Great Canadian inadequately honoured

janrubes(Canscene) — On June 29 last, the passing of an 89-year-old Canadian whose contributions to the art of music in this country were no less than great, was barely noted by media.

His name was Jan Rubes, a classically trained and already well-known opera singer who, fleeing from the Commmunist regime in his native Czechoslovakia arrived here in 1947 with what proved to be a gift to this country: his glorious basso voice plus great acting ability.

With the exception of  a substantial article in the Globe and Mail, most media headed their death notices of Jan Rubes with the fact that he had a supporting role in a Harrison Ford movie. Yet here was a man who was one of the pioneer voices in what became the Canadian Opera Company.  He was for nine years director of the long-running CBC radio series Songs of My People featuring ethnically oriented music performed  by the many new Canadians arriving here in the fifties. Who, among those who saw the Stratford Don Giovanni in 1966 could forget his Leporello? He  was a gifted director of opera and operetta as well as a fine character actor. And his marriage to Susan Douglas, the young European-born actress from the United States brought another talent to Canada. he is survived by his wife of nearly 60 years.

Although we had several mutual friends, I had but one opportunity to meet with Jan Rubes — at a reception following his successful production of Johann Strauss Junior’s Night in Venice. He had imaginatively set the overture in a canal-side location with live stars and chorus  performing in dumb show. I congratulated him on the innovative opening and the conversation led to Italy and the Italian language. Did I notice that off-colour Italian phrase he’d inserted into the text, he asked me with an impish smile?

I think it’s high time CBC gave some thought to a retrospective of a great Canadian and his career.

One Response to “Great Canadian inadequately honoured”

  1. Frank deBrune Says:

    I hope the CBC is listening. Thanks for completing a job that most of the media handled badly.