Magazine article Opera Canada

Notebook

Magazine article Opera Canada

Notebook

Article excerpt

When Canadian Opera Company General Director Alexander Neef stepped in front of the curtain on the opening night of Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro early in February, there was a groan as the audience anticipated news of illness or a major cancellation. Neef quickly put those fears to rest before going on to make an unexpected statement that at one level broadly defended the sociopolitical value of the arts, at another reminded us of how lucky and privileged we are to live in a free and open society, and at yet another broached the subject of the public responsibilities of the arts.

"Over the last few months," Neef said, "we have witnessed terrorist attacks all over the world, in Paris, but also in Beimt, Bamako, San Bernardino, Istanbul, Jakarta, Burkina Faso and Nigeria. The common theme of these attacks seems to be a deliberateattempt to undermine the values that form the base of our western societies, most importantly freedom of speech and expression. The terrorists chose to attack places that belong to the entertainment sector, stadiums, concert halls, bars, restaurants and hotels.

"At the same time our country, Canada, has decided to welcome 25,000 refugees from Syria, one of the countries most affected by terrorism and civil war.

"At the Canadian Opera Company, we feel it is important to not only reflect on the impact of the attacks, but also to honour our Canadian values of freedom, respect for cultural differences, and a commitment to social justice."

Neef then announced that--in partnership with Lifeline Syria, the Institute of Canadian Citizenship and the Canada Council--the COC is launching an initiative to provide access to dress rehearsals and performances to refugees and newcomers to Canada. Though the idea is a work in progress, it is an intriguing venture that adds an interesting departure in the quest all performing companies pursue to put a face on future audiences. …

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