actor Daniel MacIvor, opens at Toronto’s Four Seasons Centre this month. Canadian Opera Company will present Thomas Hampson as the title character, the enigmatic second-century Roman emperor. Hampson will make his COC debut with the production, as will another international opera star, soprano Karita Mattila, cast as the Roman empress Plotina, the widow of Hadrian’s predecessor, Trajan. Canadian tenor Isaiah Bell sings the pivotal role of Hadrian’s lover, Antinous, the handsome Bithynian Greek youth whose mysterious death devastated the emperor.

Antinous, who was Hadrian’s constant companion, drowned in the Nile River; it is still unclear whether the young man’s death was suicide, murder or accident. The grief-stricken emperor founded the Egyptian city of Antinopolis as a tribute to his favorite, who was worshipped as a god after his death. Antinous was regarded as one of the ideals of male beauty in the classical world, equal in allure to the mythical Adonis, Endymion and Ganymede. 

Hadrian librettist Daniel MacIvor believes that the ancient love story of Antinous and Hadrian has modern resonance. On COC’s website, MacIvor writes, “It is my hope that Hadrianwill speak to the danger of the politics of faith, will help to illuminate a history that feels increasingly more current, and will hold up the remarkable relationship between Hadrian and Antinous as a timeless model of love.” spacer 



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