Lotfollah “Lotfi” Mansouri would fit right in here in Silicon Valley. His innovation, the supertitles used now in modern day opera all over the world, transformed the art form and made the material accessible to new audiences.
But it didn’t come without intense backlash.
European journalists referred to it as “vulgarized opera” and “the plague from Canada” – a reference to Lotfi’s run as director general of the Canadian Opera Company. Then there were the critics. “They wanted to be the only ones who knew what was going on,” he says. “A kind of tool was taken away from them.”
Now the titles (also called surtitles) are revered by audiences, and help enrich the experience of live performance.
It was a real thrill when I had a chance to talk with the Opera legend when he was in town recently to judge opera talent in the Irene Dalis Vocal Competition. His energy and passion is truly inspiring. In this interview we talk about opera’s past, present and future. You’ll find out about his first crush. And even Carol Burnett is mentioned.
We discuss the evolution of opera. Now it’s much more “music theater” with performers required to not just sing, but also to act. “Opera is the greatest art form created by the mind,” he says.
Another favorite quote (among many) is when Lofti likens opera to a “banquet.” He tells me, “Opera is for everyone… you want hamburgers? It’s there. You want caviar? It’s there. Anything you want is in the opera repertoire.”
Of course, I don’t let him off the hook, and asked him to name his favorite opera. I don’t want to give everything away, so watch the video here as he struggles to pick his favorite child.