With Richard Bradshaw at the helm, the Canadian Opera Company (COC) hit some glorious high notes in the world of opera.
The company's general director, who died suddenly last week of a heart attack at the age of 63, was both an administrator and a musician. He not only planned the COC's season; he also conducted half of each season's performances.
Bradshaw's legacy is architectural as well as musical. Because of his drive and tenacity, Toronto now has a world-class opera house, which opened just over a year ago.
And he topped that event with one just as startling - a production last September of Richard Wagner's epic cycle The Ring Of The Nibelung, a four-opera, 17-hour production that brought reviewers and fans from around the globe. It proved to be an extraordinary piece of theatre directed, designed and sung by a masterful group of artists.
No wonder Bradshaw and company got an immediate standing ovation on the first night, before even a note was played.
Bradshaw was good at gauging the artistic temperature of his audience. He gave them the standards they liked - the Carmens and Bohèmes - but also lesser-known, infrequently produced works like Stravinsky's Oedipus Rex and Janacek's Jenufa. He brought international acclaim to the company with a tour to the Edinburgh Festival of an amazing double bill, Bartok's Bluebeard's Castle and Schoenberg's Erwartung.
It was the rarer works that tended to be the most memorable, in part because of the artists he employed, among them designer Michael Levine and directors Robert Lepage, Atom Egoyan, François Girard and Tim Albery.
Bradshaw spent part of the year guest-conducting around the world and scouting out new talent for the COC. Any season's roster always included returning favourites - an increasing number of them Canadian - and young singers he saw during his travels.
Just as importantly, he continued and enriched the COC Ensemble program, training a new generation of Canadian opera artists (among them Isabel Bayrakdarian, Frédérique Vézina and Lawrence J. Wiliford), providing them with opportunities both to work with established singers who guest at the COC and to star in their own productions, frequently drawn from unusual opera rep.
Of course, the COC will continue, opening its new season in October, but it'll be tough to find a successor with as much spirit, determination and flair as Richard Bradshaw.