St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts

St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts. A theatre complex in Toronto, located on Front St and built as the city's centennial project.

St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts

St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts. A theatre complex in Toronto, located on Front St and built as the city's centennial project. The St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts comprises the 876-seat Bluma Appel Theatre and the 498-seat Jane Mallett Theatre, and accommodates The Canadian Stage Company, the Esprit Orchestra, the Hannaford Street Silver Band, Music Toronto, Opera in Concert, and the Toronto Operetta Theatre. It is municipally owned and was operated 1983-7 by CentreStage Company (named Toronto Arts Foundation 1964-73 and Toronto Arts Productions 1973-83). General managers of the St. Lawrence Centre have included Mavor Moore 1966-70, Leon Major 1970-80, Victor C. Polley 1980-1, Bruce Swerdfager 1981-5, Michael Noon circa 1985-94, David Wallett circa 1996-2007, and James Roe in 2007.

The Theatres
The $2.6-million St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts was designed by Gordon S. Adamson and Associates and opened 2 Feb 1970 after eight years of planning and construction. The building originally housed the 483-seat Town Hall and 863-seat Theatre. The Town Hall was renamed the Jane Mallett Theatre in memory of the Canadian actress in November 1984 and is used mainly for recitals, chamber concerts, public debates, stage and film presentations. The Theatre was initially adaptable for thrust-stage, proscenium, and caliper formations, and was used for dramatic presentations until 1982, when it was redesigned by The Thom Partnership (Toronto) and the Theatre Projects Consultants. During the $5.3-million renovation, the thrust stage was removed, a balcony and boxes helped increase seating, and an optional orchestra pit was provided. It reopened 19 Mar 1983 as the Bluma Appel Theatre, named for a major donor. Additional restorations to the Centre's theatres and exterior were completed in 2007 by 3rd UNCLE Design Inc (Toronto); the $3-million construction cost was shared by the city and the Centre's patrons.

Performances 1970-86

Louis Applebaum was music consultant 1968-71. Franz Kraemer was music director 1971-9, succeeded by a team: Costa Pilavachi, music administrator, and Paul Robinson, director of music programming. Robinson resigned in 1980 and Pilavachi continued in sole charge of music until Jane Forner replaced him in 1982.

In the 1970s and 1980s, music presentations at the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts included several annual series and a broad spectrum of chamber music performances, in addition to special series and events. Canadian Sound, a festival of music by Canadian composers and performers, was presented in 1976. The Orford String Quartet presented a Beethoven series during the 1982-3 season. In addition to its regular chamber series in 1984-5, CentreStage Music (the concert arm of CentreStage) presented its 17-day Bach 300 festival at the St. Lawrence Centre and various venues throughout the city. Among others who used the Centre's facilities, COMUS Music Theatre presented the staged premiere of John Beckwith's The Shivaree in the Town Hall in April 1982, and the Canadian Opera Company Ensemble mounted Cosi fan tutte in the Bluma Appel Theatre in 1985.

Performances 1987-Present

CentreStage Music ceased its operations 1 Jul 1987, and the St. Lawrence Centre became, for musical events, a rental house. The Centre has since hosted a wide variety of performers, including the Gryphon Trio; the St. Lawrence and Tokyo string quartets; Marc-André Hamelin; Jon Kimura Parker; the Chamber Players of Toronto; MegaCity Chorus; Nexus; the ORIANA Women's Choir; Youth and Music Canada; and the Elmer Iseler Singers, who premiered Pimooteewin: The Journey (Melissa Hui, composer; Tomson Highway, librettist) at the Centre in February 2008. Festivals held at the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts have included the New Wave Composers Festival and the Luminato arts festival.


Further Reading

  • Littler, William. 'Toronto's St. Lawrence Centre now finished,' Canadian Composer, 46, Jan 1970

    Moore, Mavor. 'St. Lawrence Centre,' Opera Canada, vol 11, Feb 1970

    Doherty, Tom. 'Building the magic box,' Performing Arts in Canada, vol 10, Fall 1973

    Littler, William. 'Two men of note follow in Kraemer's footsteps,' Toronto Star, 16 Jun 1979'

    The transformation of the St. Lawrence Centre,' Toronto Globe and Mail, 12 Mar 1983

    Freedman, Adele. 'Old grey hall ain't what she used to be,' Globe and Mail, 19 Mr 1983

    Bach 300: Birthday Celebration March 8-24 1985. [souvenir book] (Toronto 1985)

    Everett-Green, Robert. 'CentreStage Music to change its name and location too,' Toronto Globe and Mail, 25 Aug 1986

    "St. Lawrence Centre revitalized as Toronto's cultural jewel," Canada NewsWire, 11 Jun 2007