My Toronto

The opera house that al­most wasn’t will be a beau­ti­ful crea­ture

NOW Magazine - Best of Toronto - - Stage - By MAR­GARET AT­WOOD

My favourite Toronto opera house? No con­test. There’s only one: the Four Sea­sons Cen­tre for the Per­form­ing Arts. Like a runty un­der­dog that al­most got drowned in a well and then was fed scraps, but that now prom­ises to be a hand­some and suc­cess­ful crea­ture… well, you get the point. This is the White Fang of opera houses. It has risen from what might have been its own ashes, and now prom­ises to be a thing of amaz­ing grace and a credit to all Toronto, and On­tario, and Canada – even to those politi­cians (I know who you are) who cold-shoul­dered it and scoffed at it for years. But that’s an­other story. I ran into Jack Di­a­mond, the ar­chi­tect, on a snowy street last win­ter. “I hear the Opera House is hap­pen­ing,” I said. “You must come and see it,” he said. So in the spring, I donned hard hat and safety boots and joined a queue of the cu­ri­ous. We waded into the jun­gle of pil­lars and wires and work­men, with Di­a­mond lead­ing. He got so car­ried away that he whipped off his own hard hat and beaned him­self on a girder, but once the blood was staunched, he ex­plained much.

This is a house that knows where it is: it’s in a city, and the city is Toronto. In­stead of a 19th-cen­tury-style en­trance stair­case, you come in at street level, and the grand stair­case is on the in­side. A lunchtime per­for­mance venue is suspended in midair, vis­i­ble and avail­able. One big win­dow space frames the CN Tower, an­other frames Os­goode Hall, yet an­other frames the Old City Hall.

A sub­way runs nearby, and to elim­i­nate vi­bra­tion the en­tire main au­di­to­rium rests on rub­ber feet, its walls not touch­ing any ex­te­rior sur­face.

Ev­ery seat has a view of the stage, and the acous­tics will be stunning. There will even be enough women’s wash­rooms – surely a world­wide first. The first peo­ple to see the house in op­er­a­tion will be the work­ers who are build­ing it: there will be spe­cial hard-hat pre-per­for­mances just for them.

The April is­sue of Opera mag­a­zine, con­clud­ing its su­perla­tive re­view of the COC’s Ring Cy­cle so far and an­tic­i­pat­ing the fall 2006 open­ing of the Opera House with this very same Ring, says: “I hope Cana­di­ans re­al­ize how lucky they are.”

That re­mains to be seen, but we live in hope.

Mar­garet At­wood urges Toron­to­ni­ans not to un­der­value our spec­tac­u­lar

new opera house.

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