Features | From Pivot Magazine

The CPA with a serious opera habit

Bernard Stotland is chairman of the board of directors at the Opéra de Montréal  

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Portrait of Bernard Stotland, FCPA and former president of the Jewish General Hospital in Montreal“The biggest misconception about opera is that it’s only for old and rich people,” says Bernard Stotland (Photograph by Gabrielle Sykes)

WHERE DID YOU CAREER BEGIN?

I graduated from McGill in 1957 and worked for the Montreal firm Richter, Usher and Vineberg. My business partner and I later struck out on our own and started Wasserman Stotland + Co.

HOW DID YOU COME TO LOVE THE OPERA?

In 1983, my wife and I visited Lake George, N.Y. There was a big sign: “La Bohème in English.” I didn’t know what that was, but my wife did. So we went to the opera. I fell in love. We got season’s tickets to the New York Metropolitan Opera. In all, I’ve seen more than 60 operas.

WHAT DID YOU ENJOY ABOUT THE OPERA?

Opera music is haunting. It goes right through your body. I couldn’t wait to explore more, so I enrolled in opera appreciation courses at McGill, learning all about its history and greats like Verdi and Puccini.

HOW ARE YOU GETTING KIDS INTERESTED IN THE OPERA?

Around 2002, my family and the Royal Bank of Canada began financing a program that allows 2,500 children to attend Opéra de Montréal dress rehearsals for free. We want to create some interest when kids are at formative ages.

HOW DID YOU COME TO BE THE CHAIRMAN?

After I joined the board of the Opéra de Montréal, the chairman told me he wanted to set up a search committee for someone to replace him. I said, “I don’t want to be on the search committee. I want to be the chairman.”

EXPLAIN YOUR ROLE AS CHAIRMAN.

I’m very involved in the financial side of things. We have a budget of about $11 million. If you’re used to doing M&A, there’s nothing new to understand about how the opera company runs.

ANY MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT THE OPERA?

The biggest misconception about opera is that it’s only for old and rich people. People go to the opera in tuxedos. But you’re just as likely to see people in jeans.

WHAT IMPACT DOES MUSIC HAVE ON YOU? 

Music opens your mind dramatically and you think much clearer. I put a symphony or opera on when I’m going to write a report. Great concentration comes from listening to music. You’re away from everything else.