Magazine article Opera Canada

Giuseppe Macina. (Grand Tradition)

Magazine article Opera Canada

Giuseppe Macina. (Grand Tradition)

Article excerpt

The 2001-2 season marks Giuseppe Macina's 35th year as stage director-cum-vocal coach of Toronto Opera Repertoire, a Toronto School Board continuing-education course that allows people to get up close and personal with the likes of Verdi and Puccini. Promising pre-professionals use TOR to gain stage experience and repertoire, while enthusiastic amateurs get a chance to sing in a chorus rather than in the shower. Over the years, Macina has coached singers such as Paul Frey, Michael Burgess, Bruce Kelly, Guillermo Silva-Marin, John Doddington, Diane Loeb, David Meek and Gaynor Jones, while several of his "tekkies" have gone on to professional careers in production with the Canadian Opera Company and Opera Atelier.

TOR's evening classes operate on an annual budget of around $35,000, the bulk of which goes for costume rental. The students themselves take care of advertising for the opera-excerpts concert as well as the two fully staged productions (this season's repertoire is Tosca and Die Fledermaus) that make up TOR's yearly playbill. They also build the sets, make the props, and design and print the programs. "No one is ever turned away," says Macina, "because our mandate is to provide an opportunity to anyone who wants to perform opera on a stage."

Macina, now an energetic 63, was born near Barn on Italy's Adriatic coast, to a family that had been harness-makers for generations. When he was seven, he got a spanking because he refused to go to church choir practice, where he was a leading boy soprano; he felt it was more important to stay home and listen to Renata Tebaldi's La Traviata on the radio.

As a young boy, he was taken under the wing of a noble family that patronized the Macina harness business, a connection that opened the door to culture. He attended operas in the family's private box and chamber-music salons at their palazzo. When he was 12, Tebaldi came to sing at the Bari Opera House, and the young Macina got to meet her. They began a correspondence that grew into a lifelong friendship.

The growing popularity of the automobile meant the end of the harness business, and the Macinas emmigrated to Canada in 1954. They bought a little bungalow in Scarborough that is the much-renovated home Macina still lives in today. To help pay the mortgage, Macina worked at all sorts of jobs, but evenings were spent at concerts or Metropolitan Opera touring performances. He also used his meagre wages to lay the foundations of his formidable record collection. Macina had lost his voice at puberty; but it had come back as a promising tenor when he was in his late teens. …

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