Transcript: Richard Margison | Nov 21, 1999

(Rhythmic string and wind music plays)

In animation, a word in pink slides by against a gray background as hands paint strokes using paintbrushes, play a piano, and touch as in a ballet performance.

The title of the show reads “Dialogue.”

The title of the episode pops up against an image of Richard Ouzounian and a guest talking behind the scenes in a theatre: “Richard Margison. Opera singer.”

Then, Richard Ouzounian appears facing the screen. He's in his late forties, clean-shaven, with short side-parted blond hair. He's wearing rounded glasses, a light gray suit, black shirt, and spotted gray tie.

He says WELCOME TO
DIALOGUE.
I'M RICHARD OUZOUNIAN.
YOU'RE ABOUT TO MEET A MAN
WHO IS KNOWN AS MUCH FOR HIS
GENEROSITY OF SPIRIT, AS HE
IS FOR HIS INCREDIBLE VOICE.
THIS
DIALOGUE
IS
WITH RICHARD MARGISON.

Margison is in his late forties, bald, with a trimmed boxed beard. He’s wearing a black suit, brown shirt, and matching polka-dotted tie.

Richard continues RICHARD, DELIGHTED
TO HAVE YOU HERE.

Margison says GREAT TO BE HERE.

Richard says I GUESS ONE OF THE FIRST
THINGS WE WANT TO START OUT
WITH IS IT AN INCREDIBLE
BURDEN BEING A GREAT TENOR?
EVERYONE SAYS, YOU ARE NOW
ONE OF THE GREAT TENORS.

Margison says WELL, I THINK IF YOU BELIEVE
EVERYTHING YOU READ IN THE
PRESS, AND YOU ARE OVERWHELMED
BY ALL THE THINGS PEOPLE SAY
THEN PERHAPS IT'S A
BIGGER DEAL IN YOUR MIND
THAN IT SHOULD BE.
BUT NO, I THINK, FOR ME,
IT'S LIKE GETTING UP
AND GOING TO WORK.
I ENJOY WHAT I DO.
I LOVE IT.
CERTAINLY, YOUR WORKPLACE IS A
LITTLE BIT DIFFERENT IN THAT
YOU ARE IN FRONT OF THREE OR
FOUR THOUSAND PEOPLE EVERY
TIME YOU GO TO WORK, BUT YOU
CAN'T BE A SLAVE TO IT, BUT BY
THE SAME TOKEN, YOU HAVE TO
ENJOY IT AND GET ON WITH IT.

Richard says WHAT IS IT ABOUT THE TENOR
MYSTIQUE THAT PEOPLE ALWAYS
SEEM, AT LEAST IN OUR CENTURY,
HAVE BEEN SINGLING OUT TENORS
AS THE GREAT STARS?

Margison says WELL, I THINK PROBABLY, THE
TENOR VOICE IS THE ONE VOICE
THAT HAS THE GREATEST
POTENTIAL FOR DISASTER IN
TERMS OF CRACKING
ON HIGH NOTES.
AND, OF COURSE, THE HIGH C'S
THAT THE TENOR SINGS ARE
ALWAYS RATHER OTHER
WORLDLY, WHATEVER.
EVEN US, WE CAN WARM UP
AS MUCH AS WE WANT IN THE
DRESSING ROOM, YOU NEVER
REALLY KNOW, UNTIL YOU ARE
RIGHT IN THE HEAT OF
THINGS, JUST EXACTLY HOW
IT'S GOING TO GO.
SO, FOR US, IT'S A TIGHT ROPE
ACT, AND I THINK THAT SORT OF
UNNATURAL VIRILITY THAT'S
IN THE TENOR VOICE EXCITES
A LOT OF PEOPLE.

Richard says IS THERE SOMETHING, YOU WERE
HINTING AT THIS I THINK, IN
THE BEAR PIT ABOUT IT, THAT
THE SPECTATORS COME AND THEY
PRAY FOR SUCCESS, BUT THEY
ARE ALSO GEARED FOR FAILURE,
AT THE SAME TIME?

Margison says OH, I THINK SO.
I THINK EVERYBODY'S
JUST WAITING.
GEE, DO YOU THINK HE'S GOING
TO GET THAT HIGH NOTE?
I FIND MYSELF DOING THAT WHEN
I GO TO THE OPERA, WHICH IS
VERY SELDOM BECAUSE I DON'T
ENJOY THE NERVE STRAIN I GO
THROUGH ON BEHALF OF MY
COLLEAGUES ON STAGE.
BUT, YEAH, I THINK THERE'S
SORT OF AN AIR OF UNCERTAINTY
ABOUT THE WHOLE THING.

Richard says A COUPLE OF YEARS AGO, I WENT
TO A CANADIAN OPERA COMPANY
PERFORMANCE, IT SHALL REMAIN
NAMELESS, AS SHALL THE TENOR
IN QUESTION, BUT HE'S A VERY
PROMINENT TENOR, AND HE DID,
INDEED, CRACK ON ONE NOTE
DURING THE PERFORMANCE.
IT WAS ALL THAT
WAS TALKED ABOUT.
I MEAN, THE VALUES OF THE
PRODUCTION, WHICH WERE
CONSIDERABLE, WERE IGNORED,
BUT IT WAS ALL ABOUT WHAT THIS
ONE VOICE DID ON ONE NOTE.

Margison says YEAH.
WELL, IF YOU GO BACK TO YOUR
FIRST QUESTION, I THINK THAT'S
THE BURDEN THAT WE BEAR.
YOU CAN SING LIKE A GOD FOR
THREE HOURS, IF YOU HAVE ONE
BAD NOTE, THAT'S WHAT
PEOPLE TALK ABOUT.
THEY DON'T TALK ABOUT THE
OTHER, YOU KNOW, TWO HOURS
AND 59 MINUTES.
SO THAT PART OF
IT IS FRUSTRATING.

Richard says YOU WERE SAYING, YOU DON'T
KNOW UNTIL YOU ACTUALLY GET
OUT THERE IF THE NOTES, THE
MONEY IS GOING TO BE THERE.
DOES IT BECOME A GREAT
OBSESSION TO SAFEGUARD IT?
YOU'RE NOT WEARING A MUFFLER
RIGHT HERE NOW IN THE INTERVIEW.
I SAW YOU DRINKING
A COLD BEVERAGE.

Margison says I THINK, THERE AGAIN, AS I
SAY, YOU CAN'T BE A SLAVE TO IT.
AND I DON'T THINK -- I HAVE
A LOT OF COLLEAGUES THAT WEAR
SCARVES AND MASKS,
WHATEVER, ALL THE TIME.
AND THEY'RE THE ONES THAT ALWAYS
HAVE THE PROBLEMS ON STAGE.
SO I THINK YOU CREATE
THESE MONSTERS YOURSELF.
I THINK IF YOU JUST LIVE YOUR
LIFE AS ANYBODY ELSE, NOT TO
EXTREMES IN ANY ONE DIRECTION,
AND AS THEY SAY, GET ON WITH IT.

Richard says I'M WONDERING IF SOME OF YOUR
PHILOSOPHY, WHICH IS QUITE
LAISSEZ FAIRE ABOUT THIS,
COMES FROM THE FACT YOU CAME
A LITTLE BIT LATER THAN
SOME PEOPLE TO ALL OF THIS.
I'D LIKE TO GO BACK AND GO
THROUGH YOUR LIFE AND CAREER
WITH YOU.

Margison says RIGHT.

Richard says YOU'RE FROM THE WEST COAST?

Margison says THAT'S CORRECT.
VICTORIA.

Richard says VICTORIA.
AND I GUESS, BEING AN OPERA
SINGER WAS NOT NUMBER ONE ON
YOUR MIND WHEN YOU
WERE GROWING UP?

Margison says NO, ACTUALLY, PROBABLY
THE LAST THING ON MY MIND.
THE PARENTS WERE BOTH
INVOLVED IN MUSIC.
MY DAD WAS A VIOLIST WITH THE
VICTORIA SYMPATHY, AND MUM A
PIANO TEACHER AND
ACCOMPANIST.
AND CLASSICAL MUSIC
JUST WASN'T MY THING.
I HEARD IT ALL THE TIME.
I LISTENED TO THE MET
BROADCASTS ON SATURDAYS.

Richard says SO LIKE A GOOD KID, YOU REBELLED.

A caption appears on screen. It reads “Richard Margison. Opera singer.”

Margison says I GUESS, IN SOME WAYS.
I MEAN, I ALWAYS WANTED
TO BE INVOLVED IN MUSIC.
I ALWAYS SANG AROUND THE HOUSE
AND WHISTLED AND WHATEVER.
IT ACTUALLY WASN'T UNTIL I
GOT INTO HIGH SCHOOL THAT I
REALIZED, YOU KNOW, I WANTED
TO BE A FOLK MUSICIAN, AT THAT
POINT, AND DID A LOT OF COFFEE
HOUSES AND LOUNGES HERE,
THERE, AND EVERYWHERE.

Richard says ARE THERE BOOTLEG TAPES OF
YOU DOING
FOUR STRONG WINDS
AROUND SOMEWHERE?

Margison says OH, YEAH.
MOST OF THEM ARE
IN MY BASEMENT.

Richard says WERE YOU ACTUALLY PART
OF A DUO FOR A WHILE?

Margison says I WAS, WITH ACTUALLY A
FELLOW I GREW UP WITH,
GREG DAVIDSON.

Richard says DAVIDSON AND MARGISON?
IT SOUNDS LIKE A LAW FIRM.

Margison says NOW WHAT WERE WE CALLED?

Richard says DAVID MARGY?

Margison says I'VE BEEN REVIEWED AS
MARGE MARGISON, BUT ANYWAY,
WE WON'T GO THERE.
NO, GREG WAS A VERY
GOOD FRIEND OF MINE.
WE SORT OF GREW UP
TOGETHER FROM DAY ONE.
AND THIS WHOLE CHEMISTRY
HAPPENED BETWEEN US IN BEING
ABLE TO PERFORM REALLY QUITE
INCREDIBLY TOGETHER AS A DUO.
AND GREG WAS ONE OF
MUM'S PIANO STUDENTS.
AND IN TERMS OF HIS CLASSICAL
TRAINING, WAS ONE OF
HER DISAPPOINTMENTS.
BECAUSE HE HAD THE MOST
PHENOMENAL EAR, AND THE
GREATEST TALENT, BUT HIS EAR
WAS HIS CURSE WHEN IT CAME
TO READING MUSIC.
HE NEVER REALLY DID
ACHIEVE THAT TOO WELL.
BUT HE'S THE ONLY PERSON THAT
I'VE WORKED WITH THAT ON A
SECOND'S NOTICE, HE'D SAY,
WELL, GEE, I DON'T REALLY FEEL
100 PERCENT, WHY DON'T YOU
TAKE IT DOWN A HALF TONE, WHY
DON'T YOU TAKE IT DOWN A TONE,
AND HE CAN SORT OF TRANSPOSE
ON THE SPOT.
AND ORCHESTRATE.
HE ORCHESTRATES
BEAUTIFULLY AT THE PIANO.
SO WE SPENT A LOT OF HOURS, WE
HAD A REPERTOIRE OF ABOUT 600
SONGS, AND WE'D WORK SIX HOURS
A NIGHT, SIX NIGHTS A WEEK
IN VARIOUS LOUNGES.
WE DID A LOT OF RESTAURANTS,
THAT TYPE OF THING.

Richard says AGAIN, I'M CURIOUS, WAS IT
JUST THE UNIVERSITY COFFEE
HOUSE CROWD, OR WERE YOU THERE
IN FRONT OF PEOPLE SAYING,
SING
TINY BUBBLES
AFTER
THEY'D HAD TOO MANY SCOTCH?

Margison says YES, WE WERE CONSTANTLY IN
FRONT OF TOO MANY BUBBLES
THEMSELVES, THAT WANT TO SING
ALONG WITH YOU, OR BECOME
AMOROUS, WHATEVER.
THERE'S NOTHING WORSE THAN,
YOU KNOW, A VERY AMOROUS
OCTOGENARIAN AFTER
TOO MUCH CHAMPAGNE.
I SHOULDN'T SAY ANYTHING
WORSE, THAT'S NOT NICE.

Richard says NO, NO.
BUT ALL THIS TIME, YOU'RE
DOING, I WANT TO SAY LIGHTER
MUSIC, I MEAN LIGHTER IN
TERMS OF THE WEIGHT OF IT.
LOVELY MUSIC.
LIGHTFOOT WAS A FAVOURITE.

Margison says LIGHTFOOT, JAMES TAYLOR,
ELTON JOHN, STAN ROGERS.
A GREAT DEAL OF ACTUALLY, A
GREAT DEAL OF OUR FOCUS WAS ON
THE FOLK MUSIC OF THE TIME,
WHICH LIGHTFOOT FIGURED
PROMINENTLY, AND ACTUALLY WAS
A BIG INSPIRATION TO ME, INTO
GETTING INTO SINGING AT ALL.

Richard says BUT IT SEEMS LIKE THIS MUSIC
WOULDN'T TAP A LOT OF THE
MARGISON VOICE WE KNOW NOW,
WHICH IS SO BIG, AND SO
PRESENT, AND SO OUT THERE.
DID YOU KNOW YOU HAD THAT
MUCH VOICE ALL ALONG?

Margison says I ALWAYS HAD A CAPACITY FOR
VOLUME IN THAT I DIDN'T NEED A
MICROPHONE WHEN I WORKED.
WHICH WAS INTERESTING BECAUSE,
YOU KNOW, IF THE CROWD NOISE
GOT TOO LOUD, THEN YOU JUST
UPPED THE VOLUME A BIT WITH
YOUR SINGING, AND
YOU SANG OVER THEM.
BUT I DON'T THINK I
ANTICIPATED GETTING INTO OPERA
AT ALL.
I MEAN, CERTAINLY, WHEN I WAS
SINGING FOLK MUSIC, I DIDN'T
THINK I WAS GOING TO SING
OPERA ARIAS, YOU KNOW, TEN
YEARS LATER.

Richard says SO WHAT STARTED?
I MEAN, DID THE DUO
NOT GO FAR ENOUGH?
OR DID YOU GET TIRED
OF WORKING TOGETHER?

Margison says WE GOT TIRED OF THE VENUES
WE WERE WORKING IN, AND TIRED
OF, YOU KNOW, HAVING TO MORE
OR LESS BE BACKGROUND MUSIC,
IN MANY WAYS.
A LOT OF SMOKE-FILLED LOUNGES,
WHICH ISN'T THE GREATEST
THING FOR THE VOICE.
AND WE BOTH WENT OUR
DIFFERENT WAYS, AS WELL.

Richard says I'M JUST CURIOUS,
WHAT DOES HE DO TODAY?

Margison says GREG RUNS, HE'S GOT A PIANO
TUNING AND RESTORING BUSINESS.
SO HE'S STILL IN MUSIC.
I DECIDED, ACTUALLY, TO GO TO
UNIVERSITY AND GET A DEGREE
IN MUSIC SO I COULD
TEACH IN THE SCHOOLS.
THAT'S WHAT I HAD PLANNED ON.

Richard says SO YOU ARE GOING ALONG, AND
OBVIOUSLY, YOU'RE HAVING TO DO
MORE CLASSICAL
WORK AT THIS POINT.
HOW, THEN, DID IT START
TO STEER YOU TOWARD THE
PERFORMANCE AREA, RATHER
THAN THE TEACHING AREA?

Margison says MY FIRST YEAR AT UNIVERSITY,
ACTUALLY, I MET MY VOICE
TEACHER, SELINA JAMES, WHO
JUST SORT OF OPENED MY EYES
TO OPERA.
SHE, HERSELF, HAD A GOOD
CAREER AS AN OPERA SINGER.
JUST A TREMENDOUS ENTHUSIASM
FOR THE ART FORM.
IT WAS RELATIVELY
UNKNOWN TO ME.
AND AFTER MY FIRST YEAR,
I DECIDED, THAT'S WHAT
I WANTED TO DO.
I WANTED TO BE A PERFORMANCE
MAJOR IN VOICE AND GO INTO
THE PROFESSION.

Richard says I'D LOVE YOU TO THINK BACK,
I KNOW THINGS DON'T ALWAYS
HAPPEN LIKE THEY DO IN
HOLLYWOOD MOVIES, YOU KNOW,
WITH ONE BLINDING FLASH, BUT
WAS THERE A MOMENT SOMEWHERE
IN THAT YEAR WHEN YOU WERE
WORKING ON A PARTICULAR PIECE
OF MUSIC, AND YOU KIND OF
WENT, YEAH, THIS IS IT?

Margison says DEFINITELY.
I THINK, PROBABLY THE OPERA
LA BOHEME, WHICH WE WERE
DOING AS STUDENTS, BUT JUST
THE SHEER BEAUTY OF PUCCINI'S
SCORE, AND THE
STORY, WHATEVER.
IT JUST SWITCHED A LIGHT ON
TO ME THAT SAID, THIS IS IT.

Richard says THIS YOU COULD DO.

Margison says YEAH.

Richard says SO GOING AHEAD AND MAJORING
IN VOICE, THAT'S FINE AND ALL
VERY WELL AND GOOD, BUT THEN
WHAT HAPPENS AFTER UNIVERSITY?

Margison says WELL, I ACTUALLY WAS ONLY
AT UNIVERSITY ONE YEAR.
I AUDITIONED TO BE A
PERFORMANCE MAJOR IN VOICE FOR
MY YEARS AFTER THE
FIRST, AND WAS TURN DOWN.

Richard says YOU WERE TURNED DOWN?

Margison says 'NOT THE STUFF CAREERS ARE
MADE OF' WAS WHAT WAS
ON MY ADJUDICATION.

Richard says I'M REAL CURIOUS, AT THAT
MOMENT, 'COS THIS IS SOMETHING
I GUESS A LOT OF YOUNG PEOPLE
OUT HERE WOULD NEED TO HEAR
BECAUSE AT ONE POINT, IN ALL
OF THEIR CAREERS, SOMEBODY'S
COME ALONG AND SAID, I DON'T
THINK YOU'RE GOOD ENOUGH,
AND THEY BELIEVE THEY ARE GOOD
ENOUGH AND KEEP GOING ON.

Margison says YEAH.

Richard says YOU OBVIOUSLY BELIEVED YOU
WANTED TO KEEP DOING IT.

Margison says YEAH, AND I THINK BY THAT
RESPONSE, AS WELL, IT MADE ME
WANT TO PROVE IT EVEN MORE.
AND IT WAS INTERESTING BECAUSE
THAT YEAR, I THINK A LOT OF
THE VOICE STUDENTS, NOT
JUST MYSELF, WE QUIT THE
UNIVERSITY, AND MY TEACHER
LEFT THE UNIVERSITY, AND WE
WENT TO THE CONSERVATORY OF
MUSIC, AND I GOT A TEACHER'S
DEGREE THROUGH
THE CONSERVATORY.
AND I'M HAPPY TO SAY THAT THE
UNIVERSITY HAVE GIVEN ME AN
HONORARY DOCTORATE.
THEY WOULDN'T LET
ME SAY ANYTHING.

Richard says SOMETIMES, WHAT IS IT THEY
SAY, REVENGE IS A DISH BEST
EATEN COLD.

Margison says IT WAS ACTUALLY A VERY,
VERY SWEET DAY, YEAH, YEAH.
I'M ACTUALLY THRILLED
TO HAVE THAT HONOUR.

Richard says DID YOU GET TO TEACH,
ACTUALLY, FOR A WHILE?

Margison says NO.
I, ON OCCASION, TEACH VOICE.
VERY OFTEN, LIKE IN NEW YORK,
FOR INSTANCE, A COUPLE OF THE
PEOPLE IN THE CHORUS AT THE
METROPOLITAN ASKED IF I WOULD
GIVE THEM LESSONS, AND I
DON'T REALLY FANCY MYSELF
A VOICE TEACHER.
I CAN CERTAINLY LISTEN, AND
TELL THEM WHERE I THINK THEY
NEED WORK, GIVE THEM A FEW
HINTS AS TO WHAT WORKS FOR ME.
BUT IT'S SOMETHING I LOOK
FORWARD TO IN LATER YEARS.

Richard says NOW, I KNOW EDMONTON PLAYS AN
IMPORTANT PART IN YOUR CAREER.
IS IT TIME TO GO THERE YET,
OR IS THERE MORE IN VICTORIA
BEFORE YOU GET OFF THERE?

Margison says OH, GOSH, WELL, I THINK
VICTORIA, I MEAN, AFTER THE
CONSERVATORY, I
WENT TO THE JOHANNSON
SUMMER FESTIVAL, THEY HAD
THERE YEARS AGO, SOME YEARS
AGO, AND LEOPOLD SIMONEAU,
AND PIERRETTE ALARIE RAN A
SMALL CHAMBER OPERA COMPANY
THAT TOURED CANADA DOING
CUT DOWN VERSIONS,
CANADA OPERA PICCOLA.
AND THAT REALLY BRIDGED THE
GAP FOR ME BETWEEN INSTITUTION
AND ACTUAL PROFESSIONAL WORK,
WHICH WAS TERRIFIC BECAUSE IT
WAS A GREAT WAY TO SORT OF
FIND OUT WHAT THE PROFESSIONAL
END OF THINGS WAS ALL ABOUT,
BUT NOT HAVE ALL THE PRESSURE,
REALLY, YOU KNOW?
WHEN YOU ARE DOING A
DONIZETTI OPERA IN HAZELTON,
BRITISH COLUMBIA, YOU DON'T
HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT THE EYES
OF THE WORLD, YOU KNOW?
AND IN MANY WAYS, I THINK
IT'S A GREAT WAY TO CUT
YOUR TEETH.
CERTAINLY, IT
TEACHES YOU STAMINA.
IT TEACHES YOU HOW TO PLAY
AN AUDIENCE, AND WHAT PEOPLE
LOOK FOR IN TERMS OF MAKING
THEM HAPPY AS AN AUDIENCE.

Richard says I REMEMBER, ON THE ACTING END
AND DIRECTING END, I TOURED
SHAKESPEARE IN THE INTERIOR OF
BRITISH COLUMBIA IN THE EARLY
'70s, AND SOME DAYS IT WOULD
BE WONDERFUL, AND SOME DAYS
THE PEOPLE, YOU KNOW, REALLY
WOULDN'T WANT TO BE THERE.
IT WAS JUST TO COME IN
OUT OF THE COLD OR TO
HAVE SOMETHING TO
DO THAT EVENING.
DID YOU RUN INTO
THE SAME THING?

Margison says OH YEAH.
I MEAN, IT DEPENDS
WHERE YOU GO.
I MEAN, IN SOME PLACES, WE
DID HUMPERDINCK'S HANSEL AND
GRETEL, FOR INSTANCE, AND IN
SOME CITIES WE WERE BOYCOTTED
BECAUSE IT WAS A SHOW THAT
TALKED ABOUT THE DEVIL, AND
WITCHES AND THINGS, YOU KNOW,
SO THEY DIDN'T LIKE THAT,
SOME OF THESE
PLACES WE WOULD GO.
AND YOU'D FIND YOU DIDN'T HAVE
ENOUGH PEOPLE IN THE AUDIENCE
TO PUT A SHOW ON.
SO THOSE THINGS HAPPEN.

Richard says AND YOU WOULD ALSO GET CAST
IN ROLES YOU MIGHT NOT EVER
HAVE GOT CAST IN INITIALLY AT
THAT POINT IN YOUR CAREER.

Margison says EXACTLY.
EXACTLY.
CERTAINLY ROLES I WILL NEVER
DO AGAIN, BUT I HAVE GREAT
FOND MEMORIES OF THOSE DAYS.
WE DID AN OPERA CALLED
RITA
BY DONIZETTI,
WHICH IS PROBABLY ONE MOST
PEOPLE HAVE NEVER HEARD.

Richard says I'VE NEVER HEARD.

Margison says YEAH.
BUT IT'S A GREAT PIECE.
VERY SHORT, LITTLE
OPERA ABOUT 40 MINUTES.
AND WE DID THAT PAIRING
WITH
THE MEDIUM.
BECAUSE IT WAS A LOW BUDGET
COMPANY, I PLAYED A DEAF MUTE
IN ONE, AND THE
TENOR IN THE OTHER.

Richard says DIDN'T HAVE TO
SING IN ONE OF THEM.

Margison says NO, EXACTLY, WHICH WAS TERRIFIC.

Richard says WHAT ABOUT THE ROLE OF
LEOPOLD SIMONEAU, IN YOUR
DEVELOPMENT AT THIS POINT?

Margison says LEOPOLD WAS SOMEBODY
THAT I ADMIRED VERY MUCH.
HIS ARTISTRY, I THINK, IN
THE MOZART REPERTOIRE,
AND FRENCH REPERTOIRE,
IS REALLY UNPARALLELED.
HE IS A TREMENDOUS ARTIST.
AND HE HAD A LOT TO OFFER ME
IN THE WAY OF SORT OF MARRYING
THE MUSIC WITH THE WORDS, AND
MAKING THE MOST OF THE TONE.
THAT'S WHAT I ESPECIALLY
THANK HIM FOR IN MANY WAYS.

Margison says SOMEBODY SAID, TO THIS DAY,
WHO KNEW BOTH OF YOUR VOICES,
SAID THAT SOMETIMES,
ESPECIALLY IN GENTLER MOMENTS,
THE PHRASE THEY USED WAS
'THEY COULD HEAR THE FAINT
SHADOW OF SIMONEAU IN
MARGISON'S VOICE'.

Margison says RIGHT.

Richard says WOULD YOU FIND THAT A FAIR ASSESSMENT?

Margison says OH, SURE.
I THINK EVERY ONCE IN
A WHILE THAT SHOWS UP.
IT'S UNFORTUNATE, I MEAN, IN
SOME WAYS, THAT WHEN YOU ARE
DOING OPERA TEN MONTHS OF THE
YEAR, YOU HAVE TO BE HEARD AT
THE BACK OF THE AUDITORIUM,
AND YOU END UP BUILDING UP
THIS STRUCTURE, THIS MUSCLE
STRUCTURE THAT, YOU KNOW,
MAKES IT POSSIBLE FOR YOU TO
FILL A FOUR THOUSAND OR FIVE
THOUSAND SEAT HOUSE.
WHEREAS IN EUROPE, I MEAN,
1200 SEATS TO 1500 IS THE NORM.

Richard says RIGHT, RIGHT.
SO YOU'RE USED TO THE
HUMMINGBIRD THEN.
BRENDAN BEHAN REFERRED TO IT
ONCE AS A SANCTIFIED GARAGE.
NOW, WOULD YOU BE
THAT SEVERE ON IT?

Margison says WELL, ACTUALLY, SINCE
THEY'VE DONE THE ENHANCEMENT,
IT'S EASIER TO SING.
BUT I DON'T LIKE THINGS
ELECTRONIC WHEN I'M SINGING
BECAUSE IF YOU HAVE A
SUBSTANTIAL VOICE, IT'S GREAT
FOR THE SMALLER VOICES, BUT
EVERY ONCE IN A WHILE, YOU HIT
A HIGH NOTE, AND YOU CAN HEAR
A DISTORTION OR FEEDBACK.

Richard says BECAUSE NO TECHNICIAN CAN
EVER KNOW EXACTLY WHERE YOU'RE
GOING TO GO.
IT'S WHAT YOU TALKED ABOUT.

Margison says EXACTLY.
EXACTLY.
AND IT'S NOT THEIR
FAULT, IT'S NOT MY FAULT.
THE PROBLEM IS THE HUMAN
VOICE WILL DO THAT.
AND WHEN YOU HAVE AUDIENCES
COMING BACK AFTER AND PEOPLE
SAYING, GEE, THAT WAS FUNNY
THAT SOUND ON YOUR TOP NOTE.
AND THEY THINK IT'S YOU.
AND IT'S LIKE, WAIT A MINUTE,
NO, I DIDN'T DO THAT.

Richard says DO YOU THINK AUDIENCES ARE
TOO SPOILED NOWADAYS WITH
EVERYTHING BEING AMPLIFIED?

Margison says I DON'T KNOW.
I THINK IT'S A NECESSITY HERE,
CERTAINLY IN THIS HOUSE.
BUT MOST HOUSES
AREN'T AMPLIFIED.
CERTAINLY, I MEAN, CHICAGO,
WHERE I WORK A LOT, THE MET,
SAN FRANCISCO, THEY
DON'T USE AMPLIFICATION.

Richard says SO THERE'S ABSOLUTELY NO
AMPLIFICATION AT ALL IN THE
METROPOLITAN, STILL.

Margison says NO.

Richard says BECAUSE THERE'S BEEN THIS
GREAT SCANDAL EVEN AT THE
NATIONAL THEATRE IN GREAT
BRITAIN, THAT TREVOR NUNN IS
NOW AMPLIFYING ACTORS
IN SPEAKING ROLES.
AND PEOPLE ARE SAYING -- AND
HE'S SAYS IT'S NECESSARY
BECAUSE OF THE ACOUSTICS OF
THE HALL AND THE EAR OF THE
CONTEMPORARY LISTENERS
BECOMING SO JADED.

Margison says WELL, I THINK IF THE EAR OF
THE CONTEMPORARY LISTENER IS
JADED, I THINK THAT HAS
MORE TO DO WITH THE CDs
THEY LISTEN TO.
WHAT THEY ARE GETTING
IS FRAUDULENT MUSIC,
AS FAR AS I'M CONCERNED.
CERTAINLY WHEN IT
COMES TO OPERA.
THEY GET A CD OF AN OPERA
THAT'S DONE IN A STUDIO, AND
IF YOU CRACK ON A HIGH NOTE,
YOU JUST PUT IN ONE HIGH NOTE.
YOU CAN MAKE AN ABSOLUTELY
PERFECT PERFORMANCE.
WHICH DOESN'T HAPPEN IN LIVE
THEATRE, OR IN LIVE OPERA.
IT'S JUST IMPOSSIBLE.

Richard says SO YOU BELIEVE THERE SHOULD
BE A MORE HONEST AESTHETIC
IN RECORDING?

Margison says I THINK THE LIVE RECORDINGS
OF OPERAS, SO YOU DO THREE OR
FOUR NIGHTS AND PUT
IT TOGETHER LIVE.
IT CERTAINLY HAS FAR MORE
EXCITEMENT ABOUT IT, AS WELL.

Richard says NOW, WE'VE GOTTEN SIDETRACKED
ON THE MARGISON JOURNEY.

Margison says RIGHT.

Richard says WE'VE GOT YOU -- THIS WILL
HAPPEN, IT'S ALL RIGHT.
WE'RE IN OPERA PICCOLA.
HOW LONG WERE YOU
WITH THEM FOR?

Margison says I DID THREE
SEASONS WITH THEM.
WHICH ESSENTIALLY IS
JUST A SUMMER SEASON.
AND WHEN I WASN'T DOING THAT
IN THE SUMMERS, OH, I HAD AN
ASSORTMENT OF THINGS
TO MAKE MONEY.
I RAN A WAREHOUSE FOR RUSSELL
FOOD EQUIPMENT IN VICTORIA,
AND PUSHED BIG DOUBLE OVEN
RANGES AROUND, AND SOLD
EVERYTHING FROM TOOTHPICKS TO
DOUBLE OVEN RANGES, CUTLERY,
EVERYTHING TO ALL THE
RESTAURANTS IN THE CITY.

Richard says ONE OF THE FAMOUS HYPOCRYPHAL
STORIES, WHICH YOU'RE ABOUT
TO TELL ME IS TRUE OR NOT,
IS THAT WHEN YOU WERE UP IN
EDMONTON, WORKING FOR THE
EDMONTON OPERA, YOU WERE ALSO
THE TRUCK DRIVER FOR
THE EDMONTON OPERA.

Margison says THAT'S RIGHT.

Richard says SO IT IS TRUE?

Margison says OH, YEAH.

Richard says AND THAT IRVING GUTTMAN FOUND
PLACES FOR YOU IN THE SEASON.

Margison says THAT'S RIGHT.
I DID A LOT WITH EDMONTON
OPERA IN THE WAY OF
COMPRIMARIO ROLES.
AND DURING THE DAYTIME, WOULD
DRIVE THE TRUCK WITH THE SETS
OUT TO VARIOUS PLACES AND
DO OPERA IN THE SCHOOLS.
WHICH WE DID.
WE DID IN VANCOUVER, AS WELL.
WITH VANCOUVER OPERA, CALGARY
OPERA, MANITOBA OPERA.
AFTER OPERA PICCOLA, I THINK
I DID SOMEWHERE LIKE 2,000
SCHOOL SHOWS FOR CHILDREN.

Richard says NOW, WE'RE TALKING NOT THAT
LONG AGO, AND WE'RE TALKING
LOADING THE TRUCK AND GOING
TO MANITOBA, GOING AROUND
EDMONTON, NOW, SUDDENLY, AT
THE OTHER END, WE'RE TALKING
ABOUT THE METROPOLITAN OPERA,
AND ALL THE GREAT OPERA
HOUSES IN EUROPE.
WHAT WAS THE BIG
LEAP OVER THE BRIDGE?

Margison says THE BIG LEAP, ACTUALLY, WOULD
HAVE BEEN, I THINK, 1985, I
DID MY FIRST, I THINK, MAJOR
THING THAT WAS LOOKED AT BY
THE PRESS, CERTAINLY, WHICH
WOULD HAVE BEEN LENSKY IN
ONEGIN IN VANCOUVER OPERA.
AND UPON THE RECOMMENDATION OF
THE ARTISTIC DIRECTOR THEN,
WHO WAS BRIAN MCMASTER, HE
SAID YOU OUGHT TO GO TO
ENGLAND, YOU OUGHT TO GO TO
EUROPE AND DO AUDITIONS.
SO I EVENTUALLY FOUND MYSELF
AN AGENT AND WENT OVER IN
1988, AND DID ALL THE
AUDITIONS I COULD DO IN
A SHORT SPACE OF TIME
AND ON A LIMITED BUDGET.
OUT OF THAT, I GOT A JOB WITH
ENGLISH NATIONAL OPERA DOING
BALO IN
MASKELI, WHICH
WAS SEPTEMBER OF 1989.
AND THAT WAS MET WITH
PHENOMENAL PRESS.
AND THE ONE THING ABOUT
WORKING IN ENGLAND, OF COURSE,
IN A NEW PRODUCTION IS YOU
GET THE PRESS FROM ALL OVER
EUROPE THERE.
AND I HAVEN'T, ESSENTIALLY,
DONE AN AUDITION SINCE.

Richard says WHAT DO YOU THINK WAS THERE
ABOUT YOU AND YOUR PERFORMANCE
THAT CAPTURED PEOPLE?
BECAUSE LOOKING BACK, THE
REVIEWS IN THE EARLY DAYS,
THERE WAS NOT JUST A FEELING
OF THIS IS WONDERFUL,
BUT THERE WAS THIS FEELING OF
ASTONISHMENT OR DISCOVERY
ABOUT IT.

Margison says WELL, I THINK, IT BOILS DOWN
TO, MANY PEOPLE HAVE TOLD ME,
THE TOP OF YOUR VOICE IS
SO EASY, IT SOUNDS SO EASY
AND OPEN.
IT'S, I THINK, THE SOUND OF
THE VOICE IS WHAT THEY GO FOR.
OF COURSE, WHEN YOU COME FROM
CANADA, THEY ALWAYS SAY, OH,
GOSH, THE NEXT JOHN VICKERS,
THE NEXT EDWARD JOHNSON, THE
NEXT LEOPOLD SIMONEAU, WHICH
IS GREAT, TO BE FLATTERED
LIKE THAT.
BUT I THINK IT'S THE QUALITY
OF THE VOICE PEOPLE GO FOR IN
A BIG WAY, IN TERMS OF THE
WARMTH, AND CERTAINLY BEING
CONSISTENT HELPS.
AND IF PEOPLE CAN COUNT ON
YOU, AND NOT WORRY ABOUT WHETHER
OR NOT YOU'RE GOING TO LEAVE A
NOTE HANGING ON THE CEILING,
OR WHATEVER.

Richard says OR BE INDISPOSED.

Margison says EXACTLY.
WELL, YES.
THIS HAS BEEN -- THIS PAST
WEEK HAS BEEN DIFFICULT.
I CAME HOME WITH A COLD AND
A COUGH, SO DOING TROVATORE
WITH A COLD AND A COUGH IS
NOT THE EASIEST THING IN THE
WORLD, BUT IT'S
GONE VERY WELL.

Richard says BUT YOU CAN SURVIVE.

Margison says YEAH.

Richard says I'M ALSO CURIOUS, FROM YOUR
POINT OF VIEW, THE MOMENT WHEN
YOU KNEW YOU WERE ENSCONCED
ON THAT UPPER LEVEL.
WAS IT THE METROPOLITAN,
OR EARLIER?

Margison says I THINK, PROBABLY, I
CERTAINLY REMEMBER THE MOST
MAJOR BREAKTHROUGH FOR ME IN
TERMS OF NORTH AMERICA WOULD
HAVE BEEN DON CARLO IN SAN
FRANCISCO IN '93, MAYBE.
I CAN'T REMEMBER EXACTLY.
FOR ME, THAT WAS A MAJOR STEP.
BECAUSE I HAD COME OUT OF, YOU
KNOW, DOING ROLES CERTAINLY
WITH THE CANADIAN COMPANIES, AND
IT WAS ALSO INTERESTING TO ME
BECAUSE WHEN LOTFI WAS HERE,
I THINK THE LAST THING I DID
FOR LOTFI WAS THE
FOURTH JEW IN
SALOME.
AND FOR LOTFI TO TAKE ME FROM
THE FOURTH JEW IN
SALOME
TO
DOING THE TITLE ROLE IN A
VERDI OPERA IN SAN FRANCISCO,
WAS CERTAINLY AN
EXPRESSION OF FAITH.

Richard says NOW, THIS IS WHAT ALWAYS I
FIND CURIOUS ABOUT YOUR CAREER
AND THIS BUSINESS.
WERE YOU THAT DIFFERENT A
SINGER WHEN YOU WERE THE
FOURTH JEW IN
SALOME
THAN
WHEN YOU WERE THE LEAD
IN
DON CARLO?

Margison says OH, I THINK THE DIFFERENCE
WOULD HAVE BEEN IN THE WAY
THAT YOU GO ABOUT YOUR SINGING
IN TERMS OF NUANCE AND...
THERE'S A DIFFERENT
ARTISTRY THAT COMES WITH
EACH YEAR OF SINGING.
AND I THINK YOUR PALETTE OF
COLOURS CHANGES, AS WELL.
AS YOU MATURE, YOUR
VOICE CHANGES, THE TONE
COLOUR CHANGES.
PEOPLE CAN SAY TO YOU, WELL,
NOW YOU SHOULD JUST SING THIS
BECAUSE YOUR VOICE IS THERE,
BUT I CAN SEE IN TWO,
THREE YEARS, I CAN HEAR
YOU GOING INTO THIS.
WHICH ESSENTIALLY IS
WHAT HAPPENED, YOU KNOW?
ONCE THINGS ARE GROUNDED AND
YOU CONTINUE ON, WORK EVERY
DAY AT IT, YOUR VOICE CHANGES
COLOUR AND YOU GAIN STRENGTH.

Richard says SO YOU'RE THE SAME PERSON,
BUT 'ENHANCED', AS THEY SAY.

Margison says EXACTLY.

Richard says AND NOT DIGITALLY.

Margison says NO.

Richard says WHAT ABOUT, WE'VE BEEN
TALKING MAINLY MUSICALLY,
WHAT ABOUT DRAMATICALLY?
SOMETIMES YOU'LL HAVE TO PLAY
THE SAME PART IN DIFFERENT
PRODUCTIONS ALL
OVER THE WORLD.
IN FACT, YOU GET KNOWN AS
SOMEONE WHO DOES THIS PART WELL.
WHAT IS THAT LIKE, TO
HAVE TO FIT INTO SOMETIMES
DIAMETRICALLY DIFFERENT
STAGINGS OF THE SHOW?

Margison says I THINK, NO MATTER WHAT THE
STAGING, IF YOU ARE GOING TO
BE TRUE TO THE PRODUCTION,
YOU HAVE TO BECOME A PART OF
WHATEVER IT IS, WHETHER
MENTALLY YOU BELIEVE IT OR NOT.
IN ORDER TO FIT IN, YOU HAVE
TO BECOME A PART OF A WHOLE.
THERE ARE SOME THAT I'VE HAD
EXTREME DIFFICULTY WITH.
BECAUSE I JUST DON'T
APPRECIATE, AT ALL, WHAT
SOMEBODY IS TRYING TO DO
TO A PARTICULAR OPERA.

Richard says WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOURSELF
AS MORE OF A STRAIGHT ARROW?

Margison says DEFINITELY NOT.
I LIKE EXPERIMENTATION.
AND I THINK THAT
OPERA CAN BE UPDATED.
YOU CAN DO MANY THINGS TO IT.
AS LONG AS YOU ARE TRUE TO
THE STORY LINE, AND YOU DON'T
START TO CHANGE THE PLOT,
OR MAKE THINGS JUST
ABSOLUTELY RIDICULOUS.
I MEAN, SOME THINGS THAT
I'VE BEEN PUT THROUGH MAKE
NO SENSE TO ME WHATSOEVER.
FOR INSTANCE, A PRODUCTION OF
TOSCA
THAT I DID IN EUROPE,
WHERE INSTEAD OF BEING SHOT BY
A FIRING SQUAD AT THE END, I
WAS GIVEN A LETHAL INJECTION
IN AN ABORTION CLINIC.
WELL, WHAT HAS THAT
GOT TO DO WITH TOSCA?

Richard says EXACTLY.

Margison says ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.
AND WHAT STATEMENT HE WAS
TRYING TO MAKE, I HAVE NO IDEA.

Richard says AND A LOT HARDER TO BUILD UP
TO A BIG DRAMATIC MOMENT, AS WELL.

Margison says EXACTLY, EXACTLY.
YOU KNOW, THAT'S
WHERE I DRAW THE LINE.
BUT CERTAINLY,
OPERA REALLY STANDS.
IT WORKS WELL WHEN IT'S
UPDATED AND IT'S LOOKED AT
FROM A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE.
CERTAINLY, THE PURISTS WON'T
LIKE CERTAIN THINGS, BUT I
DON'T KNOW, IF YOU CREATE A
STIR, I THINK THAT'S GOOD, TOO,
BECAUSE PEOPLE ARE TALKING.
AND IF YOU THROW SOMETHING
OUT TO SOMEBODY, AND I DON'T
REALLY KNOW WHETHER OR NOT I
LIKE THAT, BUT THAT WAS GOOD,
WELL, YOU GET A DIALOGUE
GOING WITHIN THE AUDIENCE,
AND THAT'S GREAT.
WHEN WE DID
BALLO
IN COVENT
GARDEN, FOR INSTANCE, OR
ENGLISH NATIONAL OPERA, IT WAS
A PRODUCTION BY DAVID ALDEN.
AND THERE WERE ACTUALLY
FISTFIGHTS IN THE LOBBY ON
OPENING NIGHT BECAUSE SOME
PEOPLE ABSOLUTELY HATED IT,
SOME ABSOLUTELY THOUGHT IT WAS
THE BEST THING THEY'D SEEN.

Richard says DID YOU LIKE IT?

Margison says OH, AS A PARTICIPANT, IT
WAS ABSOLUTELY WONDERFUL.
AND THE WONDERFUL THING ABOUT
DAVID WAS HE LET ME SAY NO IN
A COUPLE OF PLACES.
I SAID, NO, I WON'T DO THAT.
CERTAIN THINGS LIKE WHEN YOU
ARE ROLLING DOWN A HILL ON
YOUR SIDE, AS KIDS USED
TO DO ON THE GRASS.
WHEN YOU'RE BUILT LIKE
I AM, THAT DOESN'T WORK.
AND I COULDN'T
VISUALIZE THAT WORKING.
THAT TYPE OF THING.
SO HE'D LET YOU TRY ALTERNATE
THINGS, WHICH WAS TERRIFIC.
I KNOW WHAT HE WAS
TRYING TO ACHIEVE.
I THINK THAT'S ONE OF THE
REASONS THAT GOT SO MUCH
PRESS, AS WELL, IS THAT
IT DID CREATE A STIR.
AND IT'S GOOD TO SEE THE
AUDIENCE REACT LIKE THAT.

Richard says A MUTUAL FRIEND OF OURS,
SHEILA ROGERS SAID SHE RAN
INTO YOU RECENTLY, AND SAID,
HOW ARE YOU DOING, AND YOU
SAID, I'M HAVING A GREAT YEAR,
THANKS TO THE THREE T'S,
TOSCA, TURANDOT AND TROVATORE.

Margison says THAT'S RIGHT.

Richard says NOW IT'S WONDERFUL THAT
YOU ARE DOING THESE WORKS
SO WELL AND GETTING
ACCLAIMED FOR THEM.
DO YOU EVER THINK AT THIS
POINT THERE MIGHT BE A RISK
YOU'LL GET STEREOTYPED AS THE
GUY WHO DOES THOSE PARTS?
AND HAVE YOU WANTED TO DO
NEW MUSIC, FOR EXAMPLE?

Margison says OH, NEW MUSIC INTERESTS
ME A GREAT DEAL.
CERTAINLY, THERE IS A THING TO
BE, YOU KNOW, PUT IN A SLOT
AND SAY, WELL, THAT'S
YOUR FAULK, YOU STAY THERE.
NO, I DON'T FOLLOW THAT.
I THINK NICOLAI GEDDA, TO
ME, IS ONE OF THE PEOPLE
I ADMIRE THE MOST.
ONE OF OPERA'S UNSUNG HEROES,
REALLY, IN MANY WAYS.
BUT HE DID EVERYTHING
THAT HE WANTED TO DO.
AND NOBODY COULD
CATEGORIZE HIM.
AND THAT ANNOYED PEOPLE, THAT
THEY COULDN'T PUT YOU IN A
PIGEON HOLE AND SAY THIS IS
WHAT YOU ARE GOING TO DO.
AND CERTAINLY, NO, WHEN I LOOK
AHEAD, NEXT SEASON, AND THE
SEASONS COMING UP INTO 2003,
2004, I'M DOING A LOT OF
REPERTOIRE THAT
I'VE NEVER DONE.
MAKING A FORAY INTO SOME
GERMAN REPERTOIRE, DOING SOME
WONDERFUL THINGS IN THE WAY
OF, YOU KNOW, PETER GRIMES,
ARIADNE OF NAXOS,
THOSE TYPES OF THINGS
THAT I THINK ARE EXCITING.
I LOOK FORWARD TO THAT.

Richard says YOU SAID, HE DID
EVERYTHING HE WANTED TO DO.
I CAN'T THINK OF A BETTER
LINE TO DESCRIBE WHAT I HOPE
HAPPENS IN THE REST
OF YOUR CAREER.
RICHARD MARGISON,
THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

Margison says THANK YOU.

Richard faces the screen and says
FOR
DIALOGUE, I'M
RICHARD OUZOUNIAN.
GOOD-BYE FOR NOW.

Music plays as the end slate reads “Special thanks to Canadian Opera Company.”

Dialogue. A production of TVOntario. Copyright 1999, The Ontario Educational Communications Authority.

Watch: Richard Margison