MA 30 The Influencers: Leila Getz
Founder and Artistic Director
Vancouver Recital Society
Leila Getz looms large as one of the primary driving forces on the classical music scene in Vancouver, BC. In 1980, at the age of 40, this South African native founded the Vancouver Recital Society, a presenting organization that has consistently aimed high and brought many of the world’s leading artists to a relatively isolated region.
It seemed like a foolhardy project at first, especially since there was an economic recession in Canada in the early 1980s. “Everybody said I was crazy and that it would fail—everybody except my husband,” Getz remembered in an interview with Fresh Vancouver. But the series gradually expanded from five events at the beginning to 20 in 2015. All take place in the Chan Center for the Performing Arts or the Vancouver Playhouse, with occasional events in the larger Orpheum Theater for big names like cellist Yo-Yo Ma or baritone Bryn Terfel.
Most striking is Getz’s knack for finding major artists before they become widely known. She presented the Canadian debuts of mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli, who reportedly stopped the first rehearsal cold after she sang her first note (the baton flew out of the amazed conductor’s hand), and pianist Lang Lang, who was all of 15 at the time. Other Canadian debuts on this series include those of violinists Joshua Bell and Maxim Vengerov, Anne Sofie von Otter, and, one of Getz’s earliest discoveries, pianist András Schiff. The VRS also books such well-established performers as Richard Goode, Leif Ove Andsnes, Kiri Te Kanawa, Ian Bostridge, Itzhak Perlman, Evgeny Kissin, Kathleen Battle, and Jeremy Denk. Getz has also championed lesser-known Canadian artists such as Angela Cheng, Scott St. John, James Ehnes, and Jon Kimura Parker, among others.
Getz has persevered in the face of the doomsayers who continually site the aging, diminishing audience for classical music in North America. In continuing to juxtapose gifted unknowns with the stars, Getz’s Vancouver Recital Series remains an important platform for emerging and established artists on the continent.