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Operas without cliché


MALCOLM MILLER in conversation with Richard Bradshaw,
General Musical Director of the Canadian Opera Company


 << Continued from part 1 


Canadian Opera Company's new opera house. A J Diamond, Donald Schmitt and Company - Architects and Planners
Canadian Opera Company's new opera house, as designed by
A J Diamond, Donald Schmitt and Company, Architects and Planners

The new opera house will provide an exciting new stimulus and one of Bradshaw's plans is for a Ring cycle (staggered over several years at first). Would it be a 'new' radical production, perhaps by Dmitry Bertman? '…We are putting feelers out: with such a big project I wouldn't just offer it without finding out producers' ideas, so I am asking around several; but Bertman is certainly one of them.' But foremost in the Canadian Opera Company's forthcoming millennium productions in the1999/2000 season, as well as revivals of The Flying Dutchman and Don Giovanni (Jan/Feb) is a brand new Pelléas, directed by Richard Muni with very imaginative designs by Dany Lyne. '…Our production will be exciting - we originally hoped to do it in water, but (he grins), rather than pump several hundreds of gallons each night, we have now have this new vinyl material which creates an amazing effect with atmospheric lighting'.

As a result of Bradshaw's adventurous spirit since he began as Guest conductor in 1988 and Chief Conductor the following year, COC is currently considered at the 'cutting edge' of opera production, sixth largest in North America, rivalling even Houston Opera in quality, attested by its numerous awards for productions and CDs. '…Success is not really worth it unless it allows you to do what you want. I want to present operas without cliché. When I became General Director in 1998 I made it clear I was not interested only to go and do "market research", but rather to present interesting, exciting and worthwhile new works and new productions. When we did the Bluebeard Castle/Erwartung double bill we presented it as a flagship on which to base our season and after its success in Edinburgh, we sold it to the Canadian public. And we will do the same with Janacek (They already gave Jenufa, Katya Kabanova and Cunning Little Vixen and are scheduled for House of the Dead)'

Our interview is interrupted by a phone call from the film director Atom Egoyan who directed the 1996 Salome. '…He was very enthusiastic about last night (Dmitry Bertman's La Traviata - see review)' - a gleeful smile spreads as Bradshaw speaks vivaciously, demonstratively about his ideas for film and TV adaptations of opera, a reflection of a desire to attract a wider community and undercut elitism wherever possible. He enjoys the hectic schedules of the COC: 'It's fabulous: this week the orchestra are playing La Traviata and L'elisir [see review], then rehearsing Mozart (which is always good for them) and next week recording for the Horostovsky TV film "Leporello". Then we will record a new CD with Michael Schade - Italian Serenades, a follow-up to the acclaimed Award winning French Soirées (which received the Faure Prize and a Juno).'

The Horostovsky film Leporello is a radical (feminist) reinterpretation of Don Giovanni seen through his manservant's eyes. 'Originally it was to have been a duo with Bryn Tervyl, but he was unavailable. So it will be a solo. In a way Don Giovanni and Leporello are two sides of the same coin. It is about an hour of music, every note of it by Mozart, though some recitatives are cut and the direction will show a new perspective…The role of Commendatore will be sung by a promising young bass who apprenticed with the COC free of charge and is now at the Curtis Institute. We have very high hopes for him'.

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Copyright © Malcolm Miller, December 5th 1999


Soirée Française with Michael Schade, tenor, Russell Braun, baritone and the Canadian Opera Company conducted by Richard Bradshaw is available on CBC, catalogue no SMCD 5174 (1997).

(This link also contains extracts from the music in Real Audio)


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