Richard (James) Bradshaw. Conductor, organist, administrator, b Rugby, England, 26 Apr 1944, d Toronto 15 Aug 2007; BA Hons (University of London) 1965, hon fellowship (Royal Conservatory of Music) 2001, hon LLD (Toronto) 2003. Richard Bradshaw grew up in Higham Ferrers in Northamptonshire, began piano lessons at age eight, and by age 12 was the village church organist. Bradshaw studied English at the University of London, graduating with honours. While at university, he studied privately with organist Harold Darke and conductor Sir Adrian Boult.
England and the United States
After university Richard Bradshaw returned to Higham Ferrers, where he founded the concert society Music at Higham. After organizing a few concerts in London, he moved back and formed the New London Ensemble in 1969, later taking on conducting duties with the Saltarello Choir (1972-5). His first major breakthrough came when Sir Colin Davis secured him an audition for the Calouste Gulbenkian Conducting Seminar with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, where Bradshaw went on to work under Sir Charles Groves. In 1975 he became chorus master for the Glyndebourne Festival, where he was made Sir John Pritchard's assistant. He got his first chance to conduct opera (Verdi's Falstaff) when Pritchard fell ill.
Richard Bradshaw moved to San Francisco, where he was resident conductor at the San Francisco Opera 1977-89 under artistic director Kurt Adler. Adler's instincts for the business side of opera left an indelible mark on Bradshaw. He returned to the Glyndebourne Festival, conducting L'Incoronazione di Poppea (1985) and Porgy and Bess (1986), and was guest-conductor with the Santa Fe Opera and in New York and Seattle before travelling to Toronto in 1988 to conduct Tosca at the Canadian Opera Company (COC).
The Canadian Opera Company
Following Richard Bradshaw's first appearance at the COC, general director Brian Dickie offered Bradshaw the post of resident conductor. Soon after his arrival, the COC was dealt a significant blow with the demise of a planned arts centre. Bradshaw immediately set about bringing the arts centre partners back to the table, thus beginning what he later called his "30-years war" to get a professional-quality opera house in Toronto.
Meanwhile, he went to work at improving the quality of the COC's productions. In 1993, he brought in director Robert Lepage to lead the production of Erwartung and Bluebeard's Castle. Such was its success that Bradshaw took the production to the Edinburgh Festival in 1993 and to New York, Melbourne, and Hong Kong. In 1994, following Dickie's abrupt departure, Bradshaw became the artistic director for the COC. He continued working with film directors, putting on Salome with Atom Egoyan in 1996 and a double bill of Oedipus Rex and Symphony of Psalms, with François Girard, in 1997. The latter won eight Dora Awards and was taken to the Edinburgh Festival in 2002. In 1998, Bradshaw was named general director of the COC, the first musician to occupy this post since Ettore Mazzoleni in the late 1950s. He led both the COC orchestra and chorus to new heights, securing the COC's first recording partnership with CBC Records, which resulted in albums such as the Juno Award winning Soirée Française (1995) and the film soundtrack Don Giovanni: Leporello's Revenge (2000).
Bradshaw was a stalwart supporter of Canadian talent, such as Isabel Bayrakdarian, Russell Braun, Ben Heppner, and Michael Schade. He also commissioned operas from Canadian composers Gary Kulesha, Alexina Louie, John Oliver, Randolph Peters, and Harry Somers. In 2006, after years of hard work, Bradshaw inaugurated the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts in Toronto, Canada's first purpose-built opera house, with the complete cycle of Der Ring des Nibelungen. He died suddenly a year later.
Richard Bradshaw was a contradictory character: ebullient and shy, audacious and humble, highly competent yet quick to credit others rather than himself. As a conductor, his style has been described as "theatrical" (COC website); "viscerally exciting" (The Times, 4 Sep 2007); and "practical," emphasizing "energy, precision and balance" (Globe and Mail, 17 Aug 2007). Typically downplaying his influence, Bradshaw stated, "If I'm good at one thing, it's putting people in place and letting them get on with it" (Globe and Mail, 28 Dec 2007). His programming was often described as cutting-edge; he believed that, so long as it was done well, even the most daring works would draw an audience. His faith was borne out by many near-capacity seasons. Though he professed a dislike for the business side of his work, he undertook it with great acumen. There is no doubt that the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts would never have been built were it not for his efforts. In a 2005 interview he encapsulated his outlook: "The only thing you can do in the arts that is irresponsible is not to take risks" (New York Times, 18 Aug 2007).
Additional Engagements and Honours
Richard Bradshaw guest-conducted in Montreal, Edmonton, Washington, Montpellier, Toulouse, and Frankfurt, and conducted orchestras such as the London, BBC, and City of Birmingham symphonies; the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra; the London Mozart Players; and the Hong Kong and Rotterdam philharmonics. He received visiting appointments to the University of California at Berkeley and at Irvine (1980-3); the University of Toronto (1990) and its Massey College (1995); and the Juilliard School (1990).
Among his many honours were France's Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters (2000); the Order of Ontario (2004); and the title of distinguished visiting fellow at Massey College (2006-7).
Rarities by Rossini and Verdi. Richard Margison - tenor, Wendy Nielsen - soprano, Stephen McClare - tenor, Anita Krause-mezzo-soprano, Richard Bradshaw - conductor, Canadian Opera Company Orchestra. 1996. CBC SMCD 5148
French & Italian Arias. Richard Margison - tenor, Marie Bérard - violin, Richard Bradshaw - conductor, Canadian Opera Company Orchestra. 1996. CBC SMCD 5158
Soirée Francaise. Michael Schade - tenor, Russell Braun - baritone, Richard Bradshaw - conductor, Canadian Opera Company Orchestra. 1997. CBC SMCD 5174
Great Tenor Arias. Richard Margison - tenor, Richard Bradshaw - conductor, Canadian Opera Company Orchestra. 1998. CBC SMCD 5296
Theo Loevendie: Orbita; Incantations; Naima Suite; Flexio. Richard Bradshaw - conductor, Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, et al. 1998. Donemus CV 24
Don Giovanni: Leporello's Revenge. Dmitri Hvorostovsky - baritone, Dominique Labelle - soprano, Gary Relyea - bass-baritone, Krisztina Szabó - mezzo-soprano, Michael Colvin - tenor, Richard Bradshaw - conductor, Canadian Opera Company Orchestra. 2000. CBC SMCD 5205
Millennium Opera Gala. Richard Bradshaw - conductor, et al. 2000. CBC SMCD 5198
Opera Encores. Benjamin Butterfield - tenor, Brett Polegato - baritone, Richard Bradshaw - conductor, Canadian Children's Opera Chorus, Canadian Opera Company Orchestra. 2000. CBC SMCD 5213
Serata Italiana. Michael Schade - tenor, Russell Braun - baritone, Richard Bradshaw - conductor, Canadian Opera Company Orchestra. 2000. CBC SMCD 5203
Margison Sings Verdi. Richard Margison - tenor, Marie Bérard - violin, Stanley McCartney - clarinet, James Westman - baritone, Bryan Epperson - cello, Richard Bradshaw - conductor, Canadian Opera Company Orchestra. 2002. CBC SMCD 5213
Mozart: Arie e Duetti. Isabel Bayrakdarian - soprano, Michael Schade - tenor, Russell Braun - baritone, Richard Bradshaw - conductor, Canadian Opera Company Orchestra. 2006. CBC SMCD 5239
Gooding, Wayne. "Opera builder award: Richard Bradshaw," Opera Canada, 1 Oct 2003
Posner, Michael. "Singing the praises of an opera director," Globe and Mail, 28 Dec 2006
Everett-Green, Robert. "Bradshaw a master builder, hero to the arts," Globe and Mail, 17 Aug 2007
Midgett, Anne. "Richard Bradshaw, opera director, dies at 63," New York Times, 18 Aug 2007
"Richard Bradshaw," The Times, 4 Sep 2007