The hidden date for this stamp can be found along the right edge of the stamp.
Opera has a long and magnificent history in Canada-going back to almost 100 years before Confederation. Since the 1780s, extraordinary Canadian musical and theatrical talent has awed audiences across the country and made its way to leading opera houses around the world. Five commemorative domestic rate (51¢) stamps celebrate performers who have contributed much to Canada's cultural tapestry and have also played pivotal roles on the world stage. Their release coincides with the 2006/2007 season premiere performance of the Canadian Opera Company.
The romantic multicoloured designs created by Paul Haslip of Toronto's HM&E Design Communica-tions feature high-contrast photographic images, expressive line drawings and hand-drawn calligraphy framed in soft edging.
"Clearly, the stamp designs would have to involve the portraits of the artists," says Haslip. "Our challenge was how to do that visually. How does one rework different resources so that there's commonality with a final result that's appropriate to the subject matter? The starting point was getting the portraits right and then adding in colour and more content."
Raoul Jobin and Paris opera house Palais Garnier feature prominently in one of the stamps in this release. Wherever Jobin appeared, the Québec-born tenor received an enthusiastic reception and praise from the critics. Among his most noted attributes was his ability to master the "French" style. The richness of his musical sound enraptured audiences in the Americas, Europe and North Africa.
Montréal-born Maureen Forrester takes centre stage in a stamp noting her performances at Montréal's Place des Arts. Canada's ambassador to the world of opera, Forrester has been the commanding contralto of her generation and is universally recognized as Canada's grand dame of song. During her illustrious career, she regularly gave 120 performances a year and appeared with virtually every major orchestra in the world.
Saskatchewan native Jon Vickers was acclaimed as the world's leading interpreter of the role Siegmund in Die Walkure. Vicker's talent, energy and intensity set in motion an unexpected operatic career that led him from his responsibilities as a hardware salesman to the grand halls of opera houses around the world. One of the most celebrated houses, La Scala, in Milan, Italy, accompanies Vickers' stamp portrait.
With his robust voice and passionate temperament, Edward Johnson was a leading tenor at New York's Metropolitan Opera Company throughout the early and mid-1900s. He was renowned for his performances as Canio in I Pagliacci, Roméo in Roméo et Juliette and Don José in Carmen. A portrait of Johnson and the Met appear on another of the stamps in this issue.
As a team, Léopold Simoneau and his wife Pierrette Alarie gained celebrity status in both Europe and North America, leaving an indelible mark at France's Opéra-Comique. The duo completes this quartet of stamps. On stage and in concert, Alarie's breathtakingly pure soprano voice delighted critics and music lovers alike. The eminent tenor Simoneau, from St. Flavien, Quebec, has been hailed as "the Mozart tenor of his generation."
According to Liz Wong, Manager of Stamp Design and Production at Canada Post, the stamps are so dramatic in their depiction of six Canadian opera greats and the international opera houses most associated with their performances, "that they serve as a fitting tribute to the magnificent art form of opera in Canada."