Friday, August 17, 2007

Richard Bradshaw 1944 - 2007

"I never allowed myself to disbelieve," Richard Bradshaw remarked on the eve of the opening of the Opera House in Toronto last September.

He called his relentless ambition to move the Canadian Opera Company out of its prior home venue at the Hummingbird Centre to its proper home in the new Four Seasons Centre his 'Thirty Years' War'. Colleagues and friends describe him as 'a genuine titan, 'fiercely proud', 'tenacious and passionate'. Elaine Calder, President of the Oregon Symphony in Portland, Oregon describes Bradshaw as 'avid for life. He was funny. He was hugely intelligent. He was interested in a range of things beyond music.'

As an usher at the former O'Keefe Centre, now the Hummingbird Centre in Toronto for eight years, I was privileged to work with Mr. Bradshaw whenever the Canadian Opera Company performed at our theatre. Opera performers, management and patrons lived up to their diva status on many and numerous occasions. But the conductor/artistic director never displayed any of that sort of behaviour. Not even to Front of House staff like myself, who was obliged to ask him to show his pass over and over again.

He often stopped to chat with me, and was the epitome of erudite urbanity. He always, always had a twinkle in his eye, regardless of what financial and artistic burdens he carried on his shoulders. He dressed in hip, casual style that never reflected his age, since he plunged forward into life with the gusto of the truly young-at-heart.

"Most companies rely on a regular diet of popular operas to bring in the crowds," writes John Terauds for the Toronto Star. "But Bradshaw was convinced that, if they were presented well and performed convincingly, a general audience would come to appreciate even the most challenging works in the repertoire.

Even that bold undertaking proved true.

A couple of years before he was officially named the company's artistic director, Bradshaw conducted while Robert Lepage directed a 20th-century double bill of Bela Bartok's Bluebeard's Castle and Arnold Schoenberg's Erwartung in 1993. Torontonians loved it, as did audiences in New York, Australia and Scotland, where the touring COC won the Edinburgh Festival's top prize."

I worked those shows during this production, and it had a huge effect on me as far as understanding the role of design in a production, how it serves the story/performance.

"Bradshaw was hailed for both his accomplishment in bringing Wagner's Ring Cycle to the stage and his conducting.

'I've never heard such a range of hues and intensities from this orchestra, or a more deeply grounded bass. The famous 163-bar opening elaboration on an E-flat major chord felt like the tuning of the building itself,' Globe and Mail critic Robert Everett-Green wrote." - Arts

"He always treated me with tremendous, wonderful kindness and respect," says Canadian Baritone John Fanning.

This piece was published in the Globe and Mail Thursday, December 28, 2006:

"June 16, 2006. Baton in hand, Richard Bradshaw stands on the podium. Before him sit the 70-odd members of the Canadian Opera Company orchestra, playing the death scene from Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov. Behind him, in the auditorium, an invited audience of COC friends and patrons come to celebrate an evening many thought would never arrive: the imminent opening of Toronto's $181-million Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts.

For Mr. Bradshaw, the COC's general director, this is the consummate moment. Rendered all the more meaningful by the power of the music, it's the culmination of an impossible decade. Of lobbying, schmoozing, fundraising, pleading, cajoling, squeezing, begging and, yes, praying -- what Mr. Bradshaw has famously referred to as the Thirty Years War.

When the piece concludes, he rushes off stage, overcome, brushing past well-wishers, tears welling in his eyes.

That was a pretty amazing experience," he says now. "You really had to hold on."

But one must be careful of such emotional surrenders, he adds. Armed with an amusing quip or anecdote for every occasion, Mr. Bradshaw remembers what the British director John Dexter once said: "If you weep, they won't." They, as in the audience.

No worries on that score. Far from weeping, it's been a ringing chorus of bravo, bravissimo, maestro." - Michael Posner


Annie Mac said...

I love that quote "I never allowed myself to disbelieve."

He died way too young. What a life he led, committed to the things that he cared about passionately.

The world needs more people like him.

Camille Alexa said...

Pretty awesome photos.

Christine d'Abo said...

I'm sorry to hear of his passing. But he led a life doing something he loved. That's a blessing.

Anonymous said...

So young! :(

Amy Ruttan said...

I actually worked for a time in Toronto for the Hummingbird Centre's lawyers.

I probably met him once or twice his face looks familiar. Sorry to hear of his passing.

Amy Ruttan said...

Oh btw I nominated you for something.

Red Garnier said...

I, too, am sorry to hear of his passing. The world will miss him. This was a wonderful post, Julia. =)

Dr. Bill Emener said...

While the relative brevity of Bradshaw's life indeed is a daunting reality, his "life" validates a principle I hold near a dear: it's not the quantity of life that is important -- it's the quality of life.
Thanks, Julia -- excellent Post,

Samantha Lucas said...

OMG that was wonderful! Thank you for sharing. :)

Akelamalu said...

He had an amazing life.

disillussioned_me said...

thank you! you should read ziii's blog too!

Dale said...

Thanks for a wonderful tribute to a remarkable man.

Anonymous said...

There are moments in Virgil's Aenead where in order to fulfill his mission, a sacrifice must be made. Aeneas loses seven surrogate sons as he moves forward. I think the reverse is true here: For the gifts that Richard is leaving with us, we have all lost a surrogate father in our artistic world. I still think about his passing everyday and its meaning of loss.