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Volume 19 Issue 7 - April 2014

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We haven’t had our

We haven’t had our epicfight yet It’s an inspiringrelationship. We don’tplay games.What’s theCOC like asa corporation?Neef: Opera isunbelievably expensive.There are somany people to pay.It’s a big challengeto keep the machinegoing. Luckily the administrative staff believes in giving the best forthe company. It’s like a code of honour. Given the iffy funding we haveto face, no one works here for the money. The commitment the staffgives to the COC is extraordinary.Debus: Even the security guards are committed. There is a familyspirit here that is very special.Johannes, what’s it like working with the COC orchestra?Debus: Some European orchestras don’t like to do homework, soyou first have to be a bad cop. At the COC, the musicians have a highwork ethic. They do prepare at home because they want to performwell, to present themselves in the best way possible. They also love toplay opera, and are always focused, which is the best possible musicmaking,no matter who the conductor or composer. It’s a rare quality.It’s also a form of generosity. They make me a better conductor. Theyare sweethearts.Another question for you Johannes. How do you decide whichoperas you conduct?Debus: I have a contract to conduct three productions a year. I likethe idea of having guest conductors because it’s good for the orchestrato get inspired by others. When I’m not conducting, I can sit in theaudience and observe – see what’s working, and what needs work.How do you both see the state of the arts in general?Debus: It’s true that many more people are interested in hockey,but we have to find a way to influence them. The arts are essential forholding society together. They make life interesting. The arts are not aluxury good. They are an essential experience. We should be thinkingabout what our art form can offer in the future.Neef: European countries have a cultural identity. The arts are officialpolicy. Here in Canada, we should be building an identity thatis both national and cultural. But there has been huge progress.Remember, the COC has just 65 years of history, versus 400 years forsome companies in Europe. The arts impact on the community, andwe have to do a better job of explaining what we do. I know and lovethe arts, but many people take the arts for granted. That’s our challenge– to keep the momentum going. We’re still building somethinghere.Neef: Nobody has come through the recession unscathed. Oursubscriptions have dropped from 75 percent to closer to 70, but it isstill the highest in North America. Subscriptions used to be 30 percentof the budget 20 years ago, now they are 16. A board member helpedus do market research and we found that if a person subscribesfor three years, they stay forever. That means we have to do moregrooming of the one- and two-year subscribers to make them stay.Their renewal rate is around 50 percent. We have a solid young audienceunder 30, because they can buy discounted tickets, but after 30,when the tickets get more expensive, they stop coming. People do tendto return in their 40s and we have to encourage that. The Four SeasonsCentre is now eight years old, and lower subscriptions and ticket salesprobably indicate that the honeymoon with the new house is over.That means we have to rely more on philanthropy. There has been acultural renaissance in Toronto that is producing big donors.What about the HD performances in movie theatres?Debus: Opera is the greatest art form, but there is a price tag. Peopleask themselves why should I go to the opera and pay high prices if Ican see it on the internet or at the cinema – but it’s a two-dimensionalexperience. Live opera in the theatre is three-dimensional. Operaneeds to be seen in an opera house because of the magnifiedemotions. Live performance is how the art form was born – as a religiousritual in ancient Greece. Opera is a communal experience.What’s opera like as a career for emerging artists in Canada?Neef: It’s a big issue. There is talent but no employment. There areonly a handful of companies. It’s also more difficult to go to the Statesnow because companies are closing down. We should be nurturingsmaller companies to provide performing opportunities.Debus: It’s not a shock coming here. Toronto is a cosmopolitan city.Neef: It’s not a shock because the German mentality and Canadianmentality are close. There is a seriousness. We’re both a little bitreserved. From an economic point of view, in both Germany andCanada, you don’t spend money you don’t have. And the little thingsmean a lot. People call me to take me shopping. They offer me theircars. A big shock would be moving to Italy, for example.Debus: People are kind and I’m well-treated. There’s an honestyhere. You can connect to people because they make it easy. They openup. It’s a pleasant life. It’s feels like home.Neef: Maybe we haven’t been here long enough for the bad stuffto hit.Are you able to sense a Canadian character?Debus: I see an inferiority complex. For me as an artist, that is afailing. There is enormous potential here. People should take pleasurein that.Neef: It’s interesting that some Torontonians don’t see their owncity as a world player. People ask me when I’m moving on. Do I havemy eye on New York? On the Met? People should be building up thepossibilities of the city, harnessing the from seven?Neef: Since moving into the new opera house, we’ve done threeproductions in the spring, but our time is limited by the NationalBallet’s dates. We are now reallocating our resources. Three springproductions curtailed our repertoire options. We couldn’t programany big operas like Walküre, for example. Also, some subscribersdidn’t like having to give up three dates in May when they wantedto be at the cottage. Dropping one opera gives us room to create aseason we can be happy with. The budget will be close to what it waswith seven operas, so the change isn’t due to financial considerations.When the renewal of the agreement with the Ballet comes up, we havea list of things to talk about to make the dates better for everyone.For me, The Barber of Seville, Don Giovanni and on the same season is being populist. My preference is for the newand the different.Debus: As for Barber, we haven’t done a pure comedy since Lacenerentola in 2011 – one where nobody dies, where parents can bringtheir kids. The Don Giovanni by director Dmitri Tcherniakov is verydifferent than any production that you’ve seen before. It cuts deeplyto the core of the piece. Even warhorses can offer something unusual.Both are new productions. is a blockbuster – a great cast thatfeatures soprano Patricia Racette. People will come out for the voices.There are, of course, financial considerations behind programming, but we do have to sell tickets.Neef: We’ve pushed the rep in the last few seasons, so this yearwe’re giving the unfamiliar a break to establish balance. We still haveto fill 2,000 seats every night. Programming familiar titles servicesa wider public, but you can make them interesting by offering newproductions or big names. We have a great house and it’s a very satisfyingexperience to see a production at the Four Seasons. I’m happyabout both the six operas, and the encouraging subscriptions sales.Paula Citron is a Toronto-based journalist. Her areas of specialinterest are dance, theatre, opera and arts commentary.10 | April 1 – May 7, 2014

BEHIND THE SCENES 2ChuckDaellenbachDAVID PERLMANChuck Daellenbach11714TH SEASON15MUSIC IN THEAFTERNOONWOMEN’S MUSICAL CLUB OF TORONTOARTISTIC DIRECTOR: SIMON FRYERWalter Hall, Faculty of Music, University of Toronto (Museum Subway Station)OCTOBER 2, 2014 | 1.30 PMTRIOWANDERERTORONTODEBUTJean-Marc Phillips-Varjabédian, violin;Raphaël Pidoux, cello; Vincent Coq, pianoIn anticipation of the Canadian Brass’ upcoming appearance April 27,the final concert in this year’s Mooredale Concert Series, I trackedtuba player Chuck Daellenbach down for a thoroughly entertaininghour-long chat at his south Rosedale Toronto home, middle of March.What follows is just a couple of frames from a chat that roamed here andthere over the whole 44 years of the Brass’ existence: commissioningand arranging, their momentous 1977 groundbreaking trip to China,recording, media, player personnel and more. You can find the fulllengthinterview on our website at What followsgives a taste of the indefatigable Daellenbach, now the only member ofthe original quintet still in full-time performing harness with what isundoubtedly the best-known Canadian chamber ensemble of our (andperhaps all) time. Enjoy.DP: I told your agent at IMG in New York to pass on the message – Idon’t know whether he did or not – that I was going to want to startall the way back in the Betty Webster days ... That was, what, 1971?CD: Yes I heard this. ...Well, the Canadian Brass was very fortunatein that the Hamilton Plan was in effect. And the Hamilton Plan hadbeen put together by some very civic-minded people in Hamilton inthe late 60s. The idea was to have every child in a 60-mile radius ofHamilton (excluding Toronto) hear a string group, brass group, woodwindgroup, percussion group in their school every year and thencome into the concert hall at the end of the year to hear an orchestra.And before the Hamilton Plan disbanded they had actually achievedthat in a 30-mile radius, and it became a model for other communities[internationally], ... because it was so successful and it was sucha great idea.So this revolved around the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra, didit? Yes. Betty Webster was the executive director of that program, andthe Paikin family in Hamilton were very instrumental in putting thisplan together. And then they brought in a young conductor at thattime to be the voice, the mouthpiece for the program, they neededsomeone to be the face of the program [Boris Brott]. And [at the coreof] their fulltime professional chamber orchestra was a string quartet– the Czech String Quartet – and a woodwind group, and that’s wherethe Canadian Brass fit in; the Canadian Brass became the resident[brass] ensemble.So you were the section leaders effectively within the orchestra,and the sections had to kind of earn their keep by going out intoschools as section ensembles? Well, originally it was almost theopposite, which was what was amazing; traditionally it’s a way toput an orchestra together. In this case, it was a way to get music outinto the schools; they really wanted to get to the kids. And then thefact that the professional musicians had a base of reference meantthey could be then part of the resident orchestra, that’s what kept itNOVEMBER 13, 2014 | 1.30 PMDOVERQUARTETJoel Link, violin; Bryan Lee, violin;Milena Pajaro-van de Stadt, viola; Camden Shaw, celloMARCH 12, 2015 | 1.30 PMJENSLINDEMANNtrumpet; with Kristian Alexandrov, piano, percussion;Mike Downes, bass; Ted Warren, drumsAPRIL 16, 2015 | 1.30 PMCHRISTIANNESTOTIJNmezzo-sopranoJULIUSDRAKEpianoMAY 7, 2015 | 1.30 PMProgramme includes a new work by Christopher Mayo(WMCT Commission and World Première)TORONTODEBUTTORONTODEBUTConcert Sponsor:WMCT FoundationENSEMBLEMADE IN CANADAElissa Lee, violin; Sharon Wei, viola;Rachel Mercer, cello; Angela Park, pianoFive Concerts for 5 | Early-bird price May 1 - 31, 2014 – 0For information and to subscribe call 416-923-7052Also available: Tickets for live Career Development Award competitionSunday, April 26, 2015, Walter Hall: All artists, dates, and programmes are subject to change without notice.Support of the Ontario Arts Council, an agency of the Government of Ontario, andthe City of Toronto through the Toronto Arts Council is gratefully acknowledged.PRESENTED April 1 – May 7, 2014 | 11

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