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Volume 12 - Issue 4 - December 2006

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Mansouri with

Mansouri with PavarottiWalking. 'I couldn't dothose kinds of commissionshere. I tried to.I had wanted to doStreetcar as an opera foryears. Leonard Bernsteinloved the idea, but ifI had brought an Americancomposer here theywould have crucified me.In San Francisco I didn'thave that problem - Icould get any composer,without criticism.''We did Murray Schafer's Patria and Schafer was just terribleto us . He hated the COC and bad-mouthed all of us. One of the lastthings I did here was to commission Harry Somers' Mario and theMagician. This maybe sounds sacrilegious, but I didn't really find manycomposers who excited me. Harry was one of the few. I set up aComposer in Residence Program here, producing one-act operas.Those were interesting. But after I left, Brian Dickie, who took overfrom me, stopped the program.'If Mansouri has plans to slow down, they' re not apparent. Heis working on a second autobiography. In April he is directing MerryWidow for the Los Angeles Opera. What isn't in Mansouri's plans isto go back to Iran. 'I don't know if they'd let me out. I worked forthe Shah,' he reminds me. Indeed, he spent five years as the Shah'sadmittedly reluctant opera director.Of all Mansouri's accomplishments in Toronto, the one thathas had the greatest impact is his idea for Surtitles, now used aroundthe world. 'As a stage director I was always frustrated when I wouldwork very hard on detailed nuances, but nobody would know what thehell anybody was singing about. We were doing Poppea, one of myfavourite pieces. It's like a Shakespearean play, so you really have tounderstand every word. And I wanted to do it in the original Italian.''One night I was home watching the Ring Cycle fromBayreuth on television with my wife. My wife was not a greatWagnerian, but suddenly she said, "You know, Lotti, this really isn'tas dumb as I thought it was". She had been reading the subtitles onthe tv screen. All of the sudden it was like the apple falling from thetree. If they could put subtitles on the bottom of the tv screen, whycouldn't we put them at the top of the opera stage? And that's how itall started. At the beginning I was just lacerated. Critics tore me topieces. An editorial from London called Surtitles "the plague fromCanada". Now, of course, everybody's using them.''Some directors, like Peter Sellars, use them to write whatthey want the words to say. I don't like that. I find it's not honest.Translate what they really are saying, especially in Wagner. I don'tlike these conceptual productions - as if the composer didn't knowwhat he was doing. For me opera is theatre, and theatre is communication.My job as a stage director is to draw you in emotionally andintellectually. I don't want you to sit there and think, "Oh, that's aclever idea". That means I haven't done my job. I want to involveyou so much that at the end of it your response is "Wow, what anopera!"'FURTHER READING AND LISTENINGDVDs (*COC productions)*Norma by Bellini (CBC/V AI 1981); *Anna Bolena by Donizetti(CBC/V AI 1984); L 'Africaine by Meyerbeer (Kultur 1988); TheMerry Widow by Lehar (Kultur 1990); Les Huguenots by Meyerbeer(Kultur 1990); *The Makropulos Case by Janacek (VAI 1990); Ruslanand Lyudmila by Glinka (Philips 1995)BOOKSAn Operatic Life by Lotfi Mansouri with Aviva Layton (Mosaic Press!Stoddart Publishing, 1982); Opera Viva: Canadian Opera Company -The First Fifty Years by Ezra Schabas & Carl Morey (DundurnPress, 2000); San Francisco Opera: The First Seventy-Five Years byJoan Chatfield Taylor (Chronicle Books, 1997)T.O. Musical Diaryby Colin EatockBut once they are builtOctober20, 2006: Much ink has been spilled over Toronto's "culturalbuilding boom" in the last few years-and the various arts organizationsthat are constructing new palaces are only too happy to show off theirprojects to journalists. And so on this fine fall day I find myself, along withseveral other scribblers, donning a hard hat and steel-toed boots for a tourof the Royal Conservatory of Music's work-in-progress, the Telus Centrefor Performance and Leaming.With the Conservatory's publicist as our guide, we are led througha maze of bare concrete corridors and stairways, as the features of thenew facility are explained. This "addition" is actually larger than the Conservatory!;McMaster Hall, built on Bloor Street in 1881. I'm not sure thatthe new structure has much affinity with the Victorian edifice that it wrapsaround- but compared to what's going on next door, where the RoyalOntario Museum's transformation into "the Titanic and the Icebeig" isnearing completion, the Conservatory's project is a model of good taste andprobity.There's a lot going into the -million Telus Centre: a library andrecording studio in the basement, a small musical instrument museum,classrooms, spacious practice rooms (the windows that will open ontoPhilosopher's Walk are a nice touch) and even a trendy wine-bar on theroof. But the most prominent feature is the I, 140-seat Michael and SonjaKoerner Concert Hall. When it's finished, it will essentially be anotherGeoige Weston Recital Hall, downtown (where it should have been built inthe first place).November 25, 2006: The Canadian Music Centre is in a festive moodthis evening, throwing a party for the 25th anniversary of its record label,Centrediscs. Toronto's new-music crowd was out in full force, at theCM C's stately home on St. Joseph Street, for drinks and hors d'oeuvres -and to gossip about arts councils and the CBC. But what's this, in a glasscase in the lobby? Apparently, it's yet another balsa-wood model for yetanother cultural building project."This started as a student assignment at Ryerson's school of architecture,"explains the CM C's ever-upbeat director, Elisabeth Bihl, "but theboard loves it, and so we're going to do it!" Compared with the Conservatory'sexpansion, it's a modest plan, which, if built, will provide more libraryspace, and also a small recital hall. Bihl estimates the cost at just million.One of the most interesting things about the current building boomin the arts is the way that it reveals our society's willingness to spend moneyon bricks and mortar. The Canadian Opera Company, for instance,manages to scrape together about million in a typical year to present sixor seven operas- but also managed to find 0 million for a new operahouse. The Royal Conservatory, with an annual budget of about million,is building a million expansion. And a few years ago, while the TorontoSymphony Orchestra was teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, millionwas found to renovate Roy Thomson Hall. (Whether or not Bihl can scrapetogether million to house Canadian "classical" music- a kind of musicthat most Canadians aren't even aware of- remains to be seen.)Don't get me wrong- I'm not opposed to any of these projects.On the contrary, I honestly like new opera houses, music schools, concerthalls and libraries. But sometimes I thinkTorontonians place a little toomuch faith in such facilities-viewing them as ends in themselves, ratherthan means to an end. For a true "cultural renaissance" to take place in thiscity, more money- much more money than governments and donors currentlycough up- will be required, on an ongoing basis. Are we up to thechallenge? Only time will tell.**Colin Eatock is a Toronto based composer and freelance writer whofrequently contributes to the Globe and Mail and other publications.His ''T.O. Musical Diary" is a regular feature of WholeNote magazine.14 WWW. THEWHOLENOTE.COM DECEMBER 1 2006 - FEBRUARY 7 2007

•Guillermo Silva-MarinFounder & General Director"THE BEST OF ALL POSSIBLE WORLDS"Julian Wachner, ConductorGuillermo Silva-Marin, Stage DirectorElizabeth Asselstine, Lighting DesignerDEC. 27, 30, 31*, JAN. 5 & 6 at 8:00 pmJAN. 7 at 2:00 pm*Ask about our New Year 's Eve Gala.,1' Il'·(sponsored by§ Scotiabank~·IDR6N~.lusic Toronto celebrates the 30th anniversary seasonof Canada's Coremost piano duo James Anagnoson andLeslie Kinton.Anagnoson & Kinton will perform a special programmeof Benjamin Britten, Claude Debussy, Igor Stravinskyand Witold Lutoslawski. The evening will also featuretheir newest Double CD set entitled "Sta,1;c.1 -Pcr/rmna11c1· H1i1hl1:9hl.1./i·om 51) Ymr" o/ C1111cer/,1. "Reception will follow in the lobby of the hall.Join 11.1 j~n· I ht;, .tpecia / mdc,1/one per(ormizncc.Tuesday, December 12, 2006 8 pmSt. Lawrence Centre for the Arts -Jane Mallett Theatre27 Front St. East, TorontoTickets , Box Office: 416-366-77:23 or 1-800-708-6754You may order on-line at www.stlc.comFor more information, visitCoruollduNUdllC.MoioWW W . TH EW HO LEN O TE. COM15

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