Festival Ottawa

Festival Ottawa, 1978-83 (Festival Canada (Ottawa), 1971-7).

Festival Ottawa

Festival Ottawa, 1978-83 (Festival Canada (Ottawa), 1971-7). Annual event created in 1971, under the artistic direction of the NACO conductor Mario Bernardi, as the main summer occupant of the NAC, and as a tourist-season showcase for the NACO and for leading Canadian singers, instrumental musicians, chamber groups, actors, and entertainers. The idea for a summer festival in Ottawa is attributed to Vincent Massey, who in 1952, during his term as governor general, advocated an event international in character yet emphasizing Canada's own cultural achievements. The festival acquainted Canadians and visitors to Canada with the country's ability to produce musical and theatrical fare of international standard, in particular opera but also orchestral and chamber concerts, jazz concerts, films, plays, and variety shows. The NAC summer festival, held in July, with Andrée Gingras as festival administrator, contained some 40 such events in its 13 seasons. Bernardi conducted most of the operas produced: Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro (1971, 1972, 1976), Così fan tutte (1972, 1973, 1979), Don Giovanni (1973, 1974), The Abduction from the Seraglio (1974), The Magic Flute (1975, 1977) and Idomeneo (1981), Offenbach's La Belle Hélène (1973, 1975), Rossini's Le Comte Ory (1974, 1976) and The Barber of Seville (1978), Verdi's La Traviata (1975, 1978) and Rigoletto (1981), Tchaikovsky's The Queen of Spades (1976, 1979) and Eugene Onegin (1983), Strauss' Ariadne auf Naxos (1977), Donizetti's Don Pasquale (1977) and La Fille du Régiment (1980), Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream (1978, 1981), Massenet's Cendrillon (1979, 1983), and Debussy's Pelléas et Mélisande, Puccini's La Bohème and Handel's Rinaldo (all three in 1982). Among the singers have been Napoléon Bisson, Colette Boky, Claude Corbeil,Maureen Forrester, Don Garrard, André Lortie, Allan Monk, Louis Quilico, Patricia Rideout, Joseph Rouleau, Jon Vickers, Frederica von Stade, and Delia Wallis.

For chamber music devotees the festival provided concerts by Canadian and foreign ensembles, including the Orford String Quartet (which in 1972 premiered Jacques Hétu'sString Quartet Opus 19, a CBC commission), the Fine Arts and Vermeer quartets, the Beaux-Arts Trio, the SMCQ Ensemble, the Lyric Arts Trio, and Canadian Brass. Recitals were given by such artists as Donald Bell, Victor Bouchard and Renée Morisset, RenéeClaude, Van Cliburn, Pauline Julien, Bruno Laplante, Oscar Peterson and Ronald Turini. Following financial difficulties, the festival was cancelled after the 1983 season. The NAC nevertheless resumed its opera productions in the summer of 1988.


Further Reading

  • 'World Roundup: Canada: Ottawa,' OpCan, Summer 1972

    Edinborough, Arnold. 'High quality in Ottawa,' OpCan, Summer 1974

    Woodward, Anthony. 'A short-lived feast of operatic delicacies,' PfAC, Fall 1978

    Postl, Vicki. 'More for less in opera,' OpCan, Spring 1984