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


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


“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:

L’Accordéoniste to make “Latin Heat” at Opera in Concert Opening 2011 (Toronto)

L’Accordéoniste: Peter Tiefenbach (piano), Kimberly Barber (mezzo-soprano), Mary-Lou Vetere (accordion) with

Carol Bauman, percussion

Calgary Opera presents Mark Adamo’s “Little Women”

Tomorrow night is the Canadian Premiere of this new opera by Mark Adamo.

Composer, Mark Adamo

Click here to read a synopsis of Little Women

The production runs from:

Saturday, January 30, 2010: 8pm

Wednesday, February 3, 2010: 7:30pm

Gordon Gerrard , Conductor

Gordon Gerrard is quickly establishing a place among the new generation of Canada’s exciting young musicians. Gordon was the 2009 recipient of the Enbridge Arts Award for Emerging Artist and he was invited to compete in the prestigious Wigmore Hall International Song Competition 2009 in London. In recent years, he has worked as Assistant Conductor for Opera Lyra Ottawa, Repetiteur for Vancouver Opera, Associate Music Director for the Manhattan School of Music Undergraduate Opera Studio, and Lecturer at Iowa State University. Gordon maintains a busy schedule in addition to currently holding the positions of Resident Conductor for Calgary Opera, and staff conductor at Opera Nuova (Edmonton).

Kelly RobinsonKelly Robinson , Stage Director

Kelly Robinson is a director and choreographer whose career spans opera, theatre, film and  television. He has worked extensively in the United States with critically acclaimed productions of Die ZauberflöteLa Bohèmeand La Belle Hélène for the opera companies of Dallas, Utah, Portland and Arizona to his credit. In Canada, he has presented opera audiences in Edmonton, Victoria, Calgary, Winnipeg and Vancouver with new productions of works ranging from Les Pécheurs de pėrles and Eugene Onegin to Britten’s The Turn of the Screw and Rossini’s La Cenerentola. Mr. Robinson’s work has been seen at the National Arts Centre (Ottawa), Canadian Stage Company (Toronto), the Palace Theatre (New York), the Vineyard Theatre (New York) and the Eugene O’Neill Theatre Centre. He is currently Director of the Opera as Theatre Program and Director of Theatre Arts at The Banff Centre.  Mr. Robinson has directed many productions for Calgary Opera including Filumena,FrobisherSweeny ToddThe Ballad of Baby Doe and Ariadne auf Naxos.

Allyson McHardy, Mezzo-Soprano (Jo)

Mezzo-soprano Allyson McHardy is “a singer of enormous imagination and versatility” in the words of the San Francisco Chronicle. An alumna of the prestigious Merola Program, Ms. McHardy debuted as Olga in Eugene Onegin for the San Francisco Opera in the fall of 2004 and was immediately re-engaged to be heard as Rosinain Il Barbiere di Siviglia in the 2006-07 season. She appeared as Flosshilde and Rossweisse in the Canadian Opera Company’s first Canadian Ring Cycle in the new Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts. 2005-2006 included Suzuki in Madama Butterfly for l’Opéra de Québec, Flosshilde in Götterdämmerung and Magret in Wozzeck for the Canadian Opera Company.   Upcoming engagements include Dalilah in Samson et Dalilahat Opera Ontario with Richard Margison and Handel’s Israel in Egypt with Les Violons du Roi.

Colin AinsworthColin Ainsworth, Tenor (Laurie)

Praised for his “ability to move seamlessly between different areas of the repertoire”, Mr. Ainsworth is eagerly sought out for his interpretations of operas ranging from the early operas of Monteverdi to the contemporary operas of Britten. This season, he made his debuts with Manitoba Opera in the world premiere of Victor Davies’ opera, The Transit of Venus as Desmarais, Ralph Rackstraw in H.M.S. Pinafore and Fenton in Verdi’sFalstaff both with Edmonton Opera, Jaquino in Beethoven’s Fidelio with Vancouver Opera, Rinuccio in Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi and Ching’s Buoso’s Ghost and Frederic in The Pirates of Penzance with Lake George Opera. He also made critically acclaimed debuts last season with the Royal Opera House and the Edinburgh International Festival in the world première of Stuart MacRae’s opera The Assassin Tree as Youth and the Greek National Opera to sold-out houses singing Orphée in Gluck’s Paris version of Orphée et Euridice, a role he reprised with Opera Atelier under the baton of Andrew Parrott. He also made his debut with L’Opéra Français de New York as Castor in Castor et Pollux, conducted by Yves Abel, joined the Montreal Baroque Festival in Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo and was lauded by the Toronto Star as being “every inch the prince, and his lyric voice a golden treasure” for his role as Tamino in The Magic Flute with Opera Atelier.

Krisztina SzabóKrisztina Szabó, Mezzo-Soprano (Meg)

Canadian Mezzo-Soprano Krisztina Szabó has become a highly sought-after artist in both North America and Europe. The Chicago Tribune recently exclaimed, for her performances of Ottavia in L’ incoronazione di Poppea, “Krisztina Szabó stole every scene with her powerful, mahogany voice and deeply poignant immersion in the empress’ plight.” She made her Lincoln Center debut as Dorabella in Così fan tutte at the Mostly Mozart Festival where she was praised in the New York Times for being “clear, strong, stately and an endearingly vulnerable Dorabella.” Krisztina Szabó’s 2007-08 season was highlighted by performances of new roles: Komponist in Ariadne auf Naxos with Stadttheater Klagenfurt in Austria, and Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni in her fourth production with Chicago Opera Theater. She also also appeared with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra as soloist in Mozart’s Mass in C Minor, L’Orchestre Symphonique de Québec in Bach’sMass in B Minor, the San Antonio Symphony for a performance of Handel’s Messiah, and the Talisker Players in Toronto for an evening of chamber music.  Ms. Szabó is appearing as Rosina in Calgary Opera’s The Barber of Seville this April.

Mariateresa Magisano, Soprano (Beth)

Mariateresa Magisano is a winner of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions.  In 2001, she debuted with the New York City Opera as Zerlina in Don Giovanni, a role she also sang with Vancouver Opera and Opera Columbus. Recently, Ms. Magisano performed Micaela in Vancouver Opera’s Carmen (2009); and Susanna in Le Nozze di Figaro with Opera Lyra Ottawa (2008).  Ms. Magisano sang the title role in Thomas’Mignon in an “Opera in concert” with Opera Lyra Ottawa (2007); and covered the role of Fidelia in Puccini’sEdgar with the Opera Orchestra of New York (2008). Career highlights include: Susanna in Le Nozze di Figarowith Vancouver Opera, Despina in Cosi Fan Tutte with Arizona Opera, Gretel in Hansel & Gretel with Calgary Opera and Rosina in Il Barbiere di Siviglia with Opera Lyra Ottawa, Buffalo Philharmonic, Aspen Opera Theater and Opera Saskatchewan.

Catherine MayCatherine May , Soprano (Amy)

Catherine May was born and educated in Canada before completing her studies in the UK. Operatic performances in 2008 included Olympia/Antonia/Giulietta for MidWales Opera, and Pretty Polly (cover) and Cunegonde (cover) for English National Opera. Other recent roles have included Queen of the Night The Magic Flute (English Touring Opera), Zerbinetta Ariadne auf Naxos (Britten-Pears Young Artists Programme), MimiLa Bohème (British Youth Opera, Scottish Opera on Tour), Blonde Die Entführung aus dem Serail (Diva Opera). Concert performances include Carmina Burana for the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, Mendelssohn’sLobgesang at the Aldeburgh Festival, and Poulenc’s Gloria and Jenkins’ The Armed Man with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra. Ms. May is delighted to return to Calgary Opera, where she sang Frasquita in Carmen and Naiad in Ariadne auf Naxos.

Elizabeth Turnbull, Mezzo-Soprano (Alma March)

A Winner in the Metropolitan Opera National Council auditions, North American finalist in the International Bernstein Song and Oratorio Competition, and recipient of a Canada Council Career Development grant,Ms. Turnbull is a mezzo with a distinguished reputation in the U.S. and Canada, hailed by the press as “(one) of this country’s finest singers, luminous and rich-voiced”. Her 2008-2009 season included Messiah at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with the Regina Symphony, Madam Larina inEugene Onegin for Opera Lyra Ottawa, a concert featuring the music of Mendelssohn for the Aldeburgh Connection and Schafer’s AdieuRobert Schumann for the Ottawa Symphony. In the U.S., she sang in Bach’sWeihnachtsoratorium (Nicholas McGegan and San Francisco’s Philharmonia Baroque) and Messiah for Los Angeles’ Musica Angelica.  Most recently she created Elizabeth I in Frobisher and performed Augusta Tabor inThe Ballad of Baby Doe for Calgary Opera.

Colin AinsworthPhillip Addis, Baritone (John Brooke)

For the 2009-2010 season Phillip Addis appears as Belcore in L’elisir d’amore with Atlanta Opera, the Count inLe nozze di Figaro with Opera Atelier in Toronto, John Brooke in Little Women with Calgary Opera, as well as the title role in Pelleas et Mélisande at the Opéra Comique. Last season Mr. Addis appeared as Marcello in a new production of La bohème with the Theater Basel in Switzerland, and Zurga in Les Pêcheurs de Perles with Opéra de Montréal Additionally, Mr. Addis sang the Count in Le nozze di Figaro with Florida Grand Opera and a recital tour in his native Canada.

Terry HodgesTerry Hodges, Bass-Baritone (Gideon March)

Bass-Baritone Terry Hodges enjoys a busy career in opera and music theatre in the United States and Canada with credits at Santa Fe Opera, Lake George Opera Festival, Carnegie Hall, Boston Lyric Opera and the Opera Theatre of St. Louis. Recent and upcoming engagements include, La Roche in Capriccio for Pacific Opera Victoria, Dick Deadeye in HMS Pinafore for Nashville Opera, Benoit/Alcindoro in La Bohème for Vancouver Opera, Dulcamara in L’Elisir d’Amore for Tulsa Opera and Frank in Die Fledermaus for Manitoba Opera. He has also done more than 2,000 performances of Phantom of the Opera. This is his debut with Calgary Opera.

Brent CalisBrent Calis, Baritone (Mr. Dashwood)

A Calgary native, Brent Calis is currently a member of Calgary Opera’s Emerging Artist Development Program. His role highlights include Papageno in The Magic Flute, and Schaunard in La Bohème with the University of British Columbia. He has also participated in The Toronto Summer Music Academy and Festival and The Banff Summer Arts Festival. Mr. Calis returned to Banff this past summer to perform The Forester in Janácek’s The Cunning Little Vixen and Jonathan in Siren Song by Jonathon Dove. He looks forward to performing with Opera NUOVA this summer in their production of Falstaff.

Kimberly BarberKimberly Barber, Mezzo-Soprano (Cecilia March)

Canadian Mezzo-Soprano Kimberly Barber is known for the expressive power, purity and refinement of her voice, her elegance of phrasing and musical gesture and the intelligence and intensity of her physical portrayals. Ms Barber’s recent seasons have held important role debuts. She garnered great praise for her first Charlotte in Massenet’s Werther with Vancouver Opera, and created the role of Jessica in the world premiere of John Estacio’s Frobisher for Calgary Opera. Her critically acclaimed first turn as Sister Helenin Jake Heggie’s Dead Man Walking was a feature of the Canadian premiere of that work for Calgary Opera, performances of which were broadcast on CBC’s Saturday Afternoon at the Opera. This was followed by her return to Seattle Opera, and first bows as Despina in Jonathan Miller’s acclaimed production of Cosi Fan Tutte. She gave her first performances of the role of The Angel in Edward Elgar’s oratorio Dream of Gerontius, with the Richard Eaton Singers in Edmonton, a work which will signal her debut with the Elora Festival in the summer of 2007.

Daniel Okulitch, Bass-Baritone (Friedrich Bhaer)

Bass-Baritone Daniel Okulitch first came to national attention on Broadway as Schaunard in Baz Luhrmann’s production of La Bohème–a role he repeated when the production traveled to Los Angeles, for which he received the Ovation Award for Best Ensemble Performance from the LosAngeles Stage Alliance. He has since begun an international career with opera companies and orchestras throughout Europe and North America, and is lauded as much for his powerful stage presence and dramatic abilities as for his “focused, resonant bass-baritone that he wields with power and sensitivity” (NJ Star-Ledger) His signature roles show a dedication to both old and new works, including the title role in Don Giovanni and Le Nozze di Figaro, Joseph DeRocher in Dead Man Walking and Olin Blitch in Susannah. He performed last for Calgary Opera in Dead Man Walking (2006).

Saturday Afternoon at the Opera with Bill Richardson, featuring Mary-Lou Vetere


Boito and Verdi

Boito, Verdi, and the music in my heart…..

Click here to listen to the interview.

October 17, 2009

Opera:  Simon Boccanegra from the Vienna Staatsoper