OTD: Canadian opera singer closes Guelph’s first music festival

On today’s date in 1929, Metropolitan Opera tenor Edward Johnson sang on the final evening of the first music festival held in Guelph, Ont., which was also his hometown.

Johnson was accompanied by Guelph’s Vogt Choir and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra at the festival. Earlier in the decade, he donated $25,000 to establish music classes in local schools, and this festival was an early product of that donation.

He was billed outside of North America as “Edoardo Di Giovanni” and eventually became general manager of New York’s Metropolitan Opera.

“Of course the ear is the most important factor, our greatest ally. It helps us imitate. Imitation forms a large part of our study. We hear a beautiful tone; we try to imitate it—we try in various ways, with various placements, until we succeed in producing the sound we have been seeking,” Johnson is quoted as saying in Harriette Brower’s 1917 book Vocal Mastery: Talks with Master Singers and Teachers.

“Then we endeavor to remember the sensations experienced in order that we may repeat the tone at will. So you see Listening, Imitation and Memory are very important factors in the student’s development.”

Edward Johnson was an internationally renowned opera singer and general manager of New York's Metropolitan Opera.

Johnson was an internationally renowned opera singer and general manager of New York’s Metropolitan Opera.


In 2006, Canada Post featured Johnson on a 51-cent stamp (Scott #2182) as part of a five-stamp issue celebrating great Canadian opera singers.

It was printed by the Lowe-Martin Group on Tullis Russell coated paper using 11-colour lithography and was tagged on each side.

The series’ romantic multi-coloured designs were created by Paul Haslip, of Toronto’s HM&E Design Communications, and 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,” said Haslip in 2006.

“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.”

An official first-day cover was also serviced in Toronto.

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