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Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts 
145 Queen St W, Toronto
Developer: Canadian Opera Company

Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts | ?m | 5s | COC | Diamond Schmitt



From the Star:

Opera house passes Mozart test
Four Seasons has a full house of 2,000 for sound check
Acoustics part of `commissioning' process before June debut
Apr. 27, 2006. 01:00 AM

The hall is alive with the sound of music. Literally.

Former U.S. president Bill Clinton's winning campaign motto was "It's the economy, stupid." For the designers of the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, a.k.a. Toronto's new opera house, the words were more like "It's the music, stupid."

Yesterday morning, an audience heard the result of years of planning and building for the very first time. As Canadian Opera Company general director Richard Bradshaw conducted the dramatic opening chords to Mozart's opera The Magic Flute, it was immediately clear that music is truly front and centre in this space.

The singing from the stage and playing from the orchestra pit sounded clean and mellow. The lyrics were clearly intelligible.

As Bradshaw and chief acoustician Robert Essert pointed out in a briefing with arts journalists the day before, "in every decision we've had to make, Rob (Essert) has been pre-eminent."

Giving Essert control over all issues from the size of the stage opening to the final choice of flooring material has paid off in a stellar musical experience.

Having more than 1,000 make up half of yesterday's audience was the ultimate challenge. If you can hold the Game Boy generation's attention for 90 minutes, you must be doing something right.

Assembling a full house for yesterday's rehearsal was part of a weeks-long process of "commissioning" the new 2,000-seat hall. This includes checking all systems, from toilets to coat checks.

Essert and his team from Sound Space Design, representatives from Diamond & Schmitt Architects (and associated firms), the theatre designers, the contractor and project managers have been scouring every nook and cranny to ensure everything was built right.

Last week, Bradshaw, his orchestra and singers began rehearsals in the space. They are trying various configurations in the large pit, which can be raised or lowered to suit a wide range of musical styles from baroque to modern.

Bradshaw has said, "I didn't want to build a compromise."

For Essert, this meant that the complex scalloped ceiling and hard-plaster balcony cladding were designed "to keep as much sound lively in the room, so that audiences can enjoy the music."

Although the hall sounded excellent in a selection of arias and instrumental music from operas by George Frideric Handel, Mozart and Benjamin Britten, Essert won't say what he thinks — just yet.

Not that the brain behind the gorgeous acoustics at North York's George Weston Recital Hall was worried.

The latest technology and detailed studies of the world's top opera houses informed his Toronto design.

Yesterday, Essert's team recorded the live performance from numerous points in the hall. There will be more live music tonight, and hours of further recording, testing and tweaking in the weeks leading to the Four Seasons Centre's official opening in early June.

If the first sound bites were more than promising, so was the absence of extraneous noise.

"The audience will have to learn to appreciate the silence," said Bradshaw at the briefing. He was referring to the extra $6 million spent to isolate the auditorium from the city, including the subway and streetcars.

Here, too, the resources appear to have been well allocated.



Fantastic news!!

"The audience will have to learn to appreciate the silence," said Bradshaw at the briefing.
One also hopes the audience will learn to BE SILENT.


^Sure they will, with a lot of people carrying mp3 phones around, and forgetting when they have to turn their cellphones off.


When I went to see Wozzeck earlier this month, there was a pause in the music at one point and some guy yawned really loudly!


So looking forward to finding our where my seats will be allocated...

it has been a long wait for this hall - I think I may allow myself to start to get excited now!



I don't want to be the one to throw a rock into the pond, but acoustic honeymoon aside, the project is failing to awe and inspire from the outside.

I walked by last week and the City Room's south door was wide open ... so I walked in. Pardon me, but are these glass staircases supposed to be invisible for I did not see them as much as I looked. All the stairs are wood and plaster.

I'll admit that the building is cautiously pleasant to look at, but it is far from beautiful with flaws throughout and visible side effects of a low budget.

I'm crossing my fingers that this building's interior will be its saving grace and inspire some philanthropist in a decade or so to throw some money on upgrading the exterior `a la AGO

The Burgher of TO

the glass staircase is still coming, but they've been having massive problems with it, so its well behind schedule

building babel

Two weeks ago I was shown around several levels of the City Room, and the glass staircase was well into construction. It isn't something they make off site and truck in.

The acoustical designer works on the hall, but has no control over the sounds emitted by the occasional yahoos who people it - unfortunately. A few weeks ago, the broad sitting next to me at "Norma" peeled a banana and munched on it during a particularly beautiful part; later, her accomplice blew his nose like a foghorn to punctuate a quiet passage in the music.

People dress up, and they go out, but if they don't want to behave themselves you're at their mercy. Last year at the TSO the couple next to me engaged in what can only be described as foreplay for most of the evening. Someone must've given them free tickets.


When I came by the Opera House last night, on my way home from the nomadic art gallery opening I was at on Queen West, the lights were on in the City Room and in the Jackman Party poop room and it looked fantastic, even if the City Room is still full of scaffolding.

I hadn't seen it lit up before. Even the lights on the entrance canopy were lit. It will look outstanding when it is finished.


I drove by last night and saw a similar scene. With most of the scaffolding gone from the City Room, it's looking great!

I have to guiltily admit to similar behaviour at the Young Centre last night that BB mentions in his opera experiences. My companion and I were down there to see Mamet's American Buffalo (great performances, highly recommended, but only three more dates) and we found ourselves at the extreme right of the stage in row L, seats 19 and 20, with empty space to our right, but a couple to our left, and one behind us, both of which may have been distracted by our furtive gropes, especially when Jeff Lilico appeared onstage.

Normally I am am impeccably behaved.