CBC Opera Company

CBC Opera Company. Founded in 1948 to perform on the radio series 'CBC Wednesday Night'. Under the chairmanship of Charles Jennings the company was administered by Harry Boyle, Terence Gibbs (producer), Nicholas Goldschmidt (conductor), Geoffrey Waddington (music adviser), and Arnold Walter.

CBC Opera Company

CBC Opera Company. Founded in 1948 to perform on the radio series 'CBC Wednesday Night'. Under the chairmanship of Charles Jennings the company was administered by Harry Boyle, Terence Gibbs (producer), Nicholas Goldschmidt (conductor), Geoffrey Waddington (music adviser), and Arnold Walter. Herman Geiger-Torel occasionally acted as coach. Auditions were held in Toronto the first year and in Toronto and Montreal the following year. The company made its debut 20 Oct 1948 in La Bohème, with Mary Morrison (Mimi), Jimmie Shields (Rodolfo), Beth Corrigan (Musetta), and Edmund Hockridge (Marcello). The production won the Best Music Program award in the 1949 Canadian Radio Awards Competition (sponsored by the Canadian Association for Adult Education). Other operas in the first season were Orpheus and Eurydice, La Traviata, and Don Giovanni.

The second season opened 12 Oct 1949 with the Canadian premiere of Britten's Peter Grimes with William Morton as Grimes, Edmund Hockridge as Captain Balstrode, Frances James as Ellen Orford, Eric Tredwell as Swallow, and Gordon Wry as Bob Boles. The opera was so well received that it was performed and broadcast a second time one week later over 'CBC Wednesday Night'. The production won a Best Music Program award in the 1950 Canadian Radio Awards Competition.

The company made its first public appearance 14 Dec 1949 in a concert performance of Carmen conducted by Goldschmidt at Massey Hall. In the spring of 1951 it made its first Montreal broadcast, a production of Faust with Pierre Boutet (Faust), Dolorès Drolet (Marguerite), and Denis Harbour (Mephistopheles). On 14 May 1953 it performed Don Giovanni for the inauguration of the Toronto-Montreal TV network.

The company presented many of the most popular operas, including Così fan tutte, Madama Butterfly, The Marriage of Figaro, Rigoletto, and Tosca. It also was heard, however, in less frequently performed works, such as Beethoven's Fidelio, Benjamin's A Tale of Two Cities, Britten's Albert Herring, Dallapiccola's The Prisoner (Canadian premiere), Debussy's Pelléas et Mélisande, Puccini's Gianni Schicchi and Turandot, Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress (Canadian premiere), Verdi's Falstaff and Otello, and Wolf-Ferrari's The School for Fathers. Canadian operas presented were Willan's Deirdre in 1951, conducted by Waddington, and Kaufmann's Bashmachkin in 1952 (Canadian premiere), conducted by the composer.

In addition to the singers mentioned above, Ernest Adams, Pierrette Alarie, Trudy Carlyle, Earl Dick, Barbara Franklin, Don Garrard, Esther Ghan, Marguerite Gignac, Yoland Guérard, Elizabeth Benson Guy, Joan Hall, Bernard Johnson, Alphonse Ledoux, Lois Marshall, James Milligan, Louise Roy, Jan Rubes, Mary Simmons, and Jon Vickers sang with the company.

In its last regular season (1954-5) the company presented five productions; thereafter opera performances continued to be broadcast (later telecast) but only on an occasional basis. Among these later presentations were Walton's Troilus and Cressida with Mary Simmons, Jon Vickers, and Harry Mossfield in the lead roles, and Rameau's Hippolyte et Aricie with Elizabeth Benson Guy, André Turp, Louis Quilico, and Robert Savoie, both in 1956-7, and the Canadian chamber operas Night Blooming Cereus by John Beckwith and Silent Measures by Maurice Blackburn during the 1958-9 season.

Also popular during the late 1940s and early 1950s was the CBC Light Opera Group, founded ca 1947 to perform the operettas of Gilbert & Sullivan. The 30-piece orchestra, 16-voice chorus, and soloists were under the direction of Geoffrey Waddington. The producer and narrator was Ernest Morgan and the soloists were Jean Haig and Doreen Hume (sopranos), Nellie Smith and Margaret Evans (contraltos), Edmund Hockridge and Eric Tredwell (baritones), and William Morton (tenor). In 1948 this group presented a 13-week Gilbert & Sullivan series with such success that it was repeated the following year. The English radio network continued to present Gilbert & Sullivan and other light operas from time to time.


Further Reading

  • Gibbs, Terence, 'New CBC opera season,' CBC Times, 11 Sep 1949