Thursday, July 2, 2009

RIP Jan Rubes

Opera singer and actor Jan Rubes dies at 89

Jan Rubes had a varied career as a singer, actor and broadcaster.

Jan Rubes, the Czech-born artist who had a career in Canada as an opera singer, actor and broadcaster, has died, his family announced Tuesday. He was 89.

cause of death was complications from a stroke he had suffered earlier in June.

Rubes was a founding member of the Canadian Opera Company in Toronto, performing for the company more than 1,000 times between 1949 and 1989.

He also took part in the very first CBC telecast with Glenn Gould in 1953.
He came to wider renown as host of the weekly radio show The Songs of My People and later had a career as an actor, starring in the film Witness.

Rubes was born in Volyne, Czechoslovakia, on June 6, 1920. He made his opera debut in 1940 in Prague, as Basilio in The Barber of Seville and became a leading singer with the Prague Opera.

A bass singer, he represented Czechoslovakia at the International Music Festival at Geneva in 1948 and was a first-prize winner.

In 1948, Rubes emigrated to Canada and began to sing with the Royal Conservatory Opera and the CBC Opera.

He was an original member of the Opera Festival Company of Toronto, which later became the COC.

His repertoire included roles in six languages, including Mephisto in Faust, Bluebeard in Bluebeard's Castle, Boris in Boris Godunov, Daland in The Flying Dutchman and Figaro and Bartolo in The Marriage of Figaro.

In the 1960s, Rubes began appearing on TV shows and later moved into feature films. (CBC Still Photo Collection) Rubes was also in demand as a guest soloist with orchestras across Canada and in New York, Frankfurt and Central America.

In 1974-6, he served as the COC's touring director and he also directed COC productions such as La Bohème and Ariadne auf Naxos.

From 1953 to 1963, Rubes was host of CBC's Songs of My People and made two recordings based on music he played and sang on air.

That began an interest in electronic media that led him to TV appearances on Parade, L'Heure du concert and as host of Thursday Night and of Sunday Afternoon at the Opera.

In the 1960s, he also began acting, appearing on TV programs such as The Forest Rangers, King of Kensington and later, Due South.

In 1985, he landed a role as the Amish grandfather in Witness, starring Harrison Ford.

That opened the door to feature films and over the next 20 years he appeared in more than 40 films, including Dead of Winter, The Outside Chance of Maximilian Glick, One Magic Christmas, Deceived and Never Too Late.

He earned a Genie Award for his role in the film Something About Love and a Gemini for best supporting actor in TV series Two Men.

Rubes also won the Queen's Jubilee Medal in 1978, the Canadian Centennial Medal in 1967 and the 1991 Earl Grey Award for lifetime achievement in television.

In 1995, at the age of 75, Rubes starred in his first Broadway play, James Lapine's Twelve Dreams at the Lincoln Theatre Centre.

He was artist-in-residence at Wilfrid Laurier University in 1981 and taught at the University of Windsor in 1985.

Rubes was married to actress Susan Douglas, founder of Toronto's Young People's Theatre and former head of CBC radio drama.

He is survived by his wife, sons Jonathan and Tony and three grandsons. He was predeceased by his son Christopher in 1996.

Born: 6/6/1920, Volyne, Czechoslovakia
Died: 6/29/2009, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Jan Rubes' western - actor:
By Way of the Stars (TV) - 1992 (Hausiere Nathan)

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