Montreal Gazette (column) - Opera at McGill enters new phase with La Bohème

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(Arthur Kaptainis, Montreal Gazette columnist) "Now we can do Elektra," commented a faculty humorist at the opening of the Opera McGill production of La Bohème on Wednesday night. It was an arcane reference, but I got it instantly.

Back in the 20th century, when the plan to expand what is now known as the Schulich School of Music had three phases and a happy ending, the saying was that the opera house that constituted Phase 3 would have a pit large enough to accommodate the hefty orchestra Richard Strauss decreed for his rough-and-tough take on Sophocles.  Now Elektra can be performed in Pollack Hall, not by cramming 100 into a pit that can barely accommodate 40, but by sealing the pit and pushing the orchestra to the rear. This is what is happening in the current run of Puccini's La Bohème ...

Could a renovation turn cramped Pollack Hall into the midsize facility McGill, and Montreal, so desperately need? The full-size McGill Symphony Orchestra virtually strips the paint off the walls when it performs big repertoire under Alexis Hauser.

The people at Schulich are occupied by other priorities at the moment. Choosing a new dean is one of them. Completing the subterranean Multi Media Room is another. But to create a viable space for the orchestra and the opera school is hardly a frivolous matter. Many halls undergo renovation in the course of their life-spans. Why not Pollack Hall?