By Alexander Neef, General Director
I was very saddened to learn of Lotfi Mansouri’s death two weeks ago. I knew he had been ill, and the prognosis wasn’t good, but I wasn’t quite prepared for the loss I felt when I heard he’d passed away.
As everyone who came into contact with him knows, Lotfi was full of life. His enthusiasm for life, and especially opera was infectious. A simple recounting of his many accomplishments while at the head of the COC paints a clear picture of how he communicated his love for this company and his community.
Lotfi implemented a longer performance season, programmed more adventurous repertoire and productions, instituted advance artistic and financial planning, established the COC Orchestra and invigorated the Chorus, enhanced the COC’s international reputation by bringing in singers of world-renown, and created the country’s first and premier training program for young artists, the Ensemble Studio.
Perhaps Lotfi’s single most important innovation at the COC – one that transformed the way the public interacts with opera today – was the creation of SURTITLESTM. Unveiled at the COC’s 1983 production of Elektra, it was the very first time any opera house in the world had projected simultaneous translations for its audience. SURTITLESTM completely revolutionized the live opera experience, and it is very rare to find any opera house in the world that does not use a version today.
These accomplishments – and many others – laid the foundation for the company we are today.
Personally, Lotfi was just as generous. He was very supportive of me and my new role here from the moment I started. Over the years we would make a point of visiting each other and spending evenings over dinner and spirited conversation – there was never any shortage of topics! Although we may not have always agreed on everything, he realized that we shared the same passion for the art form, and that’s what brought us close.
The last time we saw Lotfi at the COC was when we hosted a special event for the launch of his book Lotfi Mansouri: An Operatic Journey in September 2010. He kindly sat down with me in front of an audience to answer questions about his time at the COC and all that he had accomplished since leaving.
I am privileged to have known him, and proud to have considered him a friend.
Photo credits: (top) Lotfi Mansouri, 1986. Photo by Tony Hauser; (middle) Lotfi Mansouri and the Canadian Opera Company van. Photo by Gary Beechey; (middle) Joan Sutherland and Lotfi Mansouri, 1980; (middle) A scene from the Canadian Opera Company's 1983 production of Elektra; (bottom) Lotfi Mansouri and Alexander Neef.
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Thank you Alexander Neef for sharing your memories of Lotfi.
Next in this "Operatic Journey" is a celebration of Litfi's life beginning with the COC Ensemble Concert in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre on Sept. 26, 2013.
Sara Fulgoni in the COC production of Bluebeard's Castle. Photo: Michael Cooper © 2001