Go, COC!

Four Seasons Centre
Four Seasons Centre — a distinctive presence in a crowded cityscape

(Canscene) — Wherever they’re performing on world stages at this moment, Canadian singers like Isabel Bayrakdarian, Russell Braun, Tracey Dahl, Frances Ginzer, Ben Heppner, Adrianne Pieczonka, Gidon Saks and Michael Schade must indeed be happy to know that the Canadian Opera Company’s new home has been so well received by the public.

Four Seasons Centre
Aerial Amphitheatre for mini-concerts, meetings and lectures

It was general director Richard Bradshaw’s early recognition of their talent and the maestro’s partnership with architect Jack Diamond plus the generosity of philanthropists like Isadore Sharp and the late R. Fraser Elliott in giving Canada the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts that has brought the COC to its present stature.

First past the post

To me, it’s fitting that of the three major Canadian cultural “prestige” buildings rising in Toronto, the completion of the Four Seasons Centre has led the pack of openings, putting to shame that old and pervasive Canadian habit of denigrating homegrown initiative.

While the steel and glass conception of Daniel Liebeskind for the Royal Ontario Museum is brilliant and arresting, it occupies a crowded urban area where, instead, it deserves to be seen from afar, surrounded by open space. And will the cachet of Frank Gehry’s design for the Art Gallery of Ontario in an equally unfelicitious surrounding bring in more visitors? Latest word is that due to the renovation schedule, the AGO’s closure will be extended to eight months.

Four Seasons Centre Hall
Fraser Elliott Hall: the opera theatre

So the “modest” new opera house doesn’t have the dramatic design of Sydney but it serves its purpose well and truly. And that purpose is to satisfy a public whose interest in opera proves it is an art form that has renewed itself. When performances are being staged, the visibility of the teeming City Room through glass will be an arresting sight and establish presence even in a crowded cityscape.

Recognizing peoples’ needs, COC has moved with the times

Over the years, audiences for operas staged at the Hummingbird Centre by the Canadian Opera Company (COC) have been seen in increasingly relaxed dress, some of the younger members even garbed as though headed for a rock concert. Tickets for opera lovers in their twenties have been offered at special prices. Bradshaw, in radio and television commercials for COC has titillated the public interest. It has already been announced that at each performance of an opera the COC will offer seats at $20.00 each on a first-come, first-served basis to opera lovers aged 16 to 29.
Opera in Canada finally belongs to the people and it was in this spirit that the new Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts was received when it opened last month. Now more than ever the new home of the COC and the National Ballet has demonstrated that the building is performer – and audience-oriented above all.

Neither Italy’s La Scala nor Britain’s Covent Garden can be said to have the kind of overwhelming presence that some now believe is essential for a “prestige” building. But they make beautiful music.

Test audiences have already confirmed that, acoustically, the Four Seasons Centre is all that can be desired. Richard Bradshaw told the guests that at one such test, his audience consisted of school kids. After explaining what he was going to do and as he raised his baton, one youngster who appeared to be about seven, yelled “Go, dude!”

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