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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 2 

In general the Canadian Opera Company has an enlightened policy on young artist development. Alongside its main productions is presented an annual 'Ensemble' production at the smaller Du Maurier Theatre for the younger talents to gain solo experience. The repertoire alternates 18th and 20th century opera, last year Cavalli, and this year Britten, whose Rape of Lucretia will be conducted by the gifted young assistant conductor Judith Yan. Each year just a few singers are accepted on the Ensemble programme which is coached by the English repetiteur Liz Upchurch. As Alain Coulombe, who came from three years in L'Opera de Montreal explained, 'it is a fantastic opportunity to learn new roles, benefit from support from the whole company, to do support and understudy roles and then to have this one production for the whole group.' As Bradshaw adds, 'The singers usually stay with us for a couple of years, and then make their way into American companies and around the world.' Yet they also have a high loyalty to COC; for instance the outstanding tenor Michael Schade still likes to sings regularly in COC productions though he is in demand all over the world. COC also imports many Eastern European singers yet there are also many fine Canadian sopranos and mezzos. 'In general it's true we are well supplied with tenors and baritones'. Certainly this is true with James Westman, a particularly hot talent, along with Michael Schade and others, including Ben Heppner, Richard Margison, and Russell Braun.

Evidently, with radical productions of mainstream repertoire, COC also maintains an admirable commitment to living Canadian composers. 'We premiered Randolph Peters Nosferatu in 1993 and earlier in 1999 his new opera The Golden Ass. His first opera received very good reviews from Andrew Porter and the TLS, and he is obviously recognised for his qualities. And there are others, though COC have not yet performed them, including The Scarlet Princess, a new commission from COC composer-in-residence Alexina Louie. In a way, we do much the same type of repertoire as the Met (which is quite close by) - only in a more refreshing way. Bertman's production of La Traviata was tremendous.' Would he consider returning home to the UK? 'For the right thing… not an old Traviata or an old Ring, or anything old - it has to be new'. Perhaps it may be to perform Thomas Ades whom he singles out as one of the most talented young British composers: '…he is one of the bright names, though he has not yet found his style he is very promising'.

As we close our interview I wish him luck for the evening's L'Elisir d'amore [see review] which he is conducting while the opera's main Italian conductor Maurizio Barbacini is away. 'Yes - I'll need it - it's the first time I've done it - no rehearsal, nothing!' He smiles with a glint in his eye.


Copyright © Malcolm Miller, December 6th 1999


Interview date: 6 October 1999

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