Last Saturday’s CBC radio broadcast of The Tales of Hoffman from the Canadian Opera Company may have been its last (Michael Cooper photo).

Much of the information in this blog post is inaccurate and incomplete. Please refer to an updated post here.

I’ve just heard news that the CBC was unable to reach an agreement with the Canadian Opera Company to broadcast its productions this season. This may extend to all Canadian opera, killing a Saturday radio tradition that goes back to the earliest days of broadcasting in this country.

My source tells me that negotiations for the new season, which also involved ACTRA and the musicians’ union, broke down over money. The CBC was unable to pay the same amount it has over the past two seasons. I’m told the budget had been cut from $100,000 to $70,0000.

That shortfall of $30,000, a tiny fraction of the CBC’s operating budget and the $1 million-plus cost of mounting a mainstage opera, is the chasm that is about to cut off Canadians — and the rest of the world, via the Internet — from being able to hear our own singers and musicians and, until last season, the work of our own composers beyond the audience of a live show.

I have been among thousands of people who looked forward to hearing Saturday-afternoon broadcasts from productions originating in Toronto, Vancouver, Victoria, Calgary, Edmonton and other cities during the Metropolitan Opera’s annual summer break.

Last Saturday’s broadcast of The Tales of Hoffman from the Canadian Opera Company’s last season may well have been the last. Broadcasts from Canadian houses represented 16 weeks out of each year’s Saturday Afternoon at the Opera programming.

Without any Canadian content, one wonders if there is a viable future for Saturday Afternoon at the Opera in the first place. One also wonders how Canadian voices are going to be heard within their immediate circle of live fans, much less introduced to the audiences of the future.

The Canadian Opera Company spokesperson I contacted was not able to confirm or deny this news. I’ve left messages with COC general director Alexander Neef and with Mark Steinmetz, director of music programming at the CBC, but neither has yet responded.

I’m hoping that this news turns out to be untrue. If it is true, this is the latest — if not most painful — body blow to Canadian fans of classical music and opera since the CBC’s big cuts to classical programming five years ago.

Those of us in the big cities can still continue to enjoy concerts and opera on our stages, if we can afford the tickets. But that is no consolation to the majority of Canadians, who live too far away or who don’t have the means to make it to the performance hall.

John Terauds

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8 Responses to Newsflash: CBC Radio to no longer broadcast Canadian Opera Company

  1. Kevin Reeves says:

    Was on the bus yesterday here in Ottawa with English CBC Radio 2′s sole Classical music audio technician. He told me that Radio 2 is not long for this world…his job was cut last year – so no more live Classical music in the Nation’s Capital – not even the National Arts Centre Orchestra.

    It’s a fact that when former executive Richard Stursberg joined the CBC a few years back – the man who nearly decimated Telefilm Canada, before Radio 2 – he had no idea that CBC even HAD a radio station!!

  2. I am heartsick. I grew up with Saturday Afternoon at the Opera,Singing Stars of To-morrow,and classical Sunday Recitals. We are graduating some amazing singers from UBC,Calgary Opera and the COC and Montreal…. Where will they perform?

  3. Allyson Lyne says:

    Devastating news for Canadian music lovers. This bodes so poorly for the future of the arts in Canada. Having already lost most of the good CBC classical music broadcasts that had been the sound-track to my days, I already feel like a stranger in my own country. But it is getting so much worse.

  4. Andrew Ager says:

    Let’s make Kevin Reeves President of CBC.

    I’m serious.

  5. Robert Fraser says:

    Just as a point of information – the only way the CBC was able to record all of the previous COC season was because the COC itself put up the money to pay the artists. In the past, the CBC would pay for “remote” broadcasts of operas and concerts, which entailed a small fee to the artists for permission to broadcast the work so many times in a certain window. They now can no longer afford to do that. Whereas the orchestra community in Canada once had as many as 60 or more remotes per season, there is money this year for maybe 4 or 5. If we wish to have presence on the radio or in any other media (TV, web, satellite) it will be up to the opera companies, chamber music presenters and symphony societies to foot the bill in the future; and they are already stretching their resources to build and maintain local audiences. (Disclosure: I am a professional orchestral musician).

  6. Mary Slining says:

    Find out who your member of Parliament is and email them tomorrow.
    We need the CBC and the CBC needs a larger budget!

  7. David says:

    Hah, with the current bunch of knuckle-daggers that is in power, don’t expect any support for the arts or the cbc. They hate both. Better to offer tax cuts so ‘ordinary Canadians’ can buy a bigger TV, with which to compete in the race to the cultural bottom.

    • Robert says:

      “knuckle-daggers”? For your next trick please try to spell “irony”.

      Odd how there is still money to pay lavish bonuses to CBC brass and fund exclusive TIFF parties hosted by the Strombo. Maybe this is where Toronto elites should direct their rage.