Richard Bradshaw, general director of the Canadian Opera Company, died of an apparent heart attack at Toronto’s Pearson Airport on Wednesday night. He was 63.
His death comes just over a year after his greatest triumph: the opening in June, 2006 of the Four Seasons Center for the Performing Arts, the opera house he had fought for since his arrival at the Canadian Opera Company in 1989.
Bradshaw was born in Rugby, England, received graduated London University and studied conducting with Sir Adrian Boult, Sir Charles Groves and Sir John Pritchard.
Before coming to Toronto, he was chorus director at the Glyndebourne Festival from 1975-1977 and resident conductor of the San Francisco Opera from 1977-1989.
Initially hired as chief conductor, he became artistic director in 1994 and was finally named general director in 1998.
He was known for his adventurous programming, which included hiring stage and screen directors like Robert Lepage, Atom Egoyan and Francois Girard in a successful attempt to bring younger audiences to the opera.
But in the end, he will be best remembered for his steely determination in seeing to it that Toronto finally got an opera house of its own.
In his own words, he was the man “who never took no for an answer” and continued to lobby private, corporate and government donors until he was able to see his dream realized.
The Four Seasons Center for the Performing Arts has been acclaimed worldwide as a magnificent opera house and Bradshaw’s opening performances of Wagner’s “Der Ring des Nibelungen” also received generous praise from the major international critics.
He is survived by his wife, Diana, and two children.