When sellout crowds turned up for opera in a tent
Canadian Opera Company offered a cheaper ticket in casual surroundings in the summer of '82
Rossini might have "ruptured himself" to know that his operas were being performed under a circus tent.
Mozart may not have liked it either, said the CBC's George McLean. And Beethoven would have been livid.
But in the summer of 1982, the long-dead composers were being revived in a novel way when their operas were performed under a striped big top in downtown Toronto.
"Lineups start early, sometimes two hours before showtime," said reporter John Grier.
'We're doing turn-away business every weekend," said Michael Howell of the Canadian Opera Company.
Grier sounded a note of incredulity at the crowds that were turning up.
"These people are here for opera," he said. "That's right, opera."
He said many of them were apparently seeing an opera for the first time ever, and they didn't "act the way we imagine an opera audience should," nor did they dress like it.
"Besides, they look as if they're having too good a time," he added, as audience members including a shirtless man were seen clapping and singing along with the performers on stage.
Grier said the C.O.C. believed it had found a "successful new way" to boost the audience numbers at its "much more expensive" performances during the regular season.
Howell conceded that customers of the more traditional show might not "exactly like" the shorter summer presentations, but they were outweighed by new converts.
"We find so many people who ... walk out of the tent and say, 'My god, I've never been to an opera but wasn't that fun?'" he said.
The summer season was a boon for new opera singers, too.
"It's been part of my operatic development," said singer Ted Baerg. "It behooves all young artists to try this kind of thing."