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


Richard Bradshaw, General Director of the Canadian Opera CompanyThe Canadian Opera Company's General Director Richard Bradshaw is a conductor with the vision and energy to lead Canada's largest opera company into the Millennium. British born, Richard Bradshaw worked with Boult, Groves and Pritchard and has conducted all over the world, including Glyndebourne and San Francisco Opera (1977-89), the Far East, frequently Holland and Germany, and currently divides his time between COC and Sante Fe opera - his 'summer post' where he is due to give the USA première of Henze's Venus and Adonis next year. He already conducted Henze's other operas and recently Birtwistle's monumental Triumph of Time. Later this year he makes his Russian debut with a Verdi opera concert performance with Helikon Opera, directed by Dmitry Bertman, who produced COC's controversial La Traviata [see review].

I spoke to Richard Bradshaw last October about his ideas for the COC in his elegant office, filled with interesting scores of Janácek, Verdi, Henze , and pictures of COC's striking set designs. By far the most significant development for the COC in the Millennium is their exciting new Opera House project. And for Bradshaw, it will be a primary aim: 'Now we are looking ahead to the new Opera house… That's my goal - I may go when it's achieved'. The planned date is 2000, though the idea has been gestating for some time. For nearly 40 years, COC's productions have taken place at the Hummingbird Centre, Toronto, which holds an audience of 3000 (regularly sold out). But is not ideal due to its '…barn-like feel and inadequate acoustics: you really have to go to the Ford Centre to hear the orchestra properly: Brendel and Zimmerman for instance always prefer it for their concerts.'

Originally COC was to have moved uptown to a site which would be shared with Canadian Ballet, a 350 million Canadian dollar project which had backing from both Federal and provincial governments. 'There was a change of government to a socialist council who offered us the land only; then the government changed again and the council decided to withdraw even the land offer. So we went independent. Now the government are supporting us again, having realised the value and benefit of opera.' The new opera house (see colour illustrations) a dynamic and attractive new building, which will enjoy much better acoustics, is designed by the Canadian architects A.J.Diamond, Donald Schmitt & Co. whose recent achievements include Jerusalem City Hall, and Toronto's Metro Central YMCA. With COC's new Opera House project manager Kevin Garland, who has a real estate background, the architects visited many new opera houses in the USA and Europe to see the possibilities: Houston, San Francisco and Fort Worth (near Dallas), Glyndebourne, Munich, Bastille. The chosen site is on University Avenue, centrally located between the Uptown entertainment district and the Downtown hotel and financial city. The building, with its glass frontage will offer an 'open' image for the public, with the possibility of large exterior screened operas; other features including five tiers and a hanging terrace. As Kevin Garland told me, '…the total amount needed - for the construction (the total project amounts to $130 million) - is $87 million. They were assured $25m from Federal Government if they could obtain the land at lower than market prices. The rest was private. COC "sold" boxes for $5m, $3m, $2m and $1m. Clearly the public is thirsting for a new opera house!'

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


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Copyright © Malcolm Miller, December 4th 1999


Malcolm Miller's forthcoming review of Canadian Opera Company's La Traviata and l'Elisir d'Amore will appear in the Jan-Feb 2000 issue of Opera Now (Rhinegold Publishing).


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