Magazine article Opera Canada

Grand Tradition: Peter Sandor

Magazine article Opera Canada

Grand Tradition: Peter Sandor

Article excerpt

When Peter Sandor died of cancer on May 14, a day short of his 76th birthday, the opera world was deprived of one of its most enthusiastic and committed supporters. A tireless champion of Baroque music, Sandor was the founder of the Toronto Mozart Society and the Canadian Opera Company Baroque Opera Fund, and was a patron of many arts organizations, including the COC and the COC Ensemble Studio, Opera Atelier, Opera in Concert, Toronto Consort and the University of Toronto Opera Division. He was also a generous supporter of this magazine and served on the board of directors in the mid-1990s.

Peter Sandor was born into a comfortably middle-class family in Budapest on May 15, 1925. Though he didn't come from a particularly musical family, he developed an early interest in classical music, having attended his first opera, Mozart's Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail, while still a teenager. His early years were shattered by World War II, in which he lost both parents and spent several months in a forced labor camp. When the war ended, Sandor made his way back to Budapest, where he worked during the day at the Ministry of Industry and took engineering and economics classes at night, eventually graduating from the Budapest Technical University in 1950. It was also during this period that he met and married his wife, Margo, a librarian.

Like so many of their compatriots, the Sandors emigrated to Canada in early 1957, after the Hungarian revolution. It was in Canada that Peter Sandor became a successful management consultant, first at Peat Marwick and later at Acres International, until his retirement nearly 30 years later.

Though a music-lover all his life, he did not become a patron of the arts until his fifties, when in 1980 he served on the board of the fledgling Mainly Mozart Festival. In 1984, Sandor founded the Toronto Mozart Society, and he organized live concerts and lectures. True to his conservative fiscal policy, this organization was built on a solid foundation and continues to thrive today. Through the COC, Sandor established and financially supported the International Mozart Vocal Competition, which until recently was held every other year for young singers. He also partially or wholly underwrote many productions, which in recent years included Calisto and Giasone for the COC Ensemble Studio and Ariodante for Opera in Concert.

Nor was his financial support limited to Canada. A few years ago, Sandor responded to a fundraising drive for the restoration of one of the Mozart residences in Salzburg. Today, a plaque can be seen on the restored building in memory of his wife Margo, who died tragically in a boating accident in 1975.

Sandor's generosity was all the more exceptional given the fact that he was comfortable, but not of great wealth. He was fond of saying, "I am a middle-class guy," and it was well known that he gave a major portion of his annual income to the arts, preferring to live modestly in a rental apartment "Peter was an extraordinarily generous and enlightened philanthropist," says COC general director Richard Bradshaw. "Much of our success with Baroque productions is due to his vision and unfailing generosity."

Sandor was also legendary in his support and encouragement of young singers, through his pocketbook as well as the sharing of his extensive knowledge on European arts and culture. …

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