Niki Goldschmidt

Niki Goldschmidt: A Life in Canadian Music

GWENLYN SETTERFIELD
Copyright Date: 2003
Pages: 360
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3138/9781442677739
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  • Book Info
    Niki Goldschmidt
    Book Description:

    The captivating story of Niki Goldschmidt's life, following his career as conductor, teacher, and artistic director, including his involvement in the founding of Canada's first opera school and the creation of festivals and tours across the country.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7773-9
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-xii)
    Teresa Stratas

    ‘So yooo arrr Terreza Strratas. They tell me you areeemmenselytalented. Is this trooo?’ The voice was like a gentle song.

    It was the autumn of 1956. I was standing in the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto, having just enrolled in the school days before. I was in a world so different from my familiar world at home. I was just sixteen and under five feet tall. I now calculate that he was forty-eight and definitely over six feet tall. I looked up and thus began my first of many encounters with Niki Goldschmidt. I remember thinking that...

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-2)
  5. Prologue
    (pp. 3-7)

    The Longest Night Society of Whitehorse, in Canada’s Yukon Territory, is rehearsing for its annual festival. In the far north this is a time for celebration, for music and singing and storytelling. It’s the time of the winter solstice, the turning of the year, when the sun begins its long journey back from the southern sky. These performers, struggling over lines and lighting cues, know that this year’s show, 21 December 1999, is special. Not only does it mark the last festival of the century, but also it has brought important visitors from the south.The Longest Nightis to...

  6. 1 'Tempi passati'
    (pp. 8-23)

    Moravia, next to Bohemia in what is now the southernmost part of the Czech Republic, belonged to the Austrian portion of the Habsburgs’ empire. It was a region of pleasant villages and rural estates on which stood elegant residences, neoclassical and baroque castles. It was on such an estate, on the edge of the village of Tavikovice and not far from the city of Brno, that the fifth of six sons was born to Robert and Margarete Goldschmidt on 6 December 1908. The new arrival was named after the special saint of that day, St Nicholas, patron saint of children...

  7. 2 Upbeat and Down in an Old World
    (pp. 24-36)

    Exciting anticipation, edgy anxiety, fear of rejection, confidence that fame and fortune are one call away; these are the unsettling emotions of young performers starting their careers. Place and time make no difference. New York in the year 2000 or Vienna in the 1930s, the view of someone outside wanting to get in is always the same. The mythical notion of the ‘overnight success’ is in truth the story of talent, training, and hard work, years of it, refining a craft, learning how it all really works. So it was in Europe as Nicholas Goldschmidt completed his studies and prepared...

  8. 3 New World Overtures
    (pp. 37-55)

    New York in 1937 was crackling with energy, seven million people looking to a brighter future. While Europe was on a downhill slide, each day more depressing and anxiety-filled than the last, the United States seemed to be swinging around, putting the gloom and despair behind, at last finding its way out of the Great Depression. True, breadlines, homelessness, and bitter strikes remained, and the isolationism of the post-First World War period rested deep in the country’s psyche, but there was a new air of optimism. Within the arts community a growing number of gifted artists - musicians, writers, painters,...

  9. 4 New Home, New Voices
    (pp. 56-77)

    Niki Goldschmidt arrived in Toronto on the last weekend of September 1946. After checking into the old Ford Hotel, a down-at-heel establishment long since demolished, he went out to look around the city. It wasn’t an encouraging or uplifting sight. Toronto presented a dreary scene for the young man from Vienna, a very different place from the cosmopolitan centres to which he was accustomed. He couldn’t buy a bottle of beer in a restaurant, Ontario’s Sunday ‘blue laws’ kept the cinemas shut tight, there was no Sunday newspaper to browse through, and there was scarcely anyone on the street. It...

  10. 5 Vision and Vicissitudes
    (pp. 78-106)

    Niki is a restless man. He needs to be occupied, preferably with a creative challenge that makes something happen. Toronto was growing, the opera program was expanding, but he still had free time and it was Vancouver, on the west coast, that filled the vacuum. The year was 1950.

    Mention Niki Goldschmidt and Vancouver together and typically you will hear, ‘Oh yes, there was that big festival, with a bunch of famous conductors, Karajan, Bruno Walter, and Joan Sutherland making her debut in some Mozart opera. Nothing ever like it out there before.’

    Well, there was a big festival, and,...

  11. 6 Celebrations East to West
    (pp. 107-125)

    It was the early 1960s and Niki and Shelagh were back in Toronto, in the gracious red-brick house on the hill. While Niki had no permanent position, in the brief hiatus before his next big undertaking they were never idle.

    Guests came and went at Kineras, where there was always a warm welcome. For artists, tired from their incessant public appearances, the house provided a restful escape.

    And such an array of visitors! Kerstin Meyer and Elisabeth Söderström, two famous Swedish singers celebrating the annual Festival of Light walking around the dining table with candles held aloft; Yehudi Menuhin doing...

  12. 7 For All Seasons and for All Places
    (pp. 126-161)

    Guelph is a small city, one hundred kilometres from the centre of Toronto, just far enough to give it a distinct identity. It is solid and well kept, with handsome nineteenth-century limestone houses and business blocks, attractive churches from the same period, riverside parks, a spacious university campus, and a population that takes pride in its community. It is also the place where Niki’s festival-making skills triumphed for two decades, inspiring Mavor Moore to advise anyone wanting to mount a festival to ‘listen to the voice of the prophet Niki.’¹

    The thought that excellent artistic presentations could originate and flourish...

  13. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  14. 8 Something up His Sleeve, and More
    (pp. 162-179)

    It was autumn, 1982, and Niki was in Paris when he picked up a copy ofLe Mondeand read of Glenn Gouldʼs death. He was immediately struck by the importance given the front-page article, by how seriously the French press treated this tragic event.

    Niki had known Gould since the famous pianist was a teenager at the Royal Conservatory, and from their later collaborations at various festivals. They had shared a fondness for offbeat ideas; Gould had once persuaded Niki to consider a ʻLegacy Spoof,ʼ a recital to be performed in a trapperʼs cabin or other unlikely northern venue...

  15. 9 ʻWhere is the song before it is sung?ʼ
    (pp. 180-194)

    When it comes to anticipating significant anniversaries, Niki is like a musical clairvoyant sensing the possibilities less visionary mortals have not even imagined. But the celebration of the millennium, the modulation from the 1900s to the year 2000 was a worldwide happening. It was impossible to escape the blare of the media, the image makers, the merchandisers who very early on began the countdown to midnight, 1999. Surely everyone would want to be first in line with proposals for millennium grants!

    But the 1990s in Canada saw governments preoccupied with reducing deficits, and arts organizations struggling with the costs of...

  16. Abbreviations
    (pp. 195-196)
  17. Notes
    (pp. 197-210)
  18. Bibliography
    (pp. 211-214)
  19. Principal Archival Sources
    (pp. 215-216)
  20. Index
    (pp. 217-222)