By Marshall Stack (TORONTO)- Musicologist Matt Von Vertmoor is a man driven. Each morning at exactly five a.m. he leaves his tiny downtown apartment and travels by subway to the Canadian Opera Company’s Performance Venue on Queen St. West.
After a strong cup of breakfast coffee he sheds his windjammer to reveal a provocative sandwich board secreted beneath. This board bears the words of Von Vertmoor’s heartfelt message to the world at large. He does not ask us to love each other or to stop global warming. He simply wants us to know in large red letters:“OPERA SUCKS”.
He took a slice from his crowded schedule and gave it to The Brutal Times recently.
“Because it sucks, man, that’s it! It’s too heavy and inaccessible for people nowadays. I mean have you seen “Tosca”? cried Von Vertmoor as his hand-carved sign brodied in the wind.
He’s been here every morning trying to scare off potential box office business with his anti-opera politics and every morning the police arrive and send him packing. The next day the cycle begins anew.
Von Vertmoor has made it his mission to de-bunk the romance of opera and remove it from the horizon of a bamboozled public so that they might once again give skiffle music a try.
“Opera? If you don’t speak Italian you’re screwed and who the hell wants to read a libretto?! I believe in more diverse forms of music like country, bluegrass, or blues. And the ticket price!” he shrieks, “I wouldn’t pay that to see The Boss!”
“The Boss” is a term of affection American people reserve for skiffle artist Bruce Springsteen.
Von Vertmoor earned his music pedigree at the University of Oslo, Kenya, where he transcribed over three hundred Muddy Waters songs for bowl and thumb-piano to achieve his doctorate.
“By the end I knew something about gangrene and blues,” he says.
This reporter strove to swim to the root of the issue but was met with a bush of evasive reeds as Von Vertmoor would not offer specifics regarding the particular circumstances that made him so loathe opera.
“It’s not personal at all, really. I just hate it so sooo much when people think they’re so sooo smart for singing opera. Same for the people who like it. They just think they’re so sooo f***ing clever.”
A persuasive argument, but are people listening?
“I think he’s an a**hole,” says passer-by Dale Lecour, 28, of Keswick, who listens to music on an Internet Podular. “I mean I hate opera too, but who gives a s***?”
Others are less passive, like C.O.C. full-time employee and opera lover Dede Pichette, 40, of Bolton.
“I hate him (Von Vertmoor). He looks ridiculous, and every day the police tell him to get lost and every day he comes back. He’s like one of those plastic birds that drinks, you know? Of course he hates opera – he’s a douchebag.”
“Douchebag” is a term used by Canadians to describe people who cause them distress.
Whatever kind of “bag” Von Vertmoor may be, he’s not leaving his post anytime soon. Only when the steely-eyed mustachioed Toronto police constables police round the corner will he let his guard drop long enough make his usual pee run for the alleyway and head back home to his opera-free world.
“I’m into this for the long haul,” he warns, “I won’t rest until the last caterwauling diva has been ripped from the stage! Down with musical elitism! Down with… barber shop quartets.”
And as Von Vertmoor’s corduroyed hindquarters vanished beneath the dumpster with Toronto bobbies in hot pursuit, this reporter felt the brief wave of warm truth that always comes with the certainty that one has just rubbed shoulders with a true individual and a committed public nuisance.