Mark DuBois - World Renowned Lyric Tenor
Mark DuBois Puts Opera York On The Map

Constance P. Scrafield-Danby
Orangeville Banner

Canadian tenor, Mark DuBois made dreams come true Saturday evening April 27.

It was the dream of Joan Sax and Philip Trow to found a regional opera company for York and call it Opera York. Over the years of developing this dream, they lacked direction to make a real success of it. Last year, they asked Mark DuBois to join them as Artistic Director.

It was a brilliant move. With his experience in not only opera, but the entertainment world at large, his vision and far sightedness, DuBois has completely turned the company around.

DuBois organized and starred in their first concert in the fall, "For the Love of a Tenor" in November 2001, which filled the hall with many first time patrons. They joined with the old friends of Opera York in their enthusiasm for the new Artistic Director.

DuBois staged the last of the concerts for this season as a Gala event, with "Romance & Passion from Opera to Broadway". His special guest for this evening was the great Maureen Forrester, one of the most decorated and honoured singers in Canadian history. Among her other honours, she was made a companion of the Order of Canada and has been inducted to the Juno Hall of Fame.

Whereas at 71, many performers would have sat it out and rested on their laurels, Ms. Forrester went up to the stage and sang the aria she made famous,
Mon Coeur, by Saint-Saens.

As for the rest of the concert, DuBois was joined by the very talented Gisèle Fredette, Suzanne Kompass, Bruce Kelly and accompanying them, Danny McErlain. These people are all long standing friends and colleagues of DuBois, as well as singing stars in their own rights.

Gisèle Fredette, mezzo-soprano, is a true chanteuse, tall, sleek and elegant. She sings in three languages, English, French and Spanish. When she gave us
Les Parapluies de Cherbourg, it was like being back in Paris.

Contrasting her delightfully, is the petite and charming Suzanne Kompass, soprano, who invariably dresses in wonderful ball gowns and dazzles the audience with the way her voice simply floats to the high D's and G's.

The men, DuBois and baritone Bruce Kelly, kidded each other ("stand on this side". DuBois instructed Kelly, "I'm deaf in that ear." Looking at the audience, he says "We've been singing together for 30 years - we can do anything we want"). The audience was very happy to be included in the banter of these two friends.

As for Bruce Kelly, he carries the deep tones of the baritone with real panache. His offering of "Old Man River" was truly impressive.

Then what can we say about the powerful voice and charisma of Mark DuBois that would do either justice? No matter what he sings, he makes it his own, giving opera to Broadway and new life to opera. Just to be in the same hall with this tremendously talented man and listen to his interpretation of a huge variety of songs is a genuine thrill.

There were two choirs, as well, a ladies' and a men's, whom DuBois conducted. He had clearly worked them pretty hard, for their enunciation, tone and crispness was impressive.

But this is not truly meant to be a review of a show that has come and gone, it is to make an indication of the talent that DuBois brings to the stage, an indication of the sort of sincere entertainment that brings people back to his venues again and again.

Amongst the other dreams come true is DuBois' work with students, bringing appreciation of opera to young people with "Opera for Schools". He did shows for over two thousand children and teenagers who were bussed in from their schools to concerts in Newmarket and Vaughan. DuBois is adamant about the importance of these concerts.

"These kids are the audiences of the future." he says. "It is important that they learn that opera is fun and wonderful now or there will be no one to enjoy opera in the future."

The York Board of Education is so sold on the idea that it has opened the opportunity to Opera York to invite all its schools to participate in the program. In addition, parents from all over York, of all different backgrounds, also contributed financially to their children having the chance to learn about opera as only Mark DuBois can teach it.

Not daunted by his personal hard times - a car accident in December in which he was somewhat injured, but not his voice or his spirit - DuBois is the definitive "the show must go on" performer. Earlier this year, he organized the scheduled performance for the seniors from his hospital bed.

Long before his doctors agreed that he should, DuBois himself was back on the stage, keeping his promises, fulfilling his commitments for Opera York.

DuBois promises a season next year of more than good shows, shows that will be different and quite memorable even to those for whom a night out is a frequent treat.

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