How Canadian should the Canadian Opera Company be? – The Globe and Mail

Wanted: an opera lover with a keen interest in new music, deep pockets and a big Canadian heart.

Assignment: donate $1-million to help the Canadian Opera Company live up to its name by producing a new Canadian opera.

The COC is an international-calibre opera company that routinely sells out houses with powerful productions of European classics. Tuesday, it launches the final performances of its current season with Tales of Hoffman by the 19th-century French composer Jacques Offenbach, but it has been 13 years since the company programmed a piece of music written by a Canadian in its main venue. Subscribers seldom demand new opera, let alone opera specifically composed by a Canadian, but in the music community, the lack of Canadian work at the COC is a subject of heated debate. Many see the issue not as one of nationalism but as one of vitality: The company needs to be working with living composers and librettists, and adding to contemporary repertoire.

“You have to develop with people from around you, ideas around you. It has got to be a living, breathing art form,” observes Randolph Peters, the composer who created The Golden Ass, the COC’s last full-scale Canadian opera, a 1999 composition with a libretto by Robertson Davies.

The first barrier to new opera is financial. An average mainstage opera can cost $1-million to produce plus another $500,000 to pay the performers. More lavish productions can run into the millions, and a new work has extra costs: the commissioning fees for the composer and librettist, and workshops to prepare the work for the stage. Meanwhile, both subscribers and occasional tickets buyers are more likely to pay to hear music by composers they already know.

“Short term, you can’t make an economic argument for doing new work,” says James Wright, general director of Vancouver Opera which mounted Lillian Alling, a new Canadian work, in 2010. “With new work, it’s a double whammy: The [ticket buyers] don’t know the name of the piece and they know it’s new. That scares a segment. They worry they won’t like it. If they don’t know a Mozart opera by name, at least it’s Mozart.”

via How Canadian should the Canadian Opera Company be? – The Globe and Mail.

Strange Random Opera Quote:

“The opera is like a husband with a foreign title – expensive to support, hard to understand and therefore a supreme social challenge.” – Cleveland Amory

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Posted on April 22, 2012, in Article and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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