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La Scena Musicale - Vol. 19, No. 7

Industry News

by Shira Gilbert / June 1, 2014

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Renowned conductor Franz-Paul Decker, a former music director of the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal, died on May 19 in Montreal at the age of 90. Decker’s career began 65 years ago, as an opera coach and assistant conductor in his hometown of Cologne and continued at the Rotterdam Philharmonic. In 1967 he succeeded Zubin Mehta at the OSM and is credited with significantly raising the technical level of the orchestra, earning considerable international acclaim in the process. He was considered an unrivaled authority as an interpreter of Beethoven, Brahms, Wagner, Bruckner, Mahler and Richard Strauss. Decker also held positions in Barcelona as well as with the National Arts Centre Orchestra. His most recent appearances with the OSM were in 2008.

Big Winners

Serhiy SalovThe Montreal International Musical Competition has declared Serhiy Salov, from Ukraine, as the Grand Prize winner of the first edition of the Richard Lupien Improvisation Prize. Six pianists competed for the prize, which involved four on-the-spot improvisational challenges. The MIMC is the first international music competition in the world to offer an award for classical piano improvisation. Salov also took First Prize at the first piano edition of the MIMC ten years ago, in 2004. The competition was broadcast live on medici.tv and is available for on-demand listening for three months.

Métis fiddler John Arcand is this year’s recipient of the $50,000 Canada Council Molson Prize in the arts. A Saskatchewan-born musician who has performed, taught, promoted and preserved the traditions of Métis fiddle and dance, Arcand’s unique sound is considered essential to the identity and recognition of Métis culture. During a career spanning more than 60 years, Arcand has created over 370 tunes and 16 recordings.

Chris Lorway, Executive Director of contemporary classical presenter Soundstreams in Toronto is the 2014 winner of the Canada Council John Hobday Award in Arts Management. The $10,000 prize is awarded annually to established and mid-career arts managers for professional development or mentorship. The award allows Lorway the opportunity to work with National Arts Centre CEO Peter Herrndorf over a four-month period.

Major Players in the Arts

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra has announced the appointment of Jeff Melanson as President and CEO to take effect in November. Melanson has previously held positions with Opera Ontario, the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto, Canada’s National Ballet School, and, most recently, as president of The Banff Centre.

Montrealer Simon Brault is the new Director and CEO of The Canada Council for the Arts, responsible for the Council’s budget of over $191 million. Brault will quit as CEO of the National Theatre School of Canada, a position he has held since 1997. He replaces Robert Sirman, who has served as Director and CEO since 2006.

Symphonic News

The Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra returned from its May 8 Carnegie Hall debut in triumphant fashion. The orchestra, led by Music Director Alexander Mickelthwate, was one of four North American orchestras selected to appear in the final “Spring for Music” festival at Carnegie Hall. The WSO’s all-Canadian program included works by R. Murray Schafer, Derek Charke, and a new percussion concerto by Vincent Ho and performed by Dame Evelyn Glennie, which was deemed “brilliant and compelling” by The New York Times.

Conductor Alain Trudel and the Orchestre symphonique de Laval’s upcoming season includes a new open rehearsal program, designed to initiate people into the world of symphonic music, and a new work by composer-in-residence Nicolas Gilbert, commissioned to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the City of Laval. The orchestra has also announced the appointment of violinist Antoine Bareil as its new concertmaster.

News from the World of Opera

Atlantic Canada’s only professional opera company, Opera on the Avalon, based in St. John’s, Newfoundland, has commissioned its first opera. Artistic Director Cheryl Hickman announced that Ours, composed by JUNO-nominated Canadian composer John Estacio, with a libretto by Governor General Award-winning playwright Robert Chafe, will be premiered as part of the company’s 2016 season. Based on the history of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment, the premiere coincides with the 100-year-anniversary of the battle of Beaumont Hamel.

After its impending demise was announced in the previous issue of La Scena, San Diego Opera has reversed the recent trend of opera company bankruptcies. In March, the company’s board of directors voted to shut it down after 49 years, citing dwindling ticket sales and philanthropic support. Now, following a fundraising effort of more than $4.5 million – including a crowdfunding campaign that raised $2.1 million from donors from six countries – and the appointment of a new board president, plans are underway for 2015. San Diego Opera’s 50th-anniversary season includes La bohème, Don Giovanni and John Adams’s Nixon in China.

Internationally-renowned and beloved Canadian tenor Ben Heppner has announced his retirement from singing. The 58-year-old star, whose signature roles included Wagner’s Tristan andVerdi’s Otello, has made a number of high-profile cancellations in recent seasons and commented that he has been experiencing “unreliability” is his voice. In making the announcement, Heppner said, “I want to thank everyone who ever bought a ticket.” Last year, Heppner was hired as the new host for CBC Radio’s Saturday Afternoon at the Opera and also hosts Backstage with Ben Heppner, which follows the opera broadcast.


• The article “Keys to Success,” published in the April/May 2014 issue contained an editing error. The quote regarding the Steinway pianos should have read “In both America and Germany, the rim is made of maple.” We apologize for this error. See the online version for the corrected article.

• Naomi Gold wrote the two music theatre items in the Previews of the last issue.

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