“In 1968, virtually from scratch, Mario Bernardi built an orchestra that was considered the finest of its kind in the world,” writes Peter Robb in Tuesday’s (6/4) The Gazette (Montreal). “NACO’s first maestro died in Toronto Sunday at age 82…. Bernardi was born in Kirkland Lake, Ont. in 1930, not a hotbed of classical music in the early years of the Great Depression. He displayed talent at the piano and he moved to Italy when he was six years old with his mother to foster a musical career. He would study at the Venice Conservatory until 1945, when he returned to Canada.… Bernardi began with the Royal Conservatory Opera School in Toronto. He would go on to conduct the Canadian Opera Company and then he was the music director of Sadler’s Wells Opera Company (now the English National Opera) in London, England…. After leaving the NAC, Bernardi led the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra. From 1983 until 2006 he was conductor of the CBC Radio Orchestra. Bernardi was named to the Order of Canada in 1972 and was given the Governor General’s performing arts award for lifetime achievement in 2001. A year ago, the NACO played a concert for the maestro in the Toronto retirement home where he was living. His health was failing, damaged by a couple of strokes.” A bust of Bernardi by sculptor Ruth Abernethy will be unveiled at the entrance of NAC’s Southam Hall on July 1.

Posted June 4, 2013