The Opera World Mourns the Loss of Beloved Lotfi Mansouri

Toronto Mourns beloved Lotfi Mansouri

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Toronto, ON – The Canadian Opera Company is deeply saddened to learn of the sudden passing of former general director Lotfi Mansouri, who guided the company from 1976 to 1988.

“Lotfi Mansouri was a legend. There is no question he was one of opera’s most influential general directors; whether it be his passion for promoting young performers, his zeal for attracting new audiences to the art form, or his undeniable love of opera and all its idiosyncrasies,” says COC General Director Alexander Neef.  “The international prestige that this company now enjoys is due in no small part to his strong leadership and tireless efforts.  I am personally very grateful for his friendship and the advice he shared with me ever since I joined the COC.”

Mansouri was the COC’s third general director and played a significant role in launching the COC’s international reputation for artistic excellence and creative innovation, and growing the company into the largest producer of opera in Canada and one of the largest in North America.  During his tenure, Mansouri’s focus was on implementing a longer performance season, audience development, more adventurous repertoire and productions, and advance planning both financially and artistically, the accomplishments of which are essential elements of the COC’s operations today.

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The COC’s international reputation was most certainly launched with the growing number of singers of world-renown that Mansouri was able to attract to the company with greater regularity.  Mansouri brought with him to the COC an extensive network of friends and associates developed during his time as a resident stage director at Zurich Opera and Geneva Opera, as well as guest director at major opera houses in Italy and the United States.  Not long into his term the COC presented what has been called an unprecedented season with preeminent opera stars of the day Joan Sutherland, Tatiana Troyanos, Elisabeth Söderström and James McCracken all appearing in the 1980 – 1981 performance year.

Mansouri is also credited with establishing the COC Orchestra and COC Chorus, which have become two of the company’s most distinguished attributes.  The company’s orchestra and chorus are internationally acclaimed for the skill and musicianship possessed by their artists.

A great ambition of Mansouri’s was the creation of a specialized training program for young opera artists that would serve as a bridge to professional life.  This goal was realized in 1980 with the launch of the COC Ensemble Studio, which has become Canada’s premier training program for young opera professionals.  To date, over 180 young professional Canadian singers, opera coaches, stage directors and conductors have acquired their first major professional operatic experience through the Ensemble Studio, claiming such alumni as Ben Heppner, Isabel Bayrakdarian, John Fanning, Wendy Nielsen, Joseph Kaiser, David Pomeroy, Lauren Segal and Krisztina Szabó.

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It was also during Mansouri’s time as general director that the COC established permanent administrative offices at the Joey and Toby Tanenbaum Opera Centre and its own production shop, an essential requirement of any major opera company.

Under Mansouri’s tenure, one of the greatest contributions to the COC and the opera world was the creation of SURTITLES™, which were unveiled at the company’s 1983 production of Elektra.  The occasion marked the very first time any opera house in the world had projected a simultaneous translation of the opera for its audience, and the advent of SURTITLES™ allowed the COC to make opera more accessible to audiences.  The idea of titles, once revolutionary to the international opera community, is now accepted practice in all major opera houses worldwide.

Mansouri left the COC in 1988 to become general director of San Francisco Opera.  He returned on multiple occasions to give masterclasses to the young opera professionals of the Ensemble Studio and to direct on the company’s mainstage.

Met Opera Soprano, Aprile Millo comments on Mansouri’s passing

“This man was a true gentleman of opera: cultivated, innovative, and expertly in love with opera.  He fought for opera in general but especially for those artists he loved.  I was thrilled to be one of them.  He and his brother Zerin mean a lot to me and I send sympathy and solidarity to his immediate family and to the opera family that he leaves much less rich at his passing.”    A. Millo

Millo

Mansouri brought Millo to Toronto in the early 90s for a spectacular production of Andrea Chenier with Ermano Mauro, Jean Stilwell.

Tenor, Brian Gow comments on Lotfi’s influence on young Canadian Singers

Brian Gow

Canadian Tenor, Brian Gow who was in the chorus for that Andrea Chenier mentions, “He nurtured so many singers like Ben Heppner and Richard Margison and single handedly created the next generation of Canadian singers.  He brought new repertoire to the company, like Wozzeck which was beneficial to a young group of Canadian singers. He allowed us to hear and sing along with some of the greatest singers in the world, like Joan Sutherland, Tatiana Troyanos, and Aprile Millo which gave us hope that there was a venue in which to learn the craft of opera without going to Europe, especially with the creation of the Ensemble Studio.”  Brian Gow

Canadian Mezzo-Soprano Jean Stilwell comments on Mansouri’s passing

Jean-Stilwell

“For me, Lotfi gave me many opportunities as a young singer.  At first small roles so I could be around experienced people.  It gave me great experience on stage.  Lotfi could always demonstrate what he wanted beautifully.  He would show what he wanted in a very meticulous way and was a fine actor himself. He would get exactly what he wanted from me by demonstrating.  He loved the voice, good musicians, and he knew right from wrong, what was good and what wasn’t.  He was a master at creating excellent casts. I feel extremely fortunate to have been around at the time when he was at the Canadian Opera Company and I learned so much from him.  I am grateful for the time that he was here.”  Jean Stilwell

 Canadian Mezzo-Soprano Kimberly Barber comments on Mansouri’s development of the Canadian Opera Company

Kim Barber

“He put the Canadian Opera Company on the map and was responsible for creating the ensemble studio.  He was like a father figure to many, including me.  I performed by very first Komponist with him.  Mikado, Magic Flute, Tales of Hoffman, and the world premiere of Ann Mortisee’s Rose is a Rose.  Every time he saw me he would say, “I always remember you.  You were my Rose.”  Other singers he helped nurture are Ted Baerg, and Kathleen Brett.  He was definitely a champion of opera and young singers. He brought amazing artists during his tenure and the COC owes its tremendous stature to the seeds that Lotfi planted back then.  He will be tremendously missed.”  Kimberly Barber

In Mansouri’s memory:

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The Last Verista’s Pick of the Week on Met Opera Radio: Remembering Salvatore Licitra

This week, Met Opera Radio is offering some pretty impressive broadcasts.  I especially recommend: the 1963 Sonnambula with Sutherland, the 1957 Gioconda with Milanov, and the 1989 Aida with Domingo and Millo.  In honour and memory of the young tenor who passed away, tragically, on Sept 5th, 2011, Met Opera Radio is broadcasting a 2006 production of Licitra in Verdi’s La Forza del Destino. It is the last Verista’s Pick of the Week in honour of Mr. Licitra and his love of opera.

Licitra in Verdi’s Forza with Nina Stemme

Monday, September 12, 2011

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6am: Verdi: La Forza del Destino

3/11/2006-Noseda; Voigt, Licitra, Delavan, Ramey, Komlósi, Pons

9am: Bellini: La Sonnambula
3/30/1963-Varviso; Sutherland, Gedda, Flagello, Scovotti

12pm: R. Strauss: Der Rosenkavalier
1/29/2000-Levine; Graham, Fleming, Hawlata, Murphy, Ketelsen

3:20pm: Tchaikovsky: Eugene Onegin
2/23/1985-Järvi; Nucci, Griffel, Raitzin, Jones, Plishka

6pm: Ponchielli: La Gioconda
4/20/1957-Cleva; Milanov, Poggi, Rankin, Warren, Siepi

9pm: Gounod: Roméo et Juliette 4/13/1968-Molinari-Pradelli; Gedda, Freni, Macurdy, Baldwin, Reardon

12am: Verdi: Aida
1/7/1989-Levine; Millo, Toczyska, Domingo, Milnes, Plishka

Aprile Millo as Verdi’s Aida

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

6am: Wagner: Tristan und Isolde

12/18/1971-Leinsdorf; Thomas, Nilsson, Dooley, Dalis

12am: Verdi: Rigoletto
3/7/1992-Santi; Nucci, Swenson, Leech, White, Rootering

3pm: Handel: Rodelinda
1/1/2005-Bicket; Fleming, Blythe, van Rensburg, Relyea, Daniels

6pm: Rossini: L’Assedio di Corinto 4/19/1975-Schippers; Sills, Verrett, Theyard, Díaz

9pm: Puccini: Tosca
1/4/1997-Badea; Guleghina, Larin, Morris

12am: Mozart: Le Nozze di Figaro

4/22/2006-Wigglesworth; Relyea, Rost, Mattei, Isokoski, Coote, Muraro

The great Zinka in Gioconda

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

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6am: Meyerbeer: Le Prophète
1/29/1977-Lewis; McCracken, Scotto, Horne, Hines

9am: Tchaikovsky: Eugene Onegin
2/23/1985-Järvi; Nucci, Griffel, Raitzin, Jones, Plishka

12pm: Ponchielli: La Gioconda
4/20/1957-Cleva; Milanov, Poggi, Rankin, Warren, Siepi

3pm: Gounod: Roméo et Juliette 4/13/1968-Molinari-Pradelli; Gedda, Freni, Macurdy, Baldwin, Reardon

6pm: Verdi: La Forza del Destino
3/11/2006-Noseda; Voigt, Licitra, Delavan, Ramey, Komlósi, Pons

9pm: Bellini: La Sonnambula
3/30/1963-Varviso; Sutherland, Gedda, Flagello, Scovotti

12am: R. Strauss: Der Rosenkavalier
1/29/2000-Levine; Graham, Fleming, Hawlata, Murphy, Ketelsen

Sutherland as Amina

Thursday, September 15, 2011

6am: Verdi: Rigoletto
3/7/1992-Santi; Nucci, Swenson, Leech, White, Rootering

9am: Handel: Rodelinda
1/1/2005-Bicket; Fleming, Blythe, van Rensburg, Relyea, Daniels

12pm: Rossini: L’Assedio di Corinto

4/19/1975-Schippers; Sills, Verrett, Theyard, Díaz

3pm: Puccini: Tosca
1/4/1997-Badea; Guleghina, Larin, Morris

6:00 PM ET Verdi: Aida
1/7/1989-Levine; Millo, Toczyska, Domingo, Milnes, Plishka

9:00 PM ET Wagner: Tristan und Isolde
12/18/1971-Leinsdorf; Thomas, Nilsson, Dooley, Dalis

Friday, September 16, 2011

6am: R. Strauss: Der Rosenkavalier

1/29/2000-Levine; Graham, Fleming, Hawlata, Murphy, Ketelsen

9:20am: Mozart: Le Nozze di Figaro
4/22/2006-Wigglesworth; Relyea, Rost, Mattei, Isokoski, Coote, Muraro

12:15pm: Verdi: La Forza del Destino
3/11/2006-Noseda; Voigt, Licitra, Delavan, Ramey, Komlósi, Pons

3:15pm: Bellini: La Sonnambula
3/30/1963-Varviso; Sutherland, Gedda, Flagello, Scovotti

8:00pm: Verdi: Il Trovatore (2010-2011 ENCORE BROADCAST)

4/23/2011-Armiliato; Álvarez, Radvanovsky, Hvorostovsky, Zajick, Kocán

12am: Meyerbeer: Le Prophète
1/29/1977-Lewis; McCracken, Scotto, Horne, Hines

Saturday, September 17, 2011

6am: Handel: Rodelinda

1/1/2005-Bicket; Fleming, Blythe, van Rensburg, Relyea, Daniels

9am: Gounod: Roméo et Juliette 4/13/1968-Molinari-Pradelli; Gedda, Freni, Macurdy, Baldwin, Reardon

12pm: Verdi: Aida
1/7/1989-Levine; Millo, Toczyska, Domingo, Milnes, Plishka

3pm: Wagner: Tristan und Isolde

12/18/1971-Leinsdorf; Thomas, Nilsson, Dooley, Dalis

9:00 PM ET Tchaikovsky: Eugene Onegin
2/23/1985-Järvi; Nucci, Griffel, Raitzin, Jones, Plishka

12:00 AM ET Ponchielli: La Gioconda
4/20/1957-Cleva; Milanov, Poggi, Rankin, Warren, Siepi

Sunday, September 18, 2011

6am: Rossini: L’Assedio di Corinto 4/19/1975-Schippers; Sills, Verrett, Theyard, Díaz

9am: Puccini: Tosca
1/4/1997-Badea; Guleghina, Larin, Morris

12pm: Meyerbeer: Le Prophète
1/29/1977-Lewis; McCracken, Scotto, Horne, Hines

3pm: Mozart: Le Nozze di Figaro
4/22/2006-Wigglesworth; Relyea, Rost, Mattei, Isokoski, Coote, Muraro

6pm: Verdi: Rigoletto
3/7/1992-Santi; Nucci, Swenson, Leech, White, Rootering

9pm: The Met on Record: Wagner: Das Rheingold (1988) Levine; Morris, Ludwig, Jerusalem, Wlaschiha, Moll, Rootering, Zednik

12am: Verdi: La Forza del Destino
3/11/2006-Noseda; Voigt, Licitra, Delavan, Ramey, Komlósi, Pons

The Last Verista’s “Pick of the Week” on Met Opera Radio: 2 PICKS!!! Joan Sutherland in Bellini’s “Lucia di Lammermoor” (1966) and Teresa Stratas in Berg’s “Lulu” (1981)

Sutherland and Tucker in the 1966 production

Tuesday, 12/14
6:00 AM ET Tchaikovsky: Eugene Onegin
3/25/1989-Levine; Hynninen, Freni, Hadley, Walker, Sotin

9:00 AM ET Verdi: La Traviata
3/6/2004-Gergiev; Fleming, Vargas, Hvorostovsky

12:00 PM ET R. Strauss: Salome
2/17/1962-Rosenstock; Lewis, Vinay, Thebom, Cassel, Olvis

3:00 PM ET Bizet: Carmen
3/21/1987-Levine; Baltsa, Carreras, Cotrubas, Ramey

8:00 PM ET Puccini: La Fanciulla del West (LIVE FROM THE MET)
Luisotti; Voigt, Giordani, Gallo

12:00 AM ET Britten: Death in Venice
2/26/1994-Atherton; Rolfe Johnson, Allen, Gall

Wednesday, 12/15
6:00 AM ET R. Strauss: Ariadne auf Naxos
3/20/1976-Levine; Caballé, Remedios, Welting, Troyanos, Dooley, Titus

9:00 AM ET Puccini: Tosca
3/23/1957-Mitropoulos; Albanese, Barioni, Warren

12:00 PM ET Berg: Lulu
1/3/1981-Levine; Stratas, Mazura, Lear, Riegel, Foldi, Carlson

3:00 PM ET Donizetti: Lucia di Lammermoor
12/31/1966-Bonynge; Sutherland, Tucker, Colzani, Ghiuselev

6:00 PM ET Wagner: Siegfried
2/16/1957-Stiedry; Windgassen, Mödl, Edelmann, Madeira, Kelley, Pechner

12:00 AM ET Mozart: Così fan tutte
1/28/2006-Levine; Deshorties, Kozená, Focile, Groves, Kwiecien, Allen

Stratas as Lulu

Thursday, 12/16
6:00 AM ET Bizet: Carmen
3/21/1987-Levine; Baltsa, Carreras, Cotrubas, Ramey

9:00 AM ET Britten: Death in Venice
2/26/1994-Atherton; Rolfe Johnson, Allen, Gall

12:00 PM ET Tchaikovsky: Eugene Onegin
3/25/1989-Levine; Hynninen, Freni, Hadley, Walker, Sotin

3:00 PM ET Mascagni / Leoncavallo: Cavalleria Rusticana / Pagliacci
2/4/1995-Badea; Guleghina, Jóhannsson, Pola / Dessì, Martinucci, Nucci

6:00 PM ET Verdi: Rigoletto
4/6/1985-Santi; Quilico, Blegen, Raffanti, Macurdy, Jones

9:00 PM ET R. Strauss: Salome
2/17/1962-Rosenstock; Lewis, Vinay, Thebom, Cassel, Olvis

12:00 AM ET Verdi: La Traviata
3/6/2004-Gergiev; Fleming, Vargas, Hvorostovsky

Friday, 12/17
6:00 AM ET Wagner: Siegfried
2/16/1957-Stiedry; Windgassen, Mödl, Edelmann, Madeira, Kelley, Pechner

12:00 PM ET Puccini: Tosca
3/23/1957-Mitropoulos; Albanese, Barioni, Warren

3:00 PM ET R. Strauss: Ariadne auf Naxos
3/20/1976-Levine; Caballé, Remedios, Welting, Troyanos, Dooley, Titus

8:00 PM ET Debussy: Pelléas et Mélisande (SEASON PREMIERE – LIVE FROM THE MET)
Rattle; Kožená, Degout, Finley, White, Palmer

12:00 AM ET Berg: Lulu
1/3/1981-Levine; Stratas, Mazura, Lear, Riegel, Foldi, Carlson

Saturday, 12/18
6:00 AM ET R. Strauss: Salome
2/17/1962-Rosenstock; Lewis, Vinay, Thebom, Cassel, Olvis

9:00 AM ET Mozart: Così fan tutte
1/28/2006-Levine; Deshorties, Kozená, Focile, Groves, Kwiecien, Allen

12:30 PM ET Verdi: Don Carlo (LIVE FROM THE MET)
Nézet-Séguin; Lee, Poplavskaya, Furlanetto, Smirnova, Keenlyside, Halfvarson

6:00 PM ET Tchaikovsky: Eugene Onegin
3/25/1989-Levine; Hynninen, Freni, Hadley, Walker, Sotin

9:00 PM ET Verdi: La Traviata
3/6/2004-Gergiev; Fleming, Vargas, Hvorostovsky

12:00 AM ET Donizetti: Lucia di Lammermoor
12/31/1966-Bonynge; Sutherland, Tucker, Colzani, Ghiuselev

Sunday, 12/19
6:00 AM ET Mascagni / Leoncavallo: Cavalleria Rusticana / Pagliacci
2/4/1995-Badea; Guleghina, Jóhannsson, Pola / Dessì, Martinucci, Nucci

9:00 AM ET R. Strauss: Ariadne auf Naxos
3/20/1976-Levine; Caballé, Remedios, Welting, Troyanos, Dooley, Titus

12:00 PM ET Verdi: Rigoletto
4/6/1985-Santi; Quilico, Blegen, Raffanti, Macurdy, Jones

3:00 PM ET Britten: Death in Venice
2/26/1994-Atherton; Rolfe Johnson, Allen, Gall

6:00 PM ET Puccini: Tosca
3/23/1957-Mitropoulos; Albanese, Barioni, Warren

9:00 PM ET The Met on Record: Wagner: Der Fliegende Holländer (1997)
Levine; Morris, Voigt, Heppner, Rootering, Groves, Svenden

12:00 AM ET Bizet: Carmen
3/21/1987-Levine; Baltsa, Carreras, Cotrubas, Ramey

Spargi D’Amore Pianto

 

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