Today the Canadian Children’s Opera Company said their goodbyes to Ann Cooper Gay, their departing Artistic & Executive Director.
In last year’s interview I alluded to her importance, as one of the most influential figures in opera and music in Canada. The crowd jammed into the courtyard at the Canadian Opera Company’s Joey and Toby Tanenbaum Centre testify to that. The children, parents and alumni were more or less what you’d expect.
But in addition one could see lots of personalities, donors, agents & supporters of opera in this country, including:
- Stuart Hamilton of Opera in Concert and Saturday Afternoon at the Opera
- Carol Ann Curry of Dean Artists
- Joel Ivany, who in addition to being Artistic Director of Against the Grain Theatre happened to direct last year’s show for the CCOC; he and his team (for instance Topher Mokrzewski who also put in an appearance) were rehearsing Death & Desire elsewhere in the Tanenbaum Centre
- Kate Applin of Metro Youth Opera, one of many CCOC Alumnae present
There were a number of speakers.
Composer Norbert Palej suggested that the idea of Ann Cooper Gay retiring is an oxymoron, a contradiction, and unimaginable. I think it’s fair to say that such an energetic artist & administrator as ACG will remain busy in some capacity, and whatever she decides to do will be as intense as ever, likely doing it well. The reason he surmised that Ann was so good at CCOC was because she hasn’t lost her child like quality, especially when speaking to children. Ann doesn’t talk down to them, but speaks to them always as an equal.
Peter Barcza—introduced as the person present who remembers her before she met husband Errol—offered anecdotes from long ago productions with the Canadian Opera Company tour (Cosi fan tutte, la boheme and la traviata) and at the U of T’s Opera Department (Iphigenie en Tauride). Hm, I suppose the fact that I saw those shows means I also qualify as someone who has known her a long time. I was very young, but then again so were they. Or as PB said: they were both 5 years old at the time.
Emily Brown Gibson (a CCOC alumna) offered the viewpoint of her many cast members. As she said, Ann touched so many lives, leaving a huge impact on everyone who worked with her. When she said her thank you to Ann, it drew one of the loudest rounds of applause from the many former members of the CCOC present.
When Ann finally spoke she acknowledged those who came before. She paid tribute to Ruby Mercer, whose vision was responsible for the creation of a year-round CCOC above and beyond the occasional chorus bits in Canadian Opera Company productions of Carmen or Tosca. Ann also tipped her hat to Lloyd Bradshaw as a builder of the company. And she invoked the “it takes a village” notion, thanking all the parents & volunteers, without whom the CCOC couldn’t function as it does.
Towards the conclusion a large mass of singers – former & current members of CCOC—gathered together in benediction singing “May the road rise up to meet you.”
Composers likely would be the first to say their thanks to ACG. As we took in the perfect Sunday afternoon weather in the courtyard of this Canadian Opera Company building—a company who have not successfully brought a commissioned work by a Canadian Composer to their stage in awhile—composers could be grateful to the CCOC, who are responsible for eleven original works. Whoever takes the baton from ACG’s hands, I sincerely hope that they show the same commitment to original compositions.
But for now it’s the time for goodbyes and thank yous. Ave atque vale.