50 COVER STORY opera in concert: the chance to shine continued from page 49 "OiC has become an extremely important part of the musical landscape in Toronto because of what it has done · for young singers. It has given them the experience of being in front of a serious audience in a major role," he says," and has contributed in a major way to the launching of many careers." Russell Braun, Ben Heppner, Joanne Kolomyjec, Suzanne Kompass,Richard Margison, Brett Polegato, Jean Stilwell, and more recently, Isabel Bayrakdarian, who has just been hired by the Metropolitan Opera Company and the .San Francisco Opera ... are a few of the names that come readily to mind when I ask him for examples. Tenor, John Tessier (pictured on our cover) is another in this quarter centurylong . line of Canadian singers whose professional careers have been propelled by Opera in Concert. Tessier, who grew up in Edmonton, did his undergraduate training in CQ,Iorado and had just completed his master's degree at the University of Western Ontario, when he wa:s given the role of Rustighello in OiC's November 1997 production of Donizetti's Lucrezia Borgia. "It was" he says, "a great opportunity to be heard in Toronto right at the beginning of my career. To get that exposure was tremendous! " And there was another, less immediately obvious, benefit. Because the main roles were double cast, he had to rehearse with two sets of singers. "This was a great education, which helped me to develop as a performer," Tessier says. ' Another benefit, adds OiC's present general. director, Guillermo Silva-Marin, is that the more experienced singers in OiC's productions are positive role models for the younger ones, helping them to develop a positive, professional attitude and avoid the . destructive "prima donna" attitude that singers have been known to fall into. · Silva-Marin has been associated with Opera in Concert from the very beginning, when he was Gary Relyea's understudy for the role of Hamlet in OiC's very first production, and ended up singing the part. By 1991. the company had grown to the point that Stuart Hamilton needed an assistant and Silva-Marin became the general manager. In 1994 upon Hamilton's retirement Silva~Marin became the General Director. Hamilton's were, according to Silva Marin, "big shoes to fill," and the last six years have been "as rewarding as they have been challenging." The company has thrived. According to Hamilton, Silva Marin "has taken it in directions I never would have thought of." One of these directions has been the inclusion of Canadian operas in the repertoire: "My own personal mandate is to present Canadian operas," Silva-Marin told me. John Beckwith's The Shivaree April 15 and 16 will be their third Canadian opera, and Silva-Marin has invited John Tessier back to OiC to sing the romantic lead role in this 1982 opera. (The first two were Timothy Sullivan's Florence: The Lady with the Lamp in 1995 and Healy Willan's Deirdre in 1997. "What Opera in Concert is really all about," says Silva-Marin, "is young singers and giving them an opportunity to spread their wings." So many who have been given that opportunity have gone onto major international careers -- John Tessier, with engagements lined up with The Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Opera Atelier, The New York City Opera and the Glimmerglass Festival, Duelling Butterflies A chance to compare April 14-16 is shaping up to be the big opera in concert weekend. On Friday, April 14, Centuries Opera is presenting an in-concert production of · Madama: Butterfly at the Weston Recital Hall. The renowned Italian-Canadian soprano, Maria Pellegrini, will sing the role of Cio-Cio-San, Madame Butterfly, one she has sung over three hundred times in opera houses around the world. For her performances in Trieste and Treviso she was presented with a specially minted silver medallion, honouring her and Madama Butterfly's composer, Giacomo Puccini; the CBC created a production of the opera for international broadcast with her in the title role; and she was declared by Lord Harewood to be the greatest living interpreter of the role of Butterfly. She sings the title role in a CD of the complete opera made in Sicily in 1995. appears now to be at that threshold. "We do innovative new · repertoire and nonstandard repertoire" says Silva-Marin, "which enables the company and the singers to take risks with casting in a way that would be impossible for a conventional company." In most of these operas, unlike the standard repertoire, there are no rules, no · expectations of the way a role should be done, which means that an artist is judged for what he or she does on stage, not for how well he or she conformed to the established conventions. Artist manager Henry Ingram recently recalled a remark made by some one at the Metropolitan Opera Company to a Canadian. singer performing there. "Why are so many great singers coming from Canada these days? Is it something in the water?" There's no single answer to the question. Some singers talk about great teachers here, like Mary Morrison, to whom John Tessier gives much credit. Tessier - probably most other singers would agree - also mentions discipline and persistence. But there can be no doubt that OiC, started by Stuart Hamilton twenty-five years ago, and sustained by Guillermo Silva Marin with such vision and commitment, has played its part. Maria Pellegrini And if you do take in the Centuries Opera opera-in-concert Butterfly, you will have the opportunity, later in the month to make a direct comparison between the in-concert version and a staged production, by Opera Mississauga, at Mississauga's splendid Hammerson Hall on April 29, May 2, 4 and 6.
Dawn Lyons goes After six times around the block, we finally spot a parking place on Adelaide East, pay the machine, and walk the two blocks back to Yonge and King. The elevator is full of the smell of a fellow elevatee's tuna sandwich and . . . and ... really GOOD elevator music. "lsn 't that Bach?" I ask Den "a Brandenberg?" ' "Um, yes, number six." The elevator glides to a stop at the ninth floor and the door opens. We get off, the door closes, and Bach and the tuna sandwich continue on. We are behind the scenes, at the administrative office of Music Toronto to talk with its general manager, Jennifer TSaylor. , he welcomes us in, and I compliment her on the ·elevator music. "Oh yes," she laughs, "the building manager is a subscriber of ours. Well, his father was." M~: Music Tomnto has produced what my editor calls (I consult my notes to make sure I get it , right) 'the oldest, the most ambitious and the most consistent classical music series in the city.' I asked him what he m~ant by consistent and he told me 'loyal subscrip er base and top-drawer per.formers. ' So what we want to know is, how to you do it?" Jennifer continues, " He started it all in the early 70's, it was called Toronto Arts Productions, then CentreStage, then it split into three groups, all ?f which, by the way, are still gomg: Canadian Stage for theatre St. Lawrence Centre Forµms, a public ' BEHIND THE SCENES affairs series, and us, Music Toronto." Me: "That far back, there was the TSO and for chamber music there was The Women's Musical Club and you." Jennifer nods: "Yes. The Women's Musical Cluti is older, they celebrated their hundredth anniversary recently, but we go Last month a member of the Petersen Quartet bounded up to me at intermission to say, 'Ms Taylor, you have people in your audience who still have black hair!' 5 I tell you the complicated true story. We start to plan our season two years ahead -- we are planning 2001-2002 now. We have three · professional artistic advisors - Martin Beaver, David Owen Norris, and Gwillym Williams -- and our composer advisor, Jeffrey Ryan. They mak~ recommendations to our board of· directors, who are knowledgeable amateurs - most of our board plays an instrument, many of them studied music seriously but chose to pursue a career in medicine or law, that sort of thing. The artistic advisors' recommendations get pared down to a priority list, a cross between a wish list and what we can do." Me: "What limits what you can do?'" Jennifer: "Well, the season. We do . twenty concerts in our season, October to April, we always do eight string quartets, we have five. recitals in our piano series -- it was easier to choose when we did eight! - that leaves seven dates for ensembles-inresidence and the Discovery series. Other factors are the artists' availability, and, of course, the money." I am always interested in the money. hazard a guess. "A string quartet costs Jennifer laughs again. "Well, this is our back a long way, too." She digs in another about ,000 ?...." 29 1 h season, but I've only been here since ~le and produces a piece of .paper and hands Jennifer gives me a pitying look: "That's a 1990. I came in as a consultant, I wrote a It to me. It is a concert program. "Music VERY junior string quartet." report, and the board said, 'You sound like at the Centre," it says, "April 26, 1971. you understand the situation,' and so here I The Opening Concert - Louis Quilico still am. ' baritone, Elizabeth Benson Guy, sopra~o, Me: "Double that?" ' Music Toronto started in 1971. The Garnet Brooks, tenor, Eugene Rittich, horn. Jennifer nods: "That's more like it. And first few concerts were at the Town Hall of And then, on April 29, Garrick Ohlsson." our hall seats 500." the St. Lawrence Market, a big room on the second floor. They were organized by Me: "That's only two days apart!'.' The regular rental for the Jane Mallett Franz Kramer, who passed away last fall." Theatre at St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts She digs in a file cabinet and Jennifer: "Well, they were making a she tells me, is around ,800. Add ' ?roduces a news?aper obituary. The photo splash." . advertising, programs, SOCAN fees ...·and 1s of a very dashmg and - how do I put it? - then there are admin costs, like rent, phone a dangerous-looking man. He wasn't Me: "How do you get these artists, and Jennifer's salary. There is a moment actually wearing a monocle, but I'd bet he sometimes quite early in their careers? of silence as we do the math. owned one. Born in 1914 in Vienna died How do you spot them?" in Toronto August 27, 1999, aged 85'. Jennifer has no trouble with that one. Me: "How do you manage?" "Quality. That is the only dec'iding factor ' in our selection of who we present.,, Jennifer is characteristically concise: "Onethird box office, one third fund-raising from Me: "An!f how do you get quality?" foundations and private donors, one third Jennifer leans back in her chair. "Let me Continues