CANADIAN HEROES, SUNG AND UNSUNG

CANADA’S HEROES, SUNG AND UNSUNG

Canadian news media were full of prideful announcements when Milos Roanic defeated Eoger Federer “in a breakthrough semifinal performance that will be remembered as a watershed moment in Canadian tennis.” It is notable that Federer, known as “the Swiss superstar,” had never been defeated in the final four at the All England Club at Wimbledon. “It’s a pretty special recognition to the state of Canadian tennis and it’s not just me,” Raonic said.

At the same time, another Canadian, seventeen-year-old Denis Shapovalov, won Wimbledon’s boy’s title by beating out Alex De Minaur, an Australian, in three sets. Shapovalov, who is from Richmond Hill, Ontario, said, “Canadian tennis is moving forward a lot. Hopefully it doesn’t stop here. Even the next generation can see it’s possible and start working hard and we will have more Grand Slam champions in the future.”

These young men are talented and hard-working at what they do, and they certainly deserve their notoriety and our admiration, but what about two other young Canadians who have advanced to some of the highest positions in the musical world? Media were almost entirely silent.

Nikki Chooi, a young violinist from Victoria, B.C. has recently been appointed as concertmaster of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. This is one of the most prestigious positions in the world of music. Not only is the Metropolitan Opera among the four or five major opera companies in the world but its orchestra is also recognized as one of the finest. Chooi, born in Victoria in 1989, has performed with orchestras throughout Canada and around the world. He made his debut, at the age of twelve, with the Victoria Symphony. He went on to study at the Juilliard School in New York, and has performed with orchestras throughout Canada and around the world. Reflecting on his appointment with the Met orchestra, Chooi said, “It’s a dream job. The orchestra is known to be … one of the leading ensembles in the world, and just to think that I’m about to be a part of it this coming September, it’s crazy to think. It hasn’t settled in yet. I’m still on cloud nine.”

Another Canadian appointed to a top position at the Metropolitan Opera was Yannick Nézet-Séguin, a young conductor from Montreal. The forty-one-year-old French-Canadian conductor succeeds James Levine, who held the position for forty years but retires at the end of this current season. Nézet-Séguin made his Met debut in 2009 conducting Bizet’s Carmen – a “bracing, fleet and fresh account of the score” from which “the singers benefited immensely,” wrote the New York Times’s reviewer. Nézet-Séguin has since conducted Don Carlos, Rusalka and La Traviata there, and opened the 2015-16 season with Verdi’s Otello, about which the Wall Street Journal wrote: “If the action on the stage sometimes flagged, there was plenty in the pit, where the superb conductor, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, etched a high-tension dramatic arc.” “Becoming the music director of the Metropolitan Opera is the fulfillment of a lifelong dream for me,” said Nézet-Séguin. “I believe [it] is the greatest opera company in the world with the best principal singers on the planet.”

Why weren’t these appointments major news items? If Wimbledon is the Metropolitan Opera of tennis, then surely the Met is the Wimbledon of opera! Go figure.