Magazine article Opera Canada

Signature (Turandot)

Magazine article Opera Canada

Signature (Turandot)

Article excerpt

OPERA HAS BEEN A TREMENDOUSLY POPULAR FORM OF ENTERTAINMENT for the past 300 years, but however great its appeal through the ages, even the best-loved operas aren't always successful. Much depends, as we know, on how an opera is presented. Puccini's Turandot, for example, mounted recently in Montreal, turned out to be what the press called a "colossal flop." Local press claimed the so-called Olympic Turandot was an "acoustical fiasco." William Littler heard the production from a "high-priced seat in the middle of the floor; tickets ranged from $45 to $150 (with reception-inclusive tickets going for around $250)." But, as he wrote in the Toronto Star, "the echo problem persisted, only the most spot-lit details emerging from the resonant muck in which the Orchestre Metropolitain wallowed. And the big ensemble numbers sounded more like bestial roars than the meticulously balanced handiwork of one of theatre's great operatic craftsmen."

Not only was the production an artistic disaster, it also racked up losses of more than $500,000 for its promoter, who was unable to pay dozens of members of the cast and production crew, to the point that police were called in to investigate!

But large-scale productions are often more successful. Such was the case with Wagner's Ring cycle, held in Flagstaff, Arizona (see our review, page 30). Montreal's Robert Markow, well-known lecturer and opera enthusiast, happened to attend a performance and particularly mentioned that Canada's Gary Rideout was "the best Loge I've ever seen."

In fact, Canadians continue to make news in opera at home and abroad. One of the most tireless champions of our country's singers is Canadian Opera Company director Richard Bradshaw. A recent article on him in the Toronto Star was headed: "Opera ambassador in import-export business." In the piece, Mr. Bradshaw speaks of the COC as a "great international company," performing all over the world. "This year, we're at the Hong Kong Arts Festival," he reminds us, "just one of the growing number of international festival appearances in which the Canadian Opera Company is making a name for itself."

Mr. Bradshaw believes, quite rightly, that "opera is an international art form. You can't afford to be parochial." At the same time, he makes it clear that he feels he has a priority to use Canadian artists whenever he can, although he adds, "But I can't always find the singers I need. …

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