Sep 27, 2022
50th Stories Series Kicks Off with
Perspectives from Senator Patricia Bovey
For five decades Manitoba Opera has touched the lives of thousands through music and song, creating memories that last a lifetime.
Throughout our 50th anniversary season, we will be sharing just some of these wonderful stories and personal recollections.
Our first in the series comes from Senator Patricia Bovey, whose love for opera goes back to her childhood and Saturday Afternoon at the Opera on the radio.
We hope you enjoy.
Patricia Bovey, art historian, curator, former director of the Winnipeg Art Gallery and the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, and long-time supporter of Manitoba Opera, knows the value of culture. As an Independent Senator for Manitoba, she advocates passionately for the importance of the arts in every aspect of Canadian life.
Like many Manitobans, she grew up listening to the Metropolitan Opera on the radio every Saturday afternoon. She was a serious student of piano and later taught piano lessons to pay her way through university. “I was very involved in the music community, right through until I decided that the gallery world would be my vocation and music would be my avocation,” Senator Bovey recounts.
Opera has always been part of her life. “In the years we lived in Victoria, I went to the Pacific Opera. The years we lived in Winnipeg, I went to Manitoba Opera. When I travel, I go to opera if and where I can,” she relates.
“The themes of so many operas are about the essence of humanity and of human relations, and I think that’s really important,” the Senator says. She is also drawn to opera as a powerful synthesis of creative expression. “Opera is the art form that really brings all sorts of art forms together―drama, music, visual art, movement. So, in many ways, for me, opera ties the essence of all sorts of art disciplines into the one, and I find that very enriching.”
As Manitoba Opera marks its 50th season, Senator Bovey, who attended the company’s first-ever production in 1972, recalls the energy and optimism in Winnipeg’s cultural community during that era. The Centennial Concert Hall was newly constructed, and the Manitoba Theatre Centre and the Winnipeg Art Gallery had both moved into new landmark buildings.
“The late 1960s and ‘70s were a time of resurgence,” according to the Senator. “And it’s natural that the Opera played such an essential role in galvanizing all these art forms together. It was a very heady time.”
She has watched Manitoba Opera expand and adapt in the decades since.
“I’ve been very impressed over the years. Both Victoria and Winnipeg are in my soul, and I’m intrigued by some of the work they’ve done together. As opera companies in smaller centres there’s an energy, there’s a grassroots ability to be more flexible and nimble,” she believes. “And I think Manitoba Opera has proven that, especially during COVID.” The Senator, who was in touch with arts leaders all through the pandemic, was struck by the ways Manitoba Opera responded when performing venues went dark, finding new ways to support artists and connect to audiences.
“The other thing that interests me in the last number of years is the average age of people who like opera―it’s not just the grey-haired set,” Senator Bovey states. “You look at some of the young artists, some of the emerging artists and early career artists who are working in multimedia disciplines and see how the concept of opera is very much a part of what they’re doing. I think opera is an artform that is reaching across generations.”
During this 50th season celebration, Senator Bovey applauds the work of Manitoba Opera. “I take my hat off to what they’ve done over the years. I think the number of productions they’ve done is amazing, and I’m fascinated with the way they bring some back and give them a contemporary twist.
“I congratulate the administration, I congratulate the board, I congratulate all the artists who have worked with them over the years, and the number of people they’ve trained. They’re not afraid to give people a chance and get them on that ladder to success. I admire them for this, and I congratulate them for this.”
And Senator Bovey is speaking not just as an opera lover but in her role as a legislator. “In the Chamber, I have a declaration going through now, the Declaration on the Essential Role of Artists and Creative Expression in Canada,” she explains. “I’m going to say Manitoba Opera is not only core to that work; Manitoba Opera also epitomizes the importance of that legislation because they’ve lived it.”
Opera is the art form that really brings all sorts of art forms together―drama, music, visual art, movement. So, in many ways, for me, opera ties the essence of all sorts of art disciplines into the one, and I find that very enriching.”
– Pat Bovey