Magazine article Opera Canada

Notebook

Magazine article Opera Canada

Notebook

Article excerpt

THE FIRST ARTICLE I WROTE about Richard Bradshaw marked his 1994 appointment as Artistic Director of the Canadian Opera Company. The company was at a critical crossroads at the time. While Brian Dickie, who had brought Bradshaw to Toronto a few years earlier as head of music, had just quit abruptly and somewhat acrimoniously as General Director and an accumulated deficit of around $2-million loomed ominously, the company was basking in the success at home and abroad of the innovative, Robert Lepage-directed double bill of Bartok's Bluebeard's Castle and Schoenberg's Erwartung. Bradshaw at the time was both optimistic and realistic. "Those two productions didn't show that we are a world-class company, because we aren't," he told me. "What they showed was that under the right conditions, we can be a world-class company. Part of my job now is to help achieve those conditions and help fulfill the promise."

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It was a rare privilege to be in a position to watch Bradshaw work to meet that promise from our first meeting to his sudden death August 15. Since then, it's been interesting to look back over my notes and articles from all the interviews and encounters and see how the dominant themes of his tenure at the COC were set from the beginning. "The question of the house," he argued in our first interview, "is absolutely, absolutely fundamental." Indeed, one could write a history of his COC years in terms of how he addressed that question.

Sadly, the COC's first season in the house he got built was also his last, but it stands as the one in which he most fully realized his musical and operatic ideals. For those who experienced it, the COC's 2006/07 season stands as his most memorable legacy. All the schmoozing, lobbying, fundraising and glad-handing he pursued with such apparent relish and panache were always about the music.

He was driven by a conviction that the arts have the power to communicate things that cannot be expressed otherwise. There was a stronger connection between this idea and his religious beliefs than most of us knew, perhaps, though we all embraced the way he gave voice to the belief in the theatre. Opera at its best, he explained in a 2001 interview, "is a cathartic experience, communicating the most profound thoughts and feelings to an audience that is sharing all the risks and dangers of a live performance. …

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