The National Arts Centre mourns the loss of Maestro Mario Bernardi, the founding conductor of the NAC Orchestra. Maestro Bernardi passed away peacefully in Toronto on June 2. In this episode of the NACOcast we pay tribute to the great music director by reprising a previous edition of the NACOcast featuring an interview conducted by Christopher Millard at the maestro's home in Toronto in 2006.
A conductor, and accomplished pianist, Mario Bernardi was born in Kirkland Lake, Ontario in 1930. He moved to Italy when he was six years old with his mother, living in the small city of Treviso, near Venice, where they remained throughout the war.
He studied at the Venice Conservatory and excelled in the keyboard instruments of piano and harpsichord. A man of many musical talents, he was considered among the best of Canada’s promising young musicians emerging in the postwar period—a group that included Glenn Gould.
He began his professional career with the Royal Conservatory Opera School in Toronto. He first began to conduct in his mid-twenties at the Canadian Opera Company. In 1963, he moved to London, England where he was recruited by the Sadler’s Wells Opera Company (now the English National Opera). He served as Music Director of Sadler’s Wells before being enticed back to Canada to become the founding conductor of the National Arts Centre Orchestra of Canada from 1968-1982.
From the original podcast show notes: As a tribute to Walter Prystawski, the NAC Orchestra's founding concertmaster who is retiring after 37 years at the first desk, Christopher talks to founding NACO music director Mario Bernardi as well as three of Walter's original orchestra colleagues. The conversations touch on the core classical repertoire of the orchestra, NACO's signature sound and the critical role Walter Prystawski played in shaping that sound.