Opera Canada Readers Go to the Opera: Competition Winners Recall Some Great Canadian Performances

By Jack Orbaum, and others | Opera Canada, Summer 1997 | Go to article overview

Opera Canada Readers Go to the Opera: Competition Winners Recall Some Great Canadian Performances


Jack Orbaum, and others, Opera Canada


WE LAUNCHED A COMPETITION IN OUR Winter 1996 issue, asking readers to write about the most memorable opera performances they had enjoyed in Canada. The responses recalled performances from Montreal to Victoria, and encompassed a couple of decades. The winner, reproduced in full below, is Jack Orbaum of Thornhill, Ont. Mr. Orbaum never forgot a Canadian production of Otello at Expo 67, the centenary celebration that featured a gala international opera season. Our congratulations to Mr. Orbaum, as well as to the runners-up, whose entries we extract below.

NEW COMPETITION STRIKES A FUNNY NOTE

For our next competition, we have a wonderful prize--the 10-disc boxed issue celebrating 100 years of classical recordings on the His Masters Voice and related labels. This time, we're setting a more offbeat challenge, and invite you to submit your entry for the funniest moment you've experienced at the opera. It must be at the opera, though it can be at the opera anywhere. Entries should not exceed 500 words, and should arrive at the Opera Canada offices by July 1, 1997. The winning entry will be printed in the Fall, 1997 issue of the magazine. Send your entries to: Competition, Opera Canada, 366 Adelaide St. E., Suite 434, Toronto, Ont. M5A 3X9.

THE WINNER

Jack Orbaum, Thornhill, Ont.

OPERA AND SHAKESPEARE ARE TWO OF MY GREATEST passions. MANY operatic composers have faced the challenge of combining these, not always successfully. When Verdi, with the collaboration of Boito, who wrote the libretto, composed Otello, the result was an opera of extraordinary power and generally recognized as a masterpiece. A performance of Otello with excellent singers, great orchestral playing and imaginative staging to complement the action can produce an unforgettable evening. All these elements came together almost 30 years ago in Montreal, and it was my good fortune to be there. After 50 years of opera-going, this performance still stands out in my memory as one of the finest I have attended, even though the passing years have dimmed many of the details.

For an opera-lover, the only place to be in the summer and fall of 1967 was Montreal. It was Canada's centennial year, and Expo 67 attracted millions of visitors from Canada and around the world. As part of the celebration, a world festival was staged. It was probably the greatest program of entertainment ever presented in one city over a six-month period. Many of the world's leading opera, ballet and theatre companies, orchestras, chamber-music ensembles and soloists came to Montreal, as well as folk ensembles and other musical groups. It was a cultural bonanza the like of which will probably never be seen again in Canada--or anywhere else, for that matter. Those who were able to attend many of these performances will undoubtedly have lasting memories of them.

I was living in Montreal at that time, and my wife and I decided that, instead of taking a vacation that summer, we would spend our money on tickets for operas, concerts, plays and other theatrical events. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see companies from around the world--Russia, Japan, England, Austria, Germany, Sweden and many more.

There were seven opera companies at the festival--La Scala, the Bolshoi, the Vienna State, the Royal Stockholm, the Hamburg State, the English Opera and the Canadian Opera Company--and the Montreal Symphony Orchestra opera season. What an embarrassment of riches! Between them they presented 32 operas, including many rarities such as Prokofiev's War and Peace, Hindemith's Mathis der Mahler and Bellini's I Capuleti e i Montecchi. Some of the memorable performances I attended were Elektra with Birgit Nilsson, The Rake's Progress directed by Ingmar Bergman and the spectacular War and Peace with more than 50 solo roles. However, amidst all this international splendor, it was a Canadian production that stood out and earned rave reviews from the critics. …

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