It sounds like a paradox. The Canadian Opera Company could hardly be more successful with critics and audiences alike, yet it ended the 2008/09 season with a deficit. As COC Board President Paul Spafford made clear at the COC’s Annual General Meeting on Wednesday, the COC’s operating deficit of $1.6 million for the previous season was directly caused by a shortfall in the company’s annual fund-raising programs. No points for guessing that this was a result of the global economic crisis. Fortunately, the COC had ended the six previous years with a surplus. These surpluses furnished the funds the company was able to draw upon to overcome the deficit and end the year $25,000 in the black.

Otherwise, there was only good news. The COC’s subscription rate is among the highest in North America. This season only the Metropolitan Opera and Lyric Opera of Chicago will stage more performances than the COC. And, best of all, the 2008-09 season played to 99.7 percent capacity.

As COC General Director Alexander Neef stated, “It has been an extremely exciting first year for me as General Director. I am very pleased and proud to lead a company that produces opera at a level as high as, or higher than, any other North American company with a much smaller budget than those of our North American peers. And, I have been particularly encouraged to see enthusiastic and full houses in the opera house for every performance. I’m glad that we can engage audiences with the breadth and depth of repertoire we produce because it bodes very well for the future of the COC and opera in Canada.”

Further good new for the company, now celebrating its 60th anniversary, is that for the first time in almost 20 years, the COC’s mainstage season will be broadcast across Canada. In conjunction with its Broadcast Partner, CBC Radio 2, each opera in the COC’s 2009/10 season will be aired twice nationally on CBC Radio 2 and Radio-Canada’s Espace Musique, and the broadcasts of COC recordings also will be available for internet streaming on both the company’s website,, and on CBC Concerts on Demand,, for a period of 12 months after the initial streaming date. As the producer of these recordings, the COC will also seek additional means of extending the reach of its artistic output into new media platforms such as CDs, DVDs and cinecasts, as well as select National Public Radio stations in the United States.

Christopher Hoile

We’ve had a crash course, this week, in the political power of youth and music.

With José Antonio Abreu here to receive the Glenn Gould Prize, and bringing with him Gustavo Dudamel and the Simon Bolivar Youth Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela, people who don’t care about youth and music – even people who, except for when handing out campaign promises, would rather forget about youth and music – have taken notice.

It’s been very good to see the political stock of an education in music getting a small amount of the credit it deserves.

I’m here today to give credit to another organization which has been doing similar work almost completely without fanfare, across an ever-expanding territory throughout the world, for 64 years.

Read more: El Sistema and Jeunesses

Perhaps the most common epithet applied in print to sitar virtuoso, composer and musical dynasty head Ravi Shankar (b. 1920) is “legendary.” Glancing at the outline of his extraordinary 70-plus-year career, it would be hard to quibble with that summing up.

I admit that I've been among those who have occasionally followed the latter part of Ravi Shankar’s pioneering work reaching out to Western audiences. His legacy could be observed two ways in the Oct. 18 concert given by Ravi Shankar and his younger daughter Anoushka at the spanking new and welcoming-sounding Koerner Hall, Royal Conservatory of Music. The first was in the make-up of the audience. It appeared overwhelmingly non-South Asian. Perhaps most significantly that indicates the overall success in Toronto of Ravi Shankar’s half-century of outreach. It has ultimately paid off in creating a broadly based audience for his and Anoushka Shankar’s music projects – certainly a much larger following than the core audience for orthodox "classical" Hindustani music.

Read more: Fusing Musical Worlds

There’s much more to new music in November than just the St. Lawrence String Quartet concert on November 16. (See my latest In with the New column for details.)

Here are a couple of other picks to fill your calendar:

The Gryphon Trio continues to champion Canadian composers and their works in two world premieres this month: Wave by Gary Kulesha, and Paul Frehner’s Berliner Konzert.

Read more: More November New Music

Massey Hall, the grand dame of Victoria Street, was transformed during Toronto’s Nuit Blanche into a sound installation and performance art work. This transformation was care of the composer-sound artist Gordon Monahan, the pride of not only Meaford, Ontario, but also of Berlin, Germany. Judging from the size of the crowd and by the attentiveness of the listeners once they were safely sitting in the hall, Monahan’s work was evidently one of the hits of Nuit Blanche.

Read more: On the Sound-Road of Nuit Blanche

Pianist Dan Tepfer was at Gallery 345 on September 14 – as were about 60 musical cognoscenti, who came out to hear Bach’s Goldberg Variations. And perhaps there was someone else present, at least in spirit.

If Glenn Gould were looking down on the event he’d have immediately recognized his own stage mannerisms: Tepfer likes to hum along while leaning precariously into the keyboard. But Gould’s ghost would have been surprised by Tepfer’s take on the Goldbergs. At 27, this French-born American is both a classical and jazz musician – and his performance was a mixture of movements played “straight” and his own improvised interpretations.

Read more: Gallery Goldbergs

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