the founders of Opera York approached Canadian tenor Mark DuBois to be the
artistic director for the budding company they probably had no idea how
quickly their smart choice would pay back. Every impresario always hopes to
make it with a new project, but in our fickle marketplace even the most
thought out plan can go awry. After only one very short season under Mark
DuBois’ artistic direction the opera has garnered more success than ever
before. The membership has grown in unprecedented numbers, the concerts
produced unusual numbers and the latest Gala with a silent auction was a
smash hit with over 460 people attending and bidding on everything from fine
wine to paintings.
The gala concert itself was a marvel to behold. A wonderful
Italian dinner, prepared by the chefs of the Famee Furlane, was enjoyed by
all. The great hall was decorated lovingly and guests could wonder around
and silently bid on a huge array of items. In the centre below the stage was
the table with Mark’s parents and some very special guests: Maureen
Forrester and her companion, the very entertaining Richard Boone. Maureen
Forrester was incredibly gracious throughout the night and posed endlessly
for photos. Anyone who had brought a camera wanted to take home this memento
with one of Canada’s great divas, a living legend.
After dinner the concert started. Mark DuBois had gathered
around himself the artists and friends that always guarantee success. Mark
himself, though not even fully recovered from the latest surgery after his
Christmastime accident, looked and sounded fantastic. In fact he sang never
better, in our recollection. Gisele Fredette looked particularly smashing
that night and sang with extraordinary charm and passion. Somehow she had
brought an extra dose of joie de vivre for this special evening. She was
definitely at her best. Bruce Kelly also pulled all registers of his warm
and wonderful baritone. The playful sparring between Mark the Tenor and
Bruce the Baritone were almost believable because that night the ladies were
truly hard pressed to pick a favourite.
Suzanne Kompass was the icing on the cake you might say,
looking sweet and vulnerable as usual. All were accompanied by the
incredibly competent and talented Danny McErlain.
After many favourite opera arias from Mozart, Verdi, Bizet,
Strauss and others a break was the respite everyone needed before the big
surprise of the evening. What everyone had secretly hoped for happened,
Maureen Forrester went on stage to sing. A spellbound audience listened as
the great old Dame of Canadian Opera, well, what did she do? She bewitched
everyone in the hall. People stopped breathing as she sang "Mon Coeur", a
song she had made famous long ago. Her pitch is absolutely perfect, her
diction is superb, you cannot miss a word, her emotional output is very
strong and her presence is incredibly commanding, What is a person to do but
listen and forget to breath for fear that this performance might turn out to
be a mirage if in fact we do breathe. Everyone knew that they had witnessed
greatness, pure and simple.
After this marvel Mark DuBois changed hats and conducted a
couple of local choirs: the Coro Voci Friuli, a female choir and Coro Santa
Cecilia, a male choir. This brought a different flavour to the evening that
was unforgettable. Happy and saturated with the glory of some of Canada’s
best voices everyone collected the treasure they had bid on and won to take
For the board of directors the evening exceeded all
expectations and previous endeavours, which goes to show what can happen
when you hire a Canadian treasure who commands a lot of good friends, who
will come at the drop of a hat or for his asking, to run the show for you.
After this concert and previously Mark DuBois and his
friends had already educated students in the fine art of opera and musical
theatre. Almost immediately after this gala Mark went to Bermuda to bring
the concept of his mission to 5000 students in Bermuda.
Creating an interest and understanding in opera and related
musical fields guarantees future audiences and anyone contributing to that
deserves our applause.
Opera York has found a most unique and lively way to bring
art to young people. The dozens of letters and essays written by the
students are wonderful to read. They also demonstrate how important such
work is and that young people are easily interested in other music than the
modern and ultra modern genre. When Mark and his friends are through with
them they think opera is cool, real cool.
Congratulations Opera York for helping to keep the art of
musical theatre in all its forms alive for future generations.