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Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts
Four Seasons Centre viewed from above
Country Canada
Architect Diamond+Schmitt
Owned by Canadian Opera Company
Capacity 2,071
Type Opera house
Opened June 14, 2006

The Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts is a 2,071-seat theatre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada which had its grand opening Wednesday, June 14, 2006. The first actual performance however, commenced in September 2006 with the first Canadian production of Richard Wagner's Der Ring Des Nibelungen. The theatre, designed by Jack Diamond, is at the southeast corner of University Avenue and Queen Street West, across from Osgoode Hall. The land on which it is located was a gift from the Government of Ontario.



The venue is the home of the Canadian Opera Company (COC) and the National Ballet of Canada, replacing the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts (earlier named the Hummingbird Centre and O'Keefe Centre) that had housed the COC for some 40 years. Earlier in the city's history the Grand Opera House had stood at Bay and Adelaide, but it was demolished in 1927.


Failed Bay St project

There had been a long standing desire to replace the O'Keefe Centre with lobbying led by financier Hal Jackman, president of the Ballet Opera House corporation. In 1984 Ontario premier Bill Davis promised that a piece of provincial owned land at Bay and Wellesley would be the home for the new opera house. The prime real estate was estimated to be worth some $75 million.[1] A design competition was won by Moshe Safdie who proposed a strikingly postmodern project (Image). In 1988 the project was approved and the existing stores and government offices on the site were demolished.

In 1990 a new provincial government was elected under Bob Rae. The new NDP government found the $311 million project excessively costly, especially as the province was faced with a large deficit due to the recession. The province was also still dealing with the $550 million cost of the SkyDome project that had become a financial disaster for the government and worried about a sequel. The government attempted to reduce the costs of the project, but the Opera House corporation refused to modify the design. Thus two months after being elected the new government withdrew its funding for the project.[2] In 1992 the province finally cancelled the project and the land was sold to developers. Two towers in the "Opera Place" development have been built on Bay Street, but as of 2009 the rest of the property remains vacant.

University Avenue project

R. Fraser Elliott Hall

In 1997 the province promised a parking lot that had previously been the site of offices for the Supreme Court of Ontario at Queen and University for the project. The lot was valued at C$31 million and the federal and provincial governments also pledged funding for a new more modest project that would only cost some $130 million. The original plan called for an 190 metre tower of offices and condominiums to be built by Cadillac Fairview that would help fund the project. It would be further supplemented by a $20 million donation by Christopher Ondaatje. However both Cadillac-Fairview and Ondaatje developed concerns about the project and pulled out. More importantly the municipal government of Mel Lastman refused to provide and municipal funding.[3] The project collapsed again in 2000.

In 2002 the COC under Richard Bradshaw launched a new set of plans that included a $20 million donation from the Four Seasons hotel chain in exchange for perpetual naming rights to the complex. The COC organized a competition to select an architect for the new theatre. Ten firms of architects submitted their proposals, from which Canadian Diamond and Schmitt Architects was selected as the winner for its modernist design. The complex took three years to construct at an estimated cost of $181 million. Elevator access to the concourse level of Osgoode subway station was integrated into the construction of the Centre, which along with an elevator to the platform level within the fare paid area, makes the station fully wheelchair accessible.[4]

The auditorium is modelled after European opera houses, with its five-tiered, horseshoe-shaped auditorium. Collaborating with Diamond Schmitt, New York-based theatre planning and design specialists Fisher Dachs Associates designed the room’s geometry and seating configuration to bring every seat as close to the stage as possible, maximizing a sense of intimacy between audience members and the performers. Every seat was computer-modeled in 3D to insure the best possible sightlines.

The COC and its design team attempted to create the best natural acoustics possible, guided by acoustician Bob Essert of Sound Space Design and a team that included Aercoustics Engineering, Wilson Ihrig & Associates and Engineering Harmonics.

The inaugural production in the new opera house was Richard Wagner’s epic tetralogy Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung), attended by Governor General Michaëlle Jean, as well as numerous other Canadian luminaries. Three complete Ring Cycles were performed in September 2006.


  1. ^ "It's back to Bay St. for ballet-opera house" Rosemary Speirs Toronto Star.Jul 20, 1988. pg. A.1
  2. ^ "Province withdraws $55M support from Toronto opera house." Mark Hallman. Financial Post. Nov 12, 1990. pg. 2
  3. ^ "Phantoms haunted COC's great vision;" Toronto Star. Mar 19, 2000. pg. 1
  4. ^ Installation Of Elevators At Osgoode Station

External links

Coordinates: 43°39′2.40″N 79°23′7.87″W / 43.650667°N 79.3855194°W / 43.650667; -79.3855194


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