Friday, August 24, 2007

On Richard Bradshaw (1944-2007)


It has taken a few days to even process the fact that Richard is no longer with us. The moment I attempt to collect my thoughts the page is filled with so many clich├ęs (that RB would suggest I consider trimming) that one would wonder if I was talking about a man or some mythical hero. I suppose anyone looking at his list of accomplishments would wonder the same thing. It is humbling to read the heartfelt words of the opera community and realise how many of us he really touched – how much of an influence he has had on Canadian artists and therefore (as he had every right to proudly proclaim) the opera world.
So what is the proper role in which to cast Richard Bradshaw? Caped Avenger? Unscrupulous Diplomat? Crafty Salesman? Flamboyant Gambler? Wizened Seer? Rogue? Scallywag? One word continues to return to me and has been echoed in the words of my colleagues – Father.
Richard was father to the Canadian opera family, including all the rights and responsibilities, blessings and blights of that title. Like a good father, Richard cared about the passionate, dedicated people around him. Like a good father, Richard could become a bear when one of his charges was being threatened. Like good children, we all, at one time or another, have rebelled and thought him unfair, unreasonable or obstinate. That is part of being a child. Richard considered and genuinely cared. Richard did what he thought was best whether it made us laugh or cry. That is part of being a dad.
In 1999, Richard commissioned my first professional opera, The Brothers Grimm, which has really made all the difference in my career. He was proud of the fact that Grimm would be receiving its 300th performance this fall. And oh, to make Papa proud – that was a high that could keep a composer out of an IT career for a year!
I’m happy that I more recently came to know more about the man that was Maestro Bradshaw (an important realization for children to have about their fathers). Following the dress rehearsal of Isis and the Seven Scorpions, we had a chance to talk a bit more casually. We talked about the new canoe he was given and how to execute a proper J-stroke. We talked about golf and the Canadian outdoors. We talked about the things furthest from most people’s minds when that shock of white hair and beaming smile popped up from the orchestra pit, and yet, all parts of the man. The Father. The Maestro.
I guess the father image is an important one for me right now. My own two-month-old daughter was asleep in my arms for the dress of Isis and Richard commented that “she seemed to like it”. He told me that I had a lot to look forward to that he was anticipating, with great gusto, a meal made by his own daughter that very evening. I remember something about a killer pie.
Richard was so much more than a father, but he sure made an awful lot of us feel honoured to be “part of the family”.

Dean Burry