Radio-Canada, the French-language counterpart of the CBC, has announced that the live Saturday-afternoon opera broadcasts on its Espace Musique stations is no more.
The afternoon time slot, which for the last two summers has taken a break from opera broadcasts, will go to pop programming. A four-hour show with an opera theme hosted by Sylvia L’Écuyer, a veteran and highly respected classical host on the network, will take its place, beginning at 7 p.m. on Sundays (and online on Saturdays).
Last season, CBC Radio 2 ended its broadcasts of Canadian opera, because it no longer had the resources to record them, and the Canadian Opera Company, its single largest source of live opera performances in this country, felt it was unable to shoulder the full cost of providing these broadcasts to the CBC.
The Metropolitan Opera broadcasts are provided to the CBC by the company, and the summer broadcasts come from a variety of non-Canadian sources, including the European Broadcasting Union.
Since the retirement of producer David Jaeger earlier this year, the CBC no longer has a classical music producer in Toronto, which represents at least a quarter of the broadcaster’s English-language market.
Many Canadians may not realise that CBC Radio and its online counterpart CBC Music are increasingly reliant on the generosity of music presenters to provide content, with the public broadcaster’s contribution being its transmission network. The live coverage of the Banff International String Quartet Competition last week, for example, was largely funded by the competition — and, by extension, its generous patrons.
The cancellation of live opera broadcasts on the French network is not good news for the English side, which is boasting Ben Heppner as its new host this week. With no new Canadian content to offer and the ease of hooking into an international network of quality classical radio through the Internet, it potentially becomes easier and easier for the CBC and Radio-Canada to say that its opera content is no longer relevant to Canadians.
The trouble is that the CBC itself was the one who made it so.
There is a Facebook page here, created to help mobilize people to support live opera broadcasts on Radio-Canada.