Celia Franca made few close friends and plenty of enemies in her long career but she also managed to build a cultural institution, the National Ballet of Canada.
That it still prospers after 60 years is a tribute to Franca’s hard work and sheer will power as founding artistic director yet, until now, we’ve known little about the private woman behind the glamorous, often intimidating exterior.
As Carol Bishop-Gwyn argues in her recently published Franca biography, that exterior was carefully constructed to create the image she felt appropriate to the task at hand but also to conceal her inner anxieties. She was, says Bishop-Gwyn, “a woman who rarely stepped out of her role.”
In her lifetime — Franca died in February, 2007 at age 86 — she seldom let the mask of pencilled-in eyebrows and bright red lips drop.

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