8 years ago

Volume 8 Issue 7 - April 2003

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COVER STORY OPERA ·OD by Christopher Haile THERE HAS never been a better time to be doing opera in Ontario. This is the general consensus of eight heads of opera companies canvassed on the topic in mid March. Yes, perennial questions of funding and governmental commitment to the arts remain, further clouded by new concerns over what effect a war will have both psychologically and economically. And cutbacks to music education have also had negative effects. Despite this, the outlook of those leading opera in Southern Ontario into the 21st century is almost uniformly upbeat. ON OUR COVER: LEFf, Curlis Sullivan, the Count in Opera Atelier's "Marriage of Figaro": RIGHT, Matthew Galloway, Jimmy Moonwalk in the Canadian Children's Opera Chorus/SoundStreams production of Harry Somers' ·~ Midwinter Night's Dream" 6 PHOTOS: MICHAEL HUDSON (SULLIVAN) DEN CruL (GALww Av) CONCEPT/ART: ROCKET DESIGN The unprecedented numbers of gifted Canadian singers, the dedication and enthusiasm of Ontario audiences, and the willingness on the part of companies and audiences to explore unfamiliar repertoire make this, they say, the most exciting time opera in Ontario has ever seen. · One large part - of this excitement is the growing sense of confidence that the Canadian Opera Company's dream of a new opera house will now become reality. Ground- • breaking for the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts at the corner of Queen Street and University Avenue is slated for April 11. And if all goes as planned, the new opera house should open in the summer of 2006, after an agonizingly prolonged struggle. This is a great victory for the COC and its General Director Richard Bradshaw. "A new opera house and Wagner's Ring on the horizon" he says. "It's all any company in the world could wish for." The new opera house will also provide an occasional new venue for the Canadian Children's Opera Chorus, who produce shows independently as well as performing with the COC and occasionally with the National Ballet. But, quite independent of the issue of use of the facility, other companies see benefit in , whatever qements the reality of opera in the public consciousness. As Guillermo Silva-Marin, Artistic Director of the Toronto Operetta Theatre and Opera in Concert, declares, "What benefits one of us benefits us all". A second factor making this time particularly . special for Canadian opera is the incredible wealth of Canadian singing talent that has emerged over the past few years. Russell · Braun, Frances Ginzer, Ben Heppner, Richard Margison, Brett Polegato, Michael Schade already have international careers. But others like Isabel Bayrakdarian, Adrianne Pieczonka and Daniel Taylor have joined them and many more are waiting in the wings. When he spoke to me, Guillermo Silva-Marin had just returned from auditioning 106 applicants for 34 spots in his third enterprise, the Summer Opera Lyric Theatre, overwhelmed by the talent he encountered. "Fully halfofthose [I] heard, an incredibly large number, were deserving of a career." He feels privileged to head three organizations that provide showcases for the talent that is out there, a view shared by Dan Sherman, chairman of Toronto Opera Repertoire and Daniel Lipton, Artistic Director of Opera Ontario, wbo is proud that all his singers (with two exceptions) for the entire 2002-03 season are Canadian. Also, Ontario opera companies are clearly benefitting from a continent-wide burgeoning of interest in opera. According · .to the (U.S.) National Endowment for the Arts, from 1992-97 "opera's share of the total arts audience grew by 12.5%, more tlian any other art form" . During the same period "opera had the only arts audience whose median age decreased". A case in point is the newest of the eight companies I surveyed, Opera Mississauga, that became a fully professional company . under Artistic Director Dwight Bennett in 1994. Over the past three seasons itS subscriber base has grown by an astonishing 394%. While the sheer numbers are impressive, opera leaders in Ontario are even more impressed by their audience's attitude. The COC's Richard Bradshaw came to Toronto from the San Francisco Opera, where the star system reigns. He sees a great April 1 - May 7 2003


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