Magazine article Opera Canada

Graham Cozzubbo

Magazine article Opera Canada

Graham Cozzubbo

Article excerpt

"I'm a Don Quixote, running at windmills, trying to insert myself into as many things as possible." So says Graham Cozzubbo, who, at 43, has been billed as a director of theatre, opera and contemporary music over his 18-year career.

Cozzubbo grew up in Calgary in a German/South Asian/Italian neighborhood and was attracted to the array of sounds around him from an early age. He recalls playing cassette tapes of Balinese monks chanting and listening to Harry Belafonte. "I've always been interested in aural experiences--anything I could find that was out of my realm of experience. The ear always drew me." He has no formal musical training, although he does think of himself as musically astute in terms of translating music to the stage. "Music doesn't have a practical application in my body," he says. "I learned to read music like a code or an alphabet."

Cozzubbo studied theatre at university and then went on to The Banff Centre, where he was strongly influenced by the mentorship of Keith Turnbull. At Banff, he honed his skills and learned the crafts of the diverse team of artists around him. He found his way to opera via contemporary music theatre there, working with Turnbull and people he characterizes as all being "way better" than himself. "Contemporary work is great because it's of our time," he says. "I'm really interested in what people are doing and saying now." The Canadian premiere of Bow Down by Harrison Birtwistle and Tony Harrison, which he directed at Banff, taught him a valuable lesson, "Always work with those better than you if you can. Don't make the work about yourself -just get to work."

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Cozzubbo says he works with actors and singers in exactly the same way. "To me, directing opera and theatre are the same. People say, 'Do you work with actors and singers differently?' I don't at all. They are very different kinds of artists, they operate differently, have different modes of working, but have one critical ingredient that's the same: they're all storytellers."

Cozzubbo's storytelling in opera has been widespread and varied, embracing everything from works for young people (including Dean Burry's The Brothers Grimm and his and the Seven Scorpions, both for the Canadian Opera Company) to traditional and contemporary repertoire with companies across Canada and in the U. …

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