I’m inclined to agree with most of what Clark says. There’s overwhelming historical evidence that backs up his claim that opera houses were designed with class structures very much in mind – and that as these changed over time, so too did the opera houses.
Much of the building’s exterior is unremarkable – and I doubt many tourists visiting Toronto take photos of it. However, it does have one striking feature: a glass façade, which gives the building an open and inviting quality. With this nod to transparency, the Four Seasons seems not to be about the kind of class distinction that Clark points out was so prevalent in Europe’s great opera houses. It’s Canadian, after all.
Inside, the theatre is utilitarian and well designed for opera production. A muted gray and beige colour-scheme draws attention away from the auditorium itself, directing the audience’s gaze to the art on stage. (In its drabness, it rivals Toronto’s Roy Thomson Hall, which is also gray and beige.) Again, there’s something very Canadian about the unglamorousness of it all.
But the most intriguingly Canadian characteristic of the theatre, I believe, is the phalanx of private opera boxes on the first tier. Can you see them in the photo above? You’ll have to look closely, because they’re barely visible. You enter them as if entering a traditional opera box, through a door that leads to a small, private cloakroom. But inside the auditorium there’s only a short, unobtrusive barrier defining the box space. They don’t really look like boxes to other people in the auditorium – but the people sitting in the boxes know they are seated in boxes. It’s the perfect arrangement for a ruling class that prefers discretion to ostentatious display.
© Colin Eatock 2011