Canadian Opera Company Breaks Ground On Site Of New Opera House
Toronto, Ontario - Construction on the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, the Canadian Opera Company’s new opera house, officially began today at a groundbreaking ceremony on the site at the southeast corner of Queen Street and University Avenue. Arthur R.A. Scace, President of the Board of Directors and COC General Director Richard Bradshaw welcomed a crowd of more than 400 well-wishers for the historic occasion.
The Honourable Ernie Eves, Premier of Ontario, the Honourable David Collenette, Minister of Transport and Minister Responsible for the Greater Toronto Area, the Honourable David H. Tsubouchi, Ontario Minister of Culture, the Honourable Sheila Copps, Minister of Canadian Heritage, and His Worship, Mayor Mel Lastman were on hand to deliver their best wishes for the company and its new home.
"The Canadian opera house is another jewel in Toronto’s cultural crown," Premier Ernie Eves said. "Coupled with our investments in Toronto’s other cultural institutions this city and the province of Ontario are quickly becoming a world-class cultural and tourism destination."
"The Government of Canada is proud to invest in infrastructure projects that will contribute to this city’s future economic growth and prosperity," said Minister Collenette. "I am pleased to see that the $25 million contribution from the Government of Canada has allowed this project to move forward. Today’s groundbreaking is proof positive that the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts is finally moving from dream to reality, and the Greater Toronto Area will be a better place because of it."
"With this splendid new building, our talented opera and ballet companies will have facilities that match their potential," Minister Tsubouchi said. "The project is a fine example of what can be accomplished when all three levels of government and the private sector work closely together."
"The new Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts will provide us with avenue to highlight our creators’ talent and with the capacity to entertain theatre enthusiasts from all over the world, night after night," said the Honourable Sheila Copps, Minister of Canadian Heritage.
Mayor Mel Lastman joined the ministers to deliver the congratulations of the City. Isadore Sharp, Founder, Chairman and CEO of Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts attended as Honorary Chair of the campaign cabinet and representing Four Seasons as the naming donor of the new building. Sue Matthews, Chair of the Board, and Kevin Garland, Executive Director of The National Ballet of Canada joined the honoured guests as representatives of the company that will be the major tenant in the new theatre. Architect A.J. (Jack) Diamond was also present for the groundbreaking.
The $150 million (Cdn.) capital campaign for the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts is well under way and the public campaign is expected to begin early next year. Gifts already announced include the province’s donation of the land worth $31 million, the Government of Canada contribution of $25 million, and Four Seasons contribution of $20 million to name the new facility. As one of the co-chairs of the COC’s campaign cabinet, Arthur Scace also announced that the COC Board of Directors has personally committed $13 million to date towards the capital campaign.
"We are delighted to be able to participate in a significant and meaningful way with the COC’s plans to bring this exceptional facility to fruition," said Isadore Sharp, founder, chairman and CEO, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts. "As Honorary Chair of the campaign committee, I am excited by the level of commitment exhibited here today, which augurs well for achieving our goal."
"The capital campaign for the new building is profoundly grateful to both levels of government and Four Seasons in helping us build our new home," says Arthur Scace, "and we are overwhelmed by the significant commitment from our Board as well."
The Four Seasons Centre is on schedule to open in June 2006. There will be several gala concerts and programs scheduled for that summer and the September 2006 season begins with Canada’s first full production of Richard Wagner’s Ring Cycle.
The Four Seasons Centre is designed by Diamond and Schmitt Architects Incorporated to be a warm and welcoming gathering place. A five-storey transparent City Room faces University Avenue and the Queen Street frontage includes the box office and retail space.
The theatre has been designed to the highest acoustic and theatrical standards. The traditional European horseshoe-shaped auditorium will be lined with resonant wood and plaster, and the four-tiered hall will provide unparalleled intimacy between the audience and the stage, with each seat computer-tested for the best possible sightlines. A flexible orchestra pit allows the presentation of the full range of operatic repertoire, from intimate chamber pieces to the most monumental 19th to 21st century works.
The Four Seasons Centre will also be a splendid venue for performances by The National Ballet of Canada. The two companies will occupy the Four Seasons Centre for at least 39 weeks per year, allowing approximately 12 weeks per year for commercial rental and community access.
"There are those who have waited for a very long time for this day, and there are some who have waited even longer," Bradshaw enthused. "I’m enormously grateful to the countless individuals who believed in the project for so long. Today, I can honestly say that what I’ve called the Thirty Years War is finally over, and we have the shovels in the ground to prove it!"
The Canadian Opera House Corporation gratefully acknowledges the support of Infrastructure Canada and the Government of Ontario and the Ontario SuperBuild Corporation.
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