While teaching and working as a stage director in Germany, Herman Geiger-Torel had a contract cancelled in 1934 because he was Jewish. Geiger-Torel went on to direct opera in France and many productions in Latin America, including in Brazil and Uruguay where he lived. In 1947 in Toronto, Nicholas Goldschmidt asked him to join as a guest at the newly formed Opera School at the University of Toronto and Royal Conservatory of Music.
Geiger-Torel was stage director of the very first full-length production of the Opera School in April 1947, Smetana’s The Bartered Bride. He joined the Opera School officially in October 1948 as stage director.
A professional extension of the Opera School began in 1950 called the Opera Festival Association of Toronto. Moving from Stage Director to Artistic Director in 1956 then to General Director in 1959, Herman Geiger-Torel led the Opera Festival Association of Toronto in 1960 to its name as we know it today: the Canadian Opera Company.
Geiger-Torel held the position of General Director until his retirement in 1976. He died later that year, on his way to give a lecture on Die Walküre to the Wagner Society. [via obituary in the New York Times]
The opera rehearsal room in the Edward Johnson Building is named in his honour.
On Monday, November 12 at 7:30 pm in Walter Hall, we are hosting the free Herman Geiger-Torel lecture. Adjunct Professor Stephen Clarke will give the lecture “Opera and Song 100 Years Ago”.
Top photo from 1963 by Norman James, courtesy of Toronto Public Library archives