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Volume 10 Issue 7 - April 2005

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FEATURE INTERVIEW Richard Bradshaw . . Doing what he started by Pamela Margles RlCtiARD BRADSHAW, General Direccor of the Canadian Opera Company. is in the midst of a 'mini-crisis', he calmly informs me at the beginning of our interview in his office. The soprano for the upcoming production of ll Trovatore, starting rehearsals in three days, is ill. He and his staff are couting around for a Leonora available on such short notice. Bue it's not an easy role to fill at best. This is nochihg compared to the series of crises, mainly dealing with government funding and 1 building the new hall, Bradshaw has dealt with since he arrived here sixteen years ago as Chief Conductor. While funding issues: persist, problems with the unwieldy Hummingbird Centre have, after extraordinary omplications and delays, been resolved, and The Four Seasons Cemre is finally going up at the corner of Queen and University. IF IT IS IMPREsslVE that Bradshaw has managed all the while to produce increasingly exciting seasons of opera productions, it's rather remarkable that he has stuck it out at all. A tall, robust Englishman with a speaking voice so mellifluous that he does the voice-overs for COC advertisements, Bradshaw says, "Once I'd committed to the opera house, I had a lot of people behind me. Of course there's all this nonsense about being promised government funding and not geuing it. But after a certain point I did have to be here until I'd done what I started to do. I don't think it could be anything I could live with otherwise." "A lot has 10 do with building something which is bigger than last night's performance. Building a company that will go on after me - that's satisfying. This is a terrific place to be, and I have an extraordinary team of people that would take a very long time to build elsewhere. I happen to like Toronto. So it wasn't very hard to stay. People always chink that the grass is greener somewhere else - and chat's not necessarily true." "I've done an awful lot of guest conducting. I'd be on the road for ten months a year. Of course I still go here and there - sometimes it's for the particular Conducting the RCM Orchestra company, but quite often it's for the piece, particularly with orchestral repertoire. If it's a Mahler symphony, I'll probably take it." School. And he is in demand as guest conductor throughout the world. "I always want,ed to be a con-· rehearsal of The Barber of Seville, and someone said I could do it. I had to learn it in two days. That stood me in great stead because when I arrived in London, ductor - for whatever reason, that. BRADSHAW REBUILT the COC was what I was passionate one of the smaller opera companies needed a pianist for Barber, orchestra, recently described by about." His first paying job was the New York Times as 'top-ofthe-line', as an organist when he was and that started me off. So while then brought it out of twelve. "I was quite good. But I was a student I played a lot of the pit . to showcase it in an ongoing they didn't give me the choir. I rehearsals as a pianist and harpsichordist." series of concerts. Asked . always longed for the conductor what he's done to create such a to be away so I could direct the "I've been fortunate in a lot of · vibrant, committed ensemble, choir. And at school I was always persuading them to let me At the end of a concert I conduct­ ways. Conductors need a break. Bradshaw says, "What they've done. A lot of the players stuck in conduct the school orchestra." ed, featuring a young cello soloist, his father, principal cellist of there - with lousy pay - because When he was fifteen he joined the they believed in the new opera National Youth Orchestra as a the London Symphony, asked me house. There's a considerable flute player. "I wasn't much good whether I knew Colin Davis. At amount of shared responsibility," but I played it because the head of the time Davis was next to God. especially with concertmaster music at my school said, 'If He gave me an introduction to Marie Berard and first cellist you're going to be a conductor, Davis, who asked where I was Brian Epperson. you should play an orchestral instrument."' London coming up. Davis was· conducting. I had one concert in Bradshaw waves his arm as if conducting. "When I did that, you After he took a conducting rehearsing Wozzeck, so I didn't didn't hear anything. Conducting course with Adrian Bault, the revered British conductor gave came. At the intermission he left even send him a ticket. But he is a very interesting process, far too mysterious to understand. I Bradshaw a copy of his handbook his number, because he had to get don't know why the musicians on conducting. "He wrote in it, back to rehearsals at Covent Garden." work for one person and not another equally musical. Why do 'If you would like to come and see me in London with your When Bradshaw went to see eighty people, highly trained musicians who went into this busi­ scores, I shan't charge for an instrument that's not there.'" And phone, r.ang the Liverpool Phil­ Davis:.Davis picked up the ness thinking they were going to that's what I did. I studied conducting, organ, and piano. But be­ young conductors to work with harmonic, who was auditioning be soloists or chamber musicians, and who have lots of good cause my father - probably wisely - insisted I get a degree in this conductor here I saw two the orchestra, and said, 'I've got ideas of how you play a particular passage -why do they want to something else, I read English at nights ago. You must audition work together?" t_he University of London. I was him.' Although running the company glad I did something other than So Bradshaw was added to the and building ttie new hall demand music, instead of competing with audition list; even though he had so much energy, Bradshaw is primarily a conductor. In Toronto all those whiz kids concerned previously been turned down - about winning competitions and and won a position. "That was alone he conducts four of the seven opera productions this year, being top in their class. By starting on the outside, it's easier to bit ago and he said to me, 'I hope my big break. I did see Davis a along with the COC orchestral achieve a perspective." you hear a lot of young conductors,' which I do. I don't think concerts, and the student orchestra at The Royal Conservatory of "I was lucky that when I was just twelve or thirteen, a nearby there's a young conductor who's Music Glenn Gould Professional company lost their pianist during applied here who I haven't seen WWW. THEWHOLENOTE.COM APRIL 1 - MAY 7 2005

or talked to." Bradshaw has a knack for bringing conductors for the repetoire, like Rossini specialist Will Crutchfield for this month's Tancredi, and early music specialist Harry Bicket for Rodelinda next year. "I have done a lot of Handel opera in the past, but now I'd rather have specialists like Bickett do it -that's their world. What I would like to do again are the big Handel oratorios, with the son of exciting forces that Handel originally used .... The early music movement has made us rethink - it has taught us a lot. On the other hand, from my deeply old-fashioned standpoint about so111e der of Arts and Letters of France for his commitment to French music. Yet major works of the French operatic repertoire have been long missing from the COC Manon, which is one of his fa­ seasons. Faust is planned, but vourite French pieces, is prohibitively expensive. His next dream project is Les Troyens. "When next Everest." you've done the Ring, that's the Canadian opera remains a priority. "I desperately think we operas. Randolph Peters, who is need to prodl!ce more Canadian working on /1111ana 's Dream, based on Sumerian legends, is enormously talented, and I'm very interested in what he's going to do for us." things. we've lost in 1he performance of Bach and Handel a certain grandeur - not heaviness, but SAYG, 'WHAT IS MY CON­ CEPr?' A.'\'D THEN COME HELL OR HIGH WATER l\IAKl!\G IT WORK, IS REGRETTABLE. B.radshaw markable job has done a re­ of bringing internationally successful Ca­ sonority. The first Messiahs that we know about used enormous forces. There is something about the grandeur of a big Messiah which we neglect at our peril. Sometime I'll dare to go back to conducting that repertoire. but the sort of St. Matthew Passion I'd do would be deeply anachronistic." ONE OF THE MOST EXCITING impacts of the new house is on programming. Bradshaw promises lots of Mozart. "I gave up on Mozart in the Hummingbird - it needs intimacy and quicksilver, especially in the ensembles. If I wouldn't conduct it myself in there, why should I ask somebody else to?" When I mention the Magic Flute from years back at the Elgin, Bradshaw gasps. "That was the worst thing we ever did, just because it was so incompetent for all sorts of reasons. Our Queen of the Night just made it worse. That Queen had won an international Mozart competition in Toronto. But she turned up from day one totally unable to sing the part - it was a catastrophe. We did try to replace her but the replacement wasn't very good either ... So that one got away." Asked about his favourite opera of all, he says, "If I had to say one I would ay Pelleas et Melisande." In fact, Bradshaw was made a Chevalier of the Or- nadian singers back to the COC. But he's still trying to work things out with Ben Heppner, who hasn't sung with the COC since 1996. "We regularly ask him. I think he's a very great singer and I wish he were doing more here. I would almost say that if we did Die Meistersinger, which is probably our favourite Wagner opera, I can't imagine doing it with anyone else I think it would be a tragedy." IF THINGS AREN'T WORKING in a production, can he step in? "I think I should have stepped in with the recent Lucia, but I was so concerned with The Handmaid's Tale. I would be more involved next time." "But once you've hired someone you have a responsibility to help them realize their vision, especially if you're working with someone like Franc;ois Girard, who has the most extraordinary abili\y to see with his ears. Oedipus Rex was such a crazy piece t,o stage. Once I made my commitment to Franc;ois, and we got through the design sge, he needed my support." While Bradshaw eagerly offers productions with non-traditional sets and adventurous stagings - the imaginatively beautiful Rigoletto from 1992 comes to my mind - he avoids the controversial CONTINUES ON P GE 84 T A P E S T R YJ. ·· " ' ..... , worlu APRIL 1 - MAY 7 2005 WWW. THEWHOLENOTE.COM

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