Updated productions of Shakespeare plays have dominated the Festival from its inception. Although music has been cast in supporting roles as background to the dramas or as alternative fare for tourists, the Festival's music directors (Louis Applebaum, Leonard Rose, Oscar Shumsky, Glenn Gould, Victor Di Bello, Andrée Gingras, Raffi Armenian, Berthold Carrière, and Rick Fox) have created memorable Broadway musicals, operettas, and concerts out of what was, at one time, described as a "poor-relation's" share of the Festival's budget.
The Festival's resident orchestra of 20-40 musicians, begun in 1956, offers concert series and provides the incidental music for Festival productions.
Subsequent seasons saw productions of The Beggar's Opera (1958) and Orpheus in the Underworld (1959) and, significantly, the creation in 1959 of the Orchestra Workshop under the direction of leading chamber musicians, to attract and hold players who would form the National Festival Orchestra. (Master classes, in later years independent of the Orchestra Workshop, continued until 1969 and were revived in 1971.) In 1960 concerts were presented for the first time in the Festival Theatre, while stage productions included the Gilbert and Sullivan opera H.M.S. Pinafore (1960). Saturday morning chamber concerts were introduced in 1960 and later increased from three to eight per season. An International Conference of Composers and the International String Congress also were held in 1960.
Stratford Festival 1961-79
In 1961 two distinguished US musicians who were instructors in the Orchestra Workshop, the cellist Leonard Rose and the violinist Oscar Shumsky, were named in a directorial triumvirate with Glenn Gould (a regular performer at Stratford since 1953) to succeed Applebaum. The Rose-Shumsky-Gould seasons 1961-4, and 1965-7 under Shumsky alone, were highlighted by the three players' joint and solo performances, by the continuing expansion of the Festival Concert series, and by the Festival Choral Workshop (1963-5) under Elmer Iseler.
In 1964 music moved to the newly renovated Avon Theatre, with a production of Gilbert and Sullivan's The Yeomen of the Guard (1964). Opera productions, including Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro (1964, 1965), Don Giovanni (1966), and Così fan tutte (1967); Weill's Mahagonny (1965); Britten's Albert Herring (1967); Rossini's Cinderella (1968); and Gabriel Charpentier's An English Lesson (1968), continued until they were deemed prohibitively costly. By 1969, the second of Victor Di Bello's two years as musical director, casual concerts proliferated, and full-scale opera had ceased. After 1969, under the direction of Andrée Gingras 1970-3 and Raffi Armenian 1973-6, concerts decreased in number but expanded in range to include jazz performers and leading Canadian folk musicians as well as chamber and recital programs. The Stratford Festival Ensemble (Canadian Chamber Ensemble), founded and conducted by Raffi Armenian, performed regularly 1974-6.
Special concert programs met a mixed reception. The Music at Midnight (later Night Music) series, presented by the Festival's guest musicians and members of the resident Festival orchestra, flourished 1969-76 at the Rothman Art Gallery, but Music For A Summer Day, a notable day-long mini-festival (1972), was dropped after 1973. Although major productions of opera were not resumed, in 1971 the Third Stage (the badminton court again) became the home for chamber opera and experimental productions such as R. Murray Schafer's Patria II: Requiems for the Party Girl (1972), Gabriel Charpentier's Orpheus (1972), Raymond and Beverly Pannell's Exiles (1973, a Stratford commission), Charles Wilson's The Summoning of Everyman (1974), Gian Carlo Menotti's The Medium (1974), Harry Somers' The Fool (1975), Jean Vallerand's Le Magicien (1975), and Richard Strauss's Ariadne auf Naxos (1975).
Berthold Carrière was music director of the Stratford Festival 1976-83 and 1985-2007. No productions were mounted in 1976 or the following year. In fact the 1977 music program was limited to six concerts of pop music. The 1978 season was somewhat expanded: an opening gala featuring artists from the Canadian Opera Company and the National Ballet of Canada; a Third Stage production of Bernstein's Candide with Caralyn Tomlin, Ed Evanko, and Andrea Martin; concerts by Liona Boyd, Oscar Peterson, and Louis and Gino Quilico; and appearances by Bruce Cockburn and Dan Hill. The 1979 season offered the musical Happy New Year (music of Cole Porter, adapted by Burt Shevelove); jazz concerts by the Gary Burton Quartet, Dizzy Gillespie, the Preservation Jazz Band, and Sarah Vaughan; and concerts by Valdy and Kate and Anna McGarrigle.
Formal concerts in the early 1980s mostly featured pop, jazz, and folk performers, such as Oscar Peterson, Bruce Cockburn, Roberta Flack, Ella Fitzgerald, Dave Brubeck, Judy Collins, Liona Boyd, Ann Mortifee, and the Nylons. A series of workshop concerts were offered by Festival musicians in 1985, and an informal free-concert series appeared beginning in 1987.
In 1981 the Festival began a series of innovative Gilbert and Sullivan productions directed by Brian Macdonald with musical direction by Carrière, culminating in the productions of The Mikado, Iolanthe, and The Gondoliers in 1984. The Mikado toured Britain and New York to favourable reviews. These productions were broadcast by CBC TV (produced and directed by Norman Campbell) and were released on video. A documentary, Musical Magic: Gilbert and Sullivan in Stratford, was produced by the National Film Board of Canada. Pirates of Penzance in 1985 was the last in the series, as the Festival's new artistic director, John Neville, decided to mount Broadway musicals instead, including Cabaret (1987), My Fair Lady (1988), Kiss Me Kate (1989), Guys and Dolls (1990), and Carousel (1991).
Opera-type programs were reintroduced in 1990 with performances of Peter Maxwell Davies' Eight Songs for a Mad King and Miss Donnithorne's Maggot with baritone Thomas Goertz and mezzo-soprano Fides Krucker, respectively. The critically acclaimed Broadway musicals, however, had become a staple of Stratford's diet and had allowed Neville, on retirement in 1989, to present his successor David William with a financially solvent operation. In 1991, the musicals were outdrawing the company's Shakespeare plays and critic Jamie Portman wrote (Montreal Gazette 2 Feb 1991) "During his term as artistic director, John Neville publicly expressed his concern about the Festival's growing dependence on big Broadway musicals. He deplored the prospect of a new generation of playgoers who perceive the Festival primarily as a place to see musicals rather than as English Canada's major bastion of classical theatre. These fears are even more valid today."
Stratford Festival of Canada 2000-2006
Broadway musicals, nonetheless, maintained a strong, profitable presence at the Festival. Under artistic director Richard Monette, the Festival presented a number of successful productions, including Richard Ouzounian and Marek Norman's Dracula (selling 44,000 tickets in 1999 and broadcast on CBC TV), Fiddler on the Roof (162,000 tickets sold in 2000), and Guys and Dolls (extended for 12 additional shows in 2004). The Festival's 2005 production of Hello, Dolly! marked the musical's first non-Broadway revival by a professional company. Other popular productions have included Gypsy (1993); The Music Man (1996, 2008); The Sound of Music (2001); My Fair Lady (2002); The Threepenny Opera (2002); The King and I (2003); and Oklahoma! (2007).
Stratford Shakespeare Festival 2007-
With the appointment of Des McAnuff as artistic director in 2007 the Festival renewed its emphasis on classical theatre. Although the future of the musical at Stratford seemed to be in question, McAnuff assured: "Musicals, I believe fervently, are an inherent part of the classical theatre repertoire and they deserve to be treated with great respect" (CanWest News, 15 May 2008). Musicals after 2007 have included Cabaret (2008), Evita (2010), and a critically acclaimed production of Jesus Christ Superstar (2011).
Reduced in number, classical, jazz, and folk music concerts have also continued at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival. The 1,838-seat Festival Theatre and the 1,083-seat Avon Theatre have remained the main venues for larger productions, while the 260-seat Studio Theatre (built in 2002) has become home to the Festival's Music Workshop Concerts, as well as the "Night Music" series. Concert performers have included Cynthia Dale, Mike Murley, the Festival Youth Singers, the Festival City Big Band, and the Niagara Vocal Ensemble.
In 2007 the Festival's longtime music director, Berthold Carrière, retired and was succeeded by Rick Fox.
Incidental music for Stratford's theatre productions has been commissioned from various composers and performed by the Stratford Festival Theatre Orchestra as required. In addition to composing the Festival's fanfares, a tradition begun in 1953, Louis Applebaum scored more than 75 productions 1953-99. Berthold Carrière arranged and composed more than 80 works for Stratford 1975-2007, and Gabriel Charpentier some 17 between 1963 and 1981. John Cook (organist, composer, b Maldon, England, 11 Oct 1918, d Boston 12 Aug 1984) resided 1954-62 in London, Ont, during which time he composed the music for more than 10 plays. Others who have provided incidental music are Cedric Thorpe Davie (1954-5), Harry Somers (1960, 1983), Duke Ellington (1963), Godfrey Ridout (1964), Raymond Pannell (1967-9, 1973, 1983), Stanley Silverman (1967-70, 1982-3, 1989, 1992), Alan Laing (1967, 1972-5, 1986-9, 1996), Harry Freedman (1971, 1975), Pierre Philippe (1971), Norman Symonds (1979-81), Bruce Ruddell (1986), Charles and John Gray (1986), Allan Rae (1987), Gary Kulesha (1986-7), Lucio Agostini (1987), André Gagnon (1987-8), Laura Burton (1989), Michael Conway Baker (1989), Greg Coffin (2003), Stephen Woodjetts (2003), Michael Vieira (2004), Marc Desormeaux (2005), Keith Thomas (2005), and Bert Wrede (2008).
Concert works were commissioned from Serge Garant, Bruce Mather, Gabriel Charpentier, and Steven Gellman (all premiered at the Saturday morning chamber music concerts in 1968); and from John Hawkins, Brian Cherney, and Gilles Tremblay (premiered in 1969). Efforts to popularize the Stratford Shakespeare Festival have led it to commission songs and incidental music from Loreena McKennitt (Merchant of Venice, 2001), the Barenaked Ladies (As You Like It, 2005), and Des McAnuff with Michael Roth (Twelfth Night, 2011).
Oscar Peterson Trio at the Stratford Shakespearean Festival. 1993. Verve Records 314 513 752-2
The Billie Holiday Set: A Midsummer Night's Jazz at Stratford '57. 1999. Baldwin Street Music BJH 308
Morley, Glenn, arr. Fanfare: The Stratford Music of Louis Applebaum. 2000. Marquis Classics MAR 7747 181269 2 4
Barenaked Ladies. As You Like It. 2005. Desperation Records 0 6700 32136 2 2
Music from the Stratford Shakespeare Festival's Twelfth Night. 2011. Stratford Shakespeare Festival
Author Lenore Crawford, Sarah Church
Articles in The Canadian Music Journal, vols 1-6, Autumn 1956-61; vol 1, Summer 1957
Kraglund, John. "Stratford Festival," International Musician, vol 60, May 1962
Stratford Shakespearean Festival Foundation of Canada. Fanfare, quarterly publication 1966-
Thompson, David. "Opera at the Stratford Festival 1953/1967," Opera Canada, vol 8, Sep 1967
Applebaum, Louis. "Stratford's music festival," The Stratford Scene, ed Peter Raby (Toronto 1968)
Stratford Festival Story. Annual brochures (Stratford)
Shaw, Grace Lydiatt. Stratford Under Cover (Toronto 1977)
Littler, William. "Where has all the summer festival music gone?" Toronto Star, 20 Aug 1977
Timmerman, Nicola. "Stratford's Berthold Carrière: a musical director with panache," The Canadian Composer, Oct 1978
Patterson, Tom "The Stratford story," Opera Canada, vol 27, Winter 1986
Littler, William. "Keeping score at Stratford," Toronto Star, 13 Aug 1988
Littler, William. "The composers who make Stratford sing," Toronto Star, 26 Aug 1989
Sewell, Diane. "Concerts let festival musicians explore other creative outlets," The Beacon Herald, 15 Jul 1994
Crew, Robert. "Stratford flush with funds and ideas," Toronto Star, 9 Dec 1999
Kareda, Urjo. "Fanfare: the Stratford music of Louis Applebaum," Opera Canada, vol 41, no 4, Winter 2000
Menzies, Diane. "Loreena McKennitt brings eastern music to Stratford's Merchant of Venice," Canadian Press Newswire, 23 May 2001
Dale, Cynthia. "Bottom line: people love it," Globe and Mail, 30 Oct 2001
"Barenaked Ladies to compose music for Stratford Festival's As You Like It," Canadian Press Newswire, 8 Dec 2004
Portman, Jamie. "Putting the Shakespeare back in Stratford," CanWest News, 15 May 2008
Scott, Alec. "Who's afraid of Des McAnuff?" Toronto Life, vol 42, no 6, Jun 2008
Links to Other Sites
Stratford Shakespeare Festival
The website for the legendary Stratford Shakespeare Festival. Features the latest news and videos about festival productions, educational programs, the Birmingham Conservatory for Classical Theatre, and more. Check out "About Us" for a brief history of the theatre and information about Stratford's theatres.
Heritage Minutes: Stratford Shakespeare Festival
Watch a brief video depicting the genesis of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival. A Heritage Minute from the Historica-Dominion Institute. See also related learning resources.
Theatre Museum Canada - The Legend Library
Watch a series of captivating interviews with legendary personalities in Canadian theatre, including Susan Benson and Michael Whitfield, Douglas Campbell, Desmond Heeley, Martha Henry, William Hutt, Mavor Moore, William Needles, Jean-Louis Roux, and Paul Thompson. Interviews conducted by actor/director RH Thomson. From the website for Theatre Museum Canada.
A brief historical overview of the presentation of Shakespeare's plays in Canada. From the Encyclopedia of Canadian Theatre.
Stratford Shakespeare Festival: Fiftieth Anniversary
Listen to a CBC Radio feature about the history of Canada’s illustrious Stratford Shakespeare Festival.
Setting the Stage: Stratford Circa 1953
Learn how Stratford's community leaders came together to create the now-famous Stratford Shakespeare Festival. See also the online gallery of artifacts, photographs, and illustrations. From the Virtual Museum of Canada.
CBC: William Hutt
A 2007 CBC obituary for the celebrated Canadian classical actor William Hutt. Check out the links for additional news and features about his life and performing career.
An obituary of internationally acclaimed actor William Hutt. From the Canadian Theatre Encyclopedia.
The official website for the City of Stratford.
Stratford Summer Music
The website for the Stratford Summer Music festival offers musician profiles, a concert calendar, and more.
Richard Jean Monette
A CBC obituary for Stratford actor and artistic director Richard Jean Monette. The accompanying image gallery provides a poignant retrospective of his long and distinguished career in theatre.
Antoni Cimolino: Behind the mask
An interview with Antoni Cimolino, the general director of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival. From thestar.com.
Robert Cushman: The year (and decade) onstage
A review of the decade's theatrical highpoints from the National Post.
Q&A: Firing on all cylinders at Stratford, says Des McAnuff
An interview with Des McAnuff, artistic director of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival. From the National Post.
David William was Stratford Shakespeare Festival’s artistic director
An obituary for David William, former artistic director of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival. From thestar.com.
Beyond the Footlights: Stratford Shakespeare Festival Insights
This blog features videos, news, and notes about the lively Stratford Theatre community.