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Monday, 27 October 2014

This Week in Montreal: October 27 to November 3


Sharon Azrieli Perez

A Masked Ball for Halloween
What better way to spend Halloween than to dress up, put on a mask and go to a ball? McGill Chamber Orchestra’s first Masked Ball fundraiser fills the bill with soprano Sharon Azrieli Perez, mezzo Julie Nesrallah and tenor Antoine Belanger singing excerpts of Bernstein’s West Side Story, Bizet’s Carmen, Verdi’s Un Ballo in maschera and Offenbach’s Les contes d’Hoffmann. Hotel Sofitel. Oct. 31. www.ocm-mco.org
- Wah Keung Chan

Belles Sœurs: The Musical
Montreal’s Segal Centre presents the English-language premiere of Belles Sœurs: The Musical. Based on Michel Tremblay’s Les Belles-sœurs, the darkly comedic, bittersweet play about working-class strife in Quebec, circa 1965, is the story of Germaine Lauzon, a Plateau Mont-Royal housewife who wins one million department store trading stamps. Musical mayhem ensues when she invites her closest relatives and friends to celebrate at a raucous stamp-pasting party. Les Belles-sœurs premiered in 1968, and the musical version debuted in 2010. The book & lyrics are by René Richard Cyr, and the music is by Daniel Bélanger. The English book adaptation is by Brian Hill, while Neil Bartram penned the English lyrics. Produced by Montrealer Allan Sandler, the show features an all-female Canadian cast. Oct. 19 to Nov. 9. www.segalcentre.org.
- Naomi Gold

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Cette semaine à Montréal : le 27 octobre au 2 novembre

Rémi Bolduc

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Rémi Bolduc, fois deux
Saxo alto de premier plan en ville, Rémi Bolduc se produira deux fois au cours du mois : le vendredi 9 octobre 18h, il sera en concert à la salle Bourgie du MBAM avec son jazz ensemble; trois semaines plus tard, le vendredi 30, il accueillera en spectacle à la salle Schulich de l’Université McGill un compatriote québécois, François Théberge. Professeur titulaire de saxophone jazz au Conservatoire de Paris, ce dernier tiendra aussi des cours de maître durant la journée sur l’essence même du jazz : l’improvisation. www.remibolduc.com
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Marc Chénard

L’Orchestre Métropolitain dans les arrondissements
Un concert hors série offre aux mélomanes une occasion de célébrer l’Halloween de façon originale, avec le jeune chef Jean-Michel Malouf. Vous y entendrez des œuvres rendues populaires par le film Fantasia de Disney. Solistes : la violoniste Marcelle Mallette et le flûtiste Benjamin Morency. Théâtre Outremont, 30 octobre, 19 h. www.orchestremetropolitain.com
- Renée Banville

MET Live in HD
Dans le cadre de sa 9e saison, la série MET Live in HD diffusera, dans les cinémas du Québec, les opéras Macbeth de Verdi (11 octobre, rediffusions les 10 et 15 novembre), Les Noces de Figaro de Mozart (18 octobre, rediffusion les 6 et 15 décembre), et Carmen de Bizet (1er novembre, rediffusions les 29, 30 novembre et 8 décembre). www.metopera.org
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Justin Bernard

Academy of Ancient Music – pour la première fois à Montréal
Formée à Londres en 1973 par Christopher Hogwood, l’Academy of Ancient Music est un ensemble renommé, spécialisé dans l’interprétation de la musique baroque et classique de 1600 à 1850 sur instruments anciens. Depuis 2006, c’est le claveciniste Richard Egarr qui a pris la succession de Christopher Hogwood. Pour son premier concert à Montréal, l’ensemble joue l’intégrale des Ouvertures de J.S. Bach. Salle Bourgie, 5 novembre, 19 h 30. www.sallebourgie.ca
- Renée Banville

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Sunday, 26 October 2014

The Fur Flies - and the Fun Follows - at the Centaur

By Naomi Gold
photo by David Hou  


CAPTION: Rick Miller plays Thomas/Severin; Carly Street as Vanda/Wanda

The  critically acclaimed two-hander, Venus in Fur is currently playing at Old Montreal's Centaur Theatre. Authored by American playwright David Ives, the show premiered in 2010 and debuted on Broadway a year later.  Ives' work is based on Leopold Ritter von Sacher-Masoch's similarly entitled 1870 novella, an (in)famous work that actually spawned the neologism "masochism".  The Tony-nominated Venus in Fur employs that quintessentially dramatic play-within-a-play device.  It is the story of writer/director Thomas Novachek who's on a quest for talent --and truth.

Novachek has just adapted a new play called Venus in Fur and is auditioning actresses for the role of "Wanda von Dunaiev", a wealthy young widow.  After a disappointing day of lacklustre auditions, Thomas despairs of finding a suitable candidate and calls his fiancée to complain.  Alone in his studio while a thunderstorm rages, he is taken by surprise when wannabe Wanda, Vanda Jordan, suddenly stomps in.  The tacky, obnoxious ditz spews profanities whilst explaining her tardiness, and an increasingly exasperated Thomas prepares to leave.  Vanda persists nonetheless and convinces him to give her a chance.
  
The ostensibly vapid Vanda soon beguiles Thomas with her prodigious acting talent and she asks him to read the part opposite hers.  As "Severin Kusiemski" -- a Polish aristocrat who craves female domination -- Thomas channels his inner submissive and the metatheatrical plot deepens.  V(W)anda has similarly embraced her dominant role as she imparts profound and incontrovertible truths about women. The fun continues as she consistently and irrefutably challenges Thomas' hypocrisy and preconceived notions of gender roles and power in relationships.  Vigorously defending her gender politic dialectic, she lands blow after intellectual blow by exposing androcentric and misogynist archetypes in both the play and the director's psyche. As Vanda's spectacular transformation from crass dilettante to serious thespian unfolds, Thomas is mesmerized.  More compelling however, is her brilliance in dismantling and reversing the underlying power paradigm inherent in audition scenarios --especially ones where male directors, writers or producers are casting women. The show is popularly billed as a sado-masochistic power ...er....play, but -- crops and (BDSM) props aside -- it evokes relationships of all types.   

Centaur Theatre's Canadian Stage Production stars Carly Street and Rick Miller. Earlier this year Street won Dora Mavor Moore and Toronto Theatre Critics awards for best actress. Both deliver outstanding performances.  They are directed by Jennifer Tarver. Runs until November 9th. Ticket prices begin @$27.00; 514-288-3161

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This Week in Toronto (Oct. 27 - Nov. 2)

My concert picks for the week of October 27 to November 2 - Joseph So

Opera Atelier's Alcina (Wallis Giunta, Allyson McHardy, Meghan Lindsay) Photo: Bruce Zinger

The big news in opera this week is Opera Atelier's Alcina, which opened last Thursday at the Elgin Theatre.  Given OA's specialty is baroque opera, it doesn't seem possible that this is OA's first staging of a Handel opera. Well, apparently it is, but better late than never!  I attended the opening night last Thursday Oct. 23, and it was a knockout of a production. For the first time, OA is using video projections to augment its excellent painted tableaux expertly executed by Gerard Gauci. Given its a fantastical story about the sorceress Alcina, moving images make it that much more visually striking. The subtle transformation of landscape and architectural columns into male nude bodies create quite a sensation in the media, although it must be said that there is really no more nudity than one would find in an evening at the ballet!  The true sensation of the evening was the singing.  I will write a full review of this show for a future issue of the British magazine, Opera. For now, I can say this is a show not to be missed!  Excellent singing from everyone, but particularly Allyson McHardy (Ruggiero), Meghan Lindsay (Alcina), Wallis Giunta (Bradamante), and Mireille Asselin (Morgana). Three more shows this week on Tuesday, Friday and Saturday at the Elgin Theatre.  http://www.operaatelier.com/season/14-15-season/

Bass John Relyea (Photo: Shirley Suarez)


At the Toronto Symphony Orchestra this week is a comparative rarity, Elgar's "oratorio" Dream of Gerontius.  I put oratorio in quotation marks as it was said that Elgar didn't want this label for the work, but if truth be told, that's what it is, given its strong Catholicism. This is considered to be among the finest of the genre of British choral music.  Canadian heldentenor Ben Heppner was originally scheduled to sing the title role, but he announced his retirement last April.  In his place is a very suitable replacement in terms of the vocal demands of this dramatic tenor role, Australian tenor Stuart Skelton.  Joining him are British mezzo-soprano Catherine Wyn-Rogers, and Canadian bass John Relyea, one of the finest basses in the world today, although he's still relatively young at 42,  I recall with pleasure seeing his Figaro last August in Ravinia.  Compared that to the first time I saw his Figaro in Santa Fe Opera when he was only 28, he's better than ever.  This is a superb trio of soloists and this is a show not to be missed by all Elgarians. Peter Oundjian conducts the TS forces, Amadeus Choir and the Elmer Iseler Singers. http://roythomson.com/eventdetail/TSODreamGerontius

The Canadian Opera Company's fall season comes to an end this week, with its production of Falstaff and Madama Butterfly. The last Falstaff  is on Nov. 1, your last chance to see and hear the magnificent Falstaff of the great Canadian bass baritone Gerald Finley. There are three more performances of Madama Butterfly on Oct. 28, 30 and 31.  http://www.coc.ca/Home.aspx

Ukrainian Art Song Project: Galicians I

Ukrainian bass-baritone Pavlo Hunka is no stranger to Toronto audiences, having appeared with distinction in several leading roles with the Canadian Opera Company back in the Richard Bradshaw era. In recent years, Hunka continued his association with Toronto (and Canada) through his Ukrainian Song Project. Hunka's goal is to commit to recording the vast repertoire of songs by Ukrainian composers. Back in 2011, I interviewed Hunka about this project, the article, together with a review of the Lysenko recordings, can be found below (click to enlarge image). On Sunday Nov. 2 3 pm, Hunka and several Canadian artists - soprano Monica Whicher, mezzo Krisztina Szabo, baritone Russell Braun, and pianist Albert Krywolt, will be giving a recital at Koerner Hall. This concert, Galicians 1, presents the recently discovered compositions of four Ukrainian composers - the late romantic Denys Sichynsky, post-romantic Stanyslav Liudkevych, impressionist Vasyl Barvinsky and the modernist (and also Ukraine's first female composer) Stefania Turkewich. The event is hosted by Stuart Hamilton and produced by composer Roman Hurko. It is presented under the auspices of  the Ukrainian Art Song Project, an endeavour spearheaded by Pavlo Hunka and supported by Ukrainian communities in Canada and worldwide.  www.ukrainianartsong.ca
https://performance.rcmusic.ca/event/ukrainian-art-song-project-presents-galicians-i-art-songs

   My 2011 interview with Pavlo Hunka about the Ukrainian Art Song Project (click on image to enlarge)

Canadian pianist Janina Fialkowska

Music Toronto is presenting Canadian pianist Janina Fialkowska in recital on Tuesday Oct. 28th 8 pm, at its usual venue, Jane Mallett Theatre, St. Lawrence Centre. On the program are works by Grieg, Schubert, Ravel and Chopin. http://music-toronto.com/piano/Janina_Fialkowksa.htm

Talisker Players (Photo: www.taliskerplayers.ca )

One of my favourite song cycles is Songs of Travel by Ralph Vaughan Williams. It's tailor made for the baritone voice. Last week, baritone Robert Gleadow sang it at the COC noon hour concert, and this week, another fine baritone Geoffrey Sirett is singing this wonderful cycle in a joint recital with soprano Virginia Hatfield and the Talisker Players. The long title is appropriately Songs of Travel: reflections on travel, movement, departures, arrivals and wanderlust. In addition to Vaughan Williams, the program also features works by Louis Applebaum, Vally Weigl, and Elisabeth de la Guerre. Graham Abbey is the actor and reader. The concert is at Trinity St. Paul's Centre on Oct. 29th 8 pm. http://www.taliskerplayers.ca/songsoftravel.html

Another noteworthy event this week is the Second Toronto International Piano Competition, spearheaded by the Chinese Cultural Centre of Greater Toronto and sponsored by Rolex, Steinway and Sons, as well as the Ontario government.


First Round has already begun, starting Oct. 25th and continues this week, culminating in the Finals to take place at Koerner Hall on November 1st. The high-powered jury panel includes Irish pianist John O'Conor, Canadian James Anagnoson, Italian Fabio Bidini, and the chair is Yoheved Kaplinsky (USA).
http://www.ipianotoronto.ca/

Jury panel member Fabio Bidini performs at Opening Ceremony (Photo: Toronto International Piano Competition 2014)


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Monday, 20 October 2014

This Week in Montreal: October 20 to 26


Aline Kutan

Montreal Lyric Orchestra Debuts
Montreal has a new orchestra: founded by conductors Simon Rivard and Ben Kepes, the Montreal Lyric Orchestra is devoted to vocal works. Its debut concert features soprano Aline Kutan in Mozart’s Exsultate Jubilate, Schubert’s An die Musik and Mahler’s 4th symphony with Kutan taking the soprano solo in the 4th movement. Pianist Olivier Godin tackles Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 20. Oscar Peterson Hall. Oct. 23. www.montreallyricorchestra.com
- Wah Keung Chan

Belles Sœurs: The Musical
Montreal’s Segal Centre presents the English-language premiere of Belles Sœurs: The Musical. Based on Michel Tremblay’s Les Belles-sœurs, the darkly comedic, bittersweet play about working-class strife in Quebec, circa 1965, is the story of Germaine Lauzon, a Plateau Mont-Royal housewife who wins one million department store trading stamps. Musical mayhem ensues when she invites her closest relatives and friends to celebrate at a raucous stamp-pasting party. Les Belles-sœurs premiered in 1968, and the musical version debuted in 2010. The book & lyrics are by René Richard Cyr, and the music is by Daniel Bélanger. The English book adaptation is by Brian Hill, while Neil Bartram penned the English lyrics. Produced by Montrealer Allan Sandler, the show features an all-female Canadian cast. Oct. 19 to Nov. 9. www.segalcentre.org.
- Naomi Gold

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Cette semaine à Montréal : le 20 au 26 octobre


Yukari Cousineau
L’Orchestre Métropolitain dans les arrondissements
Le concert Vienne en deux temps de l’Orchestre Métropolitain, présenté le 24 octobre à la Maison symphonique, fera la tournée de quatre arrondissements, sous la direction de Julian Kuerti, chef invité principal pour une seconde saison. Yukari Cousineau, violon solo de l’Orchestre Métropolitain, interprétera le Concerto pour violon « À la mémoire d’un ange » de Berg. Aussi au programme : Beethoven et Schubert. Arrondissements Verdun (22), Rivière-des-Prairies (23), Saint-Laurent (25) et Pierrefonds (26). www.orchestremetropolitain.com

Série Tableaux en musique: création d’une œuvre de Julien Bilodeau
Commandée par la Fondation Arte Musica au compositeur Julien Bilodeau, à partir d’une œuvre de la collection du Musée des beaux arts, L’heure mauve lui a été inspirée par le tableau d’Ozias Leduc. Les pianistes Brigitte Poulin et Jean Marchand l’offrent au public en création mondiale. Aussi au programme : Stravinski, Debussy et Decaux. Salle Bourgie, Série Tableaux en musique, 24 octobre, 18h30. www.sallebourgie.ca

Pro Musica en octobre: le Quatuor Belcea
Les membres du Quatuor Belcea harmonisent la diversité de leurs influences en un langage musical commun qui se reflète dans son répertoire. Sa discographie impressionnante lui a valu de grandes distinctions. Œuvres de Mozart, Berg et Brahms. Théâtre Maisonneuve, 26 octobre, 20 h. promusica.qc.ca

À la Chapelle Historique du Bon-Pasteur
Le violoniste Axel Strauss, l’altiste Douglas McNabney, la violoncelliste Élisabeth Dolin et la pianiste Bernadene Blaha forment un nouveau quatuor à géométrie variable. Ces chambristes recherchés proposent un programme d’œuvres de Bloch, Brahms et Mendelssohn. 26 octobre, 15 h 30. www.ville.montreal.qc.ca/chapellebonpasteur

- Renée Banville

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Sunday, 19 October 2014

This Week in Toronto (Oct. 20 - 26)

My Concert Picks for the Week of October 20 to 26

- Joseph So

Soprano Meghan Lindsay and seven men in OA's Alcina (Photo: Bruce Zinger)

Opera Atelier, Canada's premiere Baroque opera company is staging Handel's Alcina as its fall season presentation.  According to OA's publicity material, this marks the first time the Company has used film to enhance traditional painted backdrops so expertly executed by Gerard Gauci.  I have not yet seen any production photos - not available until Oct. 22 - but you can get a taste of the creative process in this Youtube video - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jUaUyfZxBbk   The cast includes all frequent guests of OA, with soprano Meghan Lindsay in the title role. Also appearing are mezzo Allyson McHardy, soprano Mireille Asselin, and mezzo Wallis Giunta.  The show opens on Thursday Oct. 23 7:30 pm at the Elgin Theatre and goes until Nov. 1. Incidentally, the promotion photo here has soprano Meghan Lindsay naked posing on a stepladder.  I would bet that she will be more fully clad to sing the opera comes opening night. http://www.operaatelier.com/

This week is also the home stretch of the Canadian Opera Company's fall season of Falstaff and Madama Butterfly.  Given its superlative musical and dramatic values, Falstaff is selling extremely well. But there are always returns and rush tickets (not to mention standing room) if you need a ticket.  Do check the COC website the evening before to find out if there will be returns and rush the next morning. My advice is to show up by about 9 am at the box office. Tickets to Madama Butterfly is more plentiful, given there are twelve performances and the opera is performed with regularity at the COC. There's only one performance of the Verdi on Saturday Oct. 25 at 4:40 pm.  Madama Butterfly shows are on Oct. 21, 22, 24, 26. Check the COC website to find out the casting. http://www.coc.ca/Home.aspx

The last free vocal noon hour recital at the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre happens on Thursday Oct. 23, with mezzo Lauren Segal and baritone Robert Gleadow, in works by Dvorak, de Falla, Ibert, and Vaughan Williams.  At the piano is COC chorusmaster Sandra Horst. Details at http://files.coc.ca/pdfs/concert141023.pdf  Be sure to show up an hour ahead to ensure a seat.

Violinist Nicola Benedetti (Photo: Rhys Frampton)

Conductor Stephane Deneve returns to the Toronto Symphony Orchestra to conduct  a Russian program in two performances on Wednesday Oct. 22 at 8 pm, and Thursday Oct. 23 at 2 pm. The flamboyant violinist Nicola Benedetti plays Shostakovich's Violin Concerto No. 1, coupled with Prokofiev's Suite from Romeo and Juliet, arranged by Deneve. The Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra opens the concert with Tchaikovsky's Marche Slave. http://tso.ca/

Conductor Stephane Deneve (Photo:Drew Farrell)


Music Toronto is presenting the Belcea Quartet on Oct. 23 8 pm at the Jane Mallett Theatre. On the program are chamber pieces by Beethoven, Brahms and Schubert. http://music-toronto.com/

Soprano Suzie LeBlanc and countertenor Daniel Taylor are giving a joint recital of Handel Love Duets on Oct. 24 7:30 pm at the Trinity College Chapel, under the auspices of the University of Toronto Faculty of Music. In addition to Handel, on the program are works by Monteverdi and Cavalli. http://www.music.utoronto.ca/site5.aspx

Canadian Opera Ccompany Music Director Johannes Debus


The Canadian Opera Company Music Director Johannes Debus is giving the Hermann Geiger-Torel Lecture on Monday Oct. 20 7:30 pm at Walter Hall, Edward Johnson Building. The title of his talk is "Applause, applause - a homage to the symbiotic artist-audience relationship." http://www.music.utoronto.ca/events/calendar/vis141020.htm






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Monday, 13 October 2014

This Week in Toronto (Oct. 13 - 19)

My concert picks for the week of October 13 to 19 - Joseph So

Kelly Kaduce as Cio Cio San (Photo: Michael Cooper)

The second of two Canadian Opera Company's fall season productions, Madama Butterfly, opened on the long weekend at the Four Seasons Centre, with two alternating casts. I saw American soprano Kelly Kaduce give a stunning account vocally and dramatically as Cio Cio San. She was partnered by the ringing tenor of Andrea Care as Pinkerton. Canadian baritone Gregory Dahl took on Sharpless, and American mezzo Elizabeth DeShong was a fabulous Suzuki.  German maestro Patrick Lange led the COC Orchestra in a well paced, idiomatic reading of the Puccini score. I intend to go back to hear the alternate cast of Patricia Racette, Stefano Secco, and Dwayne Croft. Performances this week at Oct. 15, 18, 19.  Meanwhile, the critically acclaimed Falstaff continues with the great Canadian bass baritone Gerald Finley in the title role, with a single performance this week on Oct. 14.  Details at http://www.coc.ca/Home.aspx

The COC free concert series at the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre this week features two interesting events - top on my list is a preview of the Opera Atelier's Alcina. OA is Canada's premier Baroque Opera company, and their historically informed productions are always visually wonderful. The cast of this Alcina is made up of COC Ensemble Studio graduates soprano Mireille Asselin, mezzos Allyson McHardy and Wallis Giunta, and baritone Olivier Laquerre.  The only non-alumna is Alcina herself, soprano Meghan Lindsay. This is bound to be an extremely popular preview, so be sure to show up early.  http://files.coc.ca/pdfs/concert141014.pdf

Canadian piano wunderkind Anastasia Rizikov

The other noon hour attraction is Canadian piano wunderkind Anastasia Rizikov playing works by Tchaikovsky, Mussorgsky, Rachmaninoff and Balakirev. This brilliant 15 year old has a technique and musicality that's remarkable.  October 15 http://files.coc.ca/pdfs/concert141015.pdf


Polish pianist Rafal Blechacz 

Pianophiles' cup truly runneth over this week, with the appearance of Polish pianist and 2014 Gilmour Artist Rafal Blechacz in recital at Koerner Hall on Sunday Oct. 19 at 3 pm, as well as Jean Efflam Bavouzet with the London Philharmonic Orchestra at Roy Thomson Hall. Blechacz is in town under the auspices of the Royal Conservatory of Music and the Canadian Chopin Society. The Polish pianist will play a program of Bach, Beethoven, and Chopin. https://performance.rcmusic.ca/event/rafal_blechacz 

French pianist Jean Efflam Bavouzet (Photo: Paul Mitchell)

London Philharmonic Orchestra is currently on tour, and will be at the Roy Thomson Hall on Oct 17 under the helm of conductor Vladimir Jurowski. Bavouzet plays the challenging Prokofiev Piano Concerto No. 3, and the centerpiece of the evening is Shostakovich Symphony No. 8. Performance on Friday Oct. 17 8 pm. http://roythomson.com/eventdetail/LondonPhilharmonic

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra goes pop this week, with vocal ensemble Rajaton performing Best of the Beatles under the baton of maestro Steven Reineke on Tuesday Oct. 14 8 pm and two shows on Wednesday Oct. 15 at 2 and 8 pm. 

Since Oct. 17 marked the passing of Frederic Chopin, there's a lot of his piano music being played this week. In addition to the Blechacz recital, the Canadian Chopin Festival is putting on a concert on that day featuring Canadian pianists Leonard Gilbert, Anastasia Rizikov and Li Wang. This concert marks the opening of the 2014 Canadian Chopin Competition. It takes place at the Polish Cultural Centre at 4300 Cawthra Road in Mississauga. For more information, call (416) 231-7709. 

Conductor Alex Pauk of Esprit Orchestra


The Esprit Orchestra, under the direction of conductor Alex Pauk, is presenting a concert on Oct. 16 8 pm at Koerner Hall. This orchestra is known for its innovative programming involving new music. It features works by Thomas Ades, Charles Ives, Paul Frehner and Chris Paul Harman.  http://www.espritorchestra.com/

Finally, a Chinese orchestra, the Shen Yun Symphony Orchestra is performing at Roy Thomson Hall at exactly the same time. The Orchestra combines Chinese and Western instruments. I wasn't able to find program details, but on the Roy Thomson Hall website, it states the concert features music from "a program including the vast repertoire of Shen Yun's original music and celebrated classics from Berlioz and Dvorak." http://roythomson.com/eventdetail/shenyun

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This Week in Montreal: October 13 to 19


Stéphane Tétreault

Mahler’s Lieder eines fahrrenden Gesellen
It’s rare to hear Mahler’s Song of a Wayfarer Lad sung by a woman, although Dame Janet Baker gave a brilliant account of the work. Grammy award winning mezzo Sasha Cooke takes on this song cycle with I Musici de Montréal led by Jean-Marie Zeitouni. Respighi, Ravel and Arvo Pärt round out the programme. Salle Bourgie. Oct. 16. www.imusici.com
- Wah Keung Chan

Two Stéphane Tétrault Performances
Stéphane Tétreault: Carte Blanche. With pianist Michel-Alexandre Broekaert, Oct
18, Salle Saint-François Xavier, Prévost. www.diffusionsamalgamme.com.
Turovsky Quartet Recital. Oct 19, St. Paul Anglican Church, Saint-Paul-d’Abbotsford.
- Caroline Rodgers

Belles Sœurs: The Musical
Montreal’s Segal Centre presents the English-language premiere of Belles Sœurs: The Musical. Based on Michel Tremblay’s Les Belles-sœurs, the darkly comedic, bittersweet play about working-class strife in Quebec, circa 1965, is the story of Germaine Lauzon, a Plateau Mont-Royal housewife who wins one million department store trading stamps. Musical mayhem ensues when she invites her closest relatives and friends to celebrate at a raucous stamp-pasting party. Les Belles-sœurs premiered in 1968, and the musical version debuted in 2010. The book & lyrics are by René Richard Cyr, and the music is by Daniel Bélanger. The English book adaptation is by Brian Hill, while Neil Bartram penned the English lyrics. Produced by Montrealer Allan Sandler, the show features an all-female Canadian cast. Oct. 19 to Nov. 9. www.segalcentre.org.
- Naomi Gold

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Cette semaine à Montréal : le 13 au 19 octobre

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Trio Karénine

Trio Karénine – le Louvre hors les murs
La Fondation Arte Musica inaugure un programme d’échange permettant d’entendre certains concerts présentés au musée du Louvre. Fondé en 2009, le Trio Karénine porte le nom du célèbre roman de Tolstoï et réunit trois musiciens épris de littérature. Au programme : Dubois, Fauré, Ravel et Lili Boulanger. Salle Bourgie, 15 octobre, 19 h 30. www.mbam.qc.ca
- Renée Banville

CIOC – le concours 2014 est à nos portes

Du 7 au 19 octobre, le Concours international d'orgue du Canada présentera 16 candidats de partout dans le monde qui auront l'occasion de remporter plus de 70 000 $ en prix. Parmi les 9 juges, on compte Olivier Latry, titulaire des grandes orgues de Notre-Dame de Paris, qui a participé au dévoilement du Grand Orgue Pierre-Béique de l’Orchestre symphonique de Montréal à l'occasion du concert inaugural, le 28 mai dernier. Le concert d'ouverture du CIOC aura lieu le 7 octobre à l'église Unie Saint-James, avec Martha Wainwright, Jean-Willy Kunz et Christian Lane. Les lauréats auront le privilège de jouer sur le Grand Orgue au Concert Gala du concours le 19 octobre. Les épreuves se tiendront aux églises de l'Immaculée-Conception (8, 9, 10), Saint-Jean-Baptiste (13, 14) et à la basilique Notre-Dame (17). www.ciocm.org 
- Renée Banville
 
Le retour d’Onofri chez Arion
Très attendu à Montréal, le fougueux violoniste et chef invité Enrico Onofri vous fera vivre la contagieuse invasion musicale italienne à Londres. Coucou ! De délectables pages concertantes où chantent parfois coucou et rossignol, tantôt à l’orgue, tantôt au violon. Avec Hank Knox à l’orgue. Œuvres de Vivaldi, Avison, Corelli et Haendel. Salle Bourgie, 17 au 19 octobre. www.arionbaroque.com
- Renée Banville

Deux récitals de Stéphane Tétreault
Récital violoncelle et piano avec Michel-Alexandre Broekaert, pianiste. 18 octobre, salle Saint-François Xavier, Prévost. www.diffusionsamalgamme.com
Récital du Quatuor Turovsky, 19 octobre, St. Paul Anglican Church, Saint-Paul d’Abbotsford.
- Caroline Rodgers

Le Trio Pasquier au Ladies’ Morning Musical Club
Fondé en 1972, le Trio Pasquier est formé de musiciens français au sommet de leurs carrières de solistes et de chambristes: le violoniste Régis Pasquier, l’altiste Bruno Pasquier et le violoncelliste Roland Pidoux. Menant tous des carrières internationales de solistes, ils s’unissent dans des moments exceptionnels. Cette fois à la salle Pollack, pour leur 5e engagement au LMMC, 19 octobre, 15 h 30. www.lmmc.ca
- Renée Banville

Hommage à Fritz Kreisler
Artiste d’une grande polyvalence, à la fois interprète et compositeur, Fritz Kreisler a su gagner le cœur du public par sa virtuosité époustouflante. Edwald Cheung, violon, et Philip Chiu, piano, défendront son répertoire aux mille prouesses musicales. Une présentation des Jeunesses Musicales du Canada, maison de la culture Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, 19 octobre, 16 h. www.accesculture.com
- Renée Banville

MET Live in HD
Dans le cadre de sa 9e saison, la série MET Live in HD diffusera, dans les cinémas du Québec, les opéras Macbeth de Verdi (11 octobre, rediffusions les 10 et 15 novembre), Les Noces de Figaro de Mozart (18 octobre, rediffusion les 6 et 15 décembre), et Carmen de Bizet (1er novembre, rediffusions les 29, 30 novembre et 8 décembre). www.metopera.org
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Justin Bernard

À la Chapelle Historique du Bon-Pasteur
Né à Moscou et résidant au Canada depuis l’âge de 14 ans, Ilya Poletaev est considéré comme un des pianistes importants de sa génération. Après avoir enseigné la musique ancienne au Yale Institute of Sacred Music, il est nommé professeur adjoint de piano à l’École de musique Schulich. Au programme: C. P. E. Bach, Schumann, Dussek et Chopin. 19 octobre, 15 h 30. www.ville.montreal.qc.ca/chapellebonpasteur
- Renée Banville

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Sunday, 12 October 2014

Kelly Kaduce Supremely Moving as COC's Madama Butterfly

Puccini: Madama Butterfly (Review)

Joseph So

Kelly Kaduce / Cio Cio San
Andrea Care / Pinkerton
Gregory Dahl / Sharpless
Elizabeth DeShong / Suzuki
Michael Colvin / Goro
Robert Gleadow / Bonze
Karine Boucher / Kate Pinkerton
Clarence Frazer / Yamadori
Canadian Opera Company Orchestra / Patrick Lange, conductor
Brian MacDonald / stage director
Four Seasons Centre / October 11th 2014

Kelly Kaduce as COC Butterfly (Photo: Michael Cooper)

The Canadian Opera Company unveiled the second production of its fall season this weekend, Puccini's Madama Butterfly, one of the most beloved of all operas. According to worldwide statistics of five seasons from 2009/10 to 2013/14, the Puccini opera is ranked No. 6 in popularity among a total of 2581 works given, ranking it just below La traviata, Carmen, La boheme, Tosca and The Magic Flute, but ahead of such audience favourites as Barber of Seville, Marriage of Figaro, Don Giovanni and Aida. Butterfly's popularity is easy to understand, as it represents the Italian composer at his most melodically inspired, penning a score of glorious music framed by an intercultural love story that never loses its appeal. In the hands of a truly great singing actress, this Puccini masterpiece is the stuff of high tragedy.

In this Butterfly revival, the COC is blessed with not one, but two great singing actresses in Patricia Racette and Kelly Kaduce. Both are wonderful artists whose voice I am familiar with.  Tonight it was Kaduce weaving her magic as the tragic Geisha. I first saw her Cio Cio San in Santa Fe in 2010, in a production directed by Lee Blakeley.  I recall how struck I was with her characterization at the time - instead of a passive and demure Geisha, Kaduce's Butterfly is unusually youthful, headstrong, playful, defiant, extroverted and highly emotional in a heart-on-sleeve manner. It makes the finale all the more heart-wrenching - her death scene was among the very best I've seen. For me, Kaduce's characterization tonight is very reminiscent of the 2010 portrayal. Vocally it was also a tour de force, an impressive mix of power and nuance, with plenty of chiaroscuro. She gave generously and unstintingly with her voice. If one were to quibble, it was a little odd that in Butterfly's entrance scene, she unexpectedly skipped a whole line just before singing her D-flat, perhaps to prepare herself for the high option. She sang it powerfully and it was completely on pitch. Other than this little quirk, every moment of her performance was superb.   She was partnered by the Pinkerton of Andrea Care, who looked great on stage and whose big, bright, ringing tenor with its "money notes" was a real pleasure to the ear, even if he has a tendency to scoop, especially in the beginning.          
Kelly Kaduce (Butterfly) and Andrea Care (Pinkerton) (Photo: Michael Cooper)

The parade of great singing continued with the Suzuki of Elizabeth DeShong, whom Toronto audience will remember as a scintillating Angelina in La cenerentola here a few season ago. While Suzuki doesn't really offer the same opportunity for the mezzo to shine, DeShong took advantage of Suzuki big moments in Act 3, singing with a big, rich, thrilling sound, even from top to bottom, and acting with great depth of feeling. The fourth member of this superb quartet was Canadian baritone Gregory Dahl as Sharpless.  He sang with warm, sturdy tone and exuded the requisite dignity and empathy as the American Consul.  The supporting roles were all cast from strength, particularly the fine character tenor of Michael Colvin as Goro, a role he has sung to success at the English National Opera. Also impressive was the Bonze of baritone Robert Gleadow, and the Prince Yamadori of Clarence Frazer. Ensemble Studio soprano Karine Boucher made her COC debut as an uncommonly eye-catching Kate Pinkerton. German maestro Patrick Lange gave a well paced, idiomatic reading of the score, and the orchestra played beautifully, if a touch loudly in the beginning of Act One, momentarily covering Pinkerton and Sharpless.  The production, though over twenty years old and frequently revived, is holding up well, its use of muted colours and the evocatively painted backdrop remains timeless.   Under veteran Stratford stage director Brian MacDonald, there's nothing bizarre or earth shattering (which you wouldn't want!) in this Butterfly, only a healthy respect for the music of Puccini and the libretto of Illica and Giacosa.  As a longtime opera attendee, I've seen more performances of Madama Butterfly more times than I can count.  When it is as well done as this one, with a soprano possessing such vocal power and galvanizing dramatic intensity, one never fails to be moved by the genius of Puccini.  Ten more performances at the Four Seasons Centre (Oct. 15 to 31). http://www.coc.ca/Home.aspx


    

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Monday, 6 October 2014

This Week in Toronto (Oct. 6 - 12)

This Week in Toronto (Oct. 6 - 12) 

- Joseph So

On the heels of a spectacular season opening Falstaff, the Canadian Opera Company unveils its second opera of the fall season this week, the tried and true Madama Butterfly production directed by Brian MacDonald first seen more than twenty years ago. The spartan yet poetic and evocative production has held up well, and it's probably the most revived production at the COC. The Puccini warhorse with its tragic, East meets West love story always sells well in multicultural Toronto. There will be a total of twelve performances for this run, with all the principal roles (except one) double cast, a necessity given the shows take place in quick succession. Voice aficionados will be pleased with the casting - all the principals have great voices. Sharing the title role will be Patricia Racette and Kelly Kaduce. Fresh from her triumph as the heroine in Carlisle Floyd's Susannah at the San Francisco Opera last month, Racette brings her justly famous Butterfly to TO, a role she has sung in many of the great opera houses. I attended her Met in HD and found her Butterfly one of the most moving I've seen. Here's the death scene courtesy of Youtube - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eyw6qPKJiwU  She won't leave you dry-eyed!  The alternate Cio Cio San is Kelly Kaduce, whose luminous soprano is lovely. I've had the pleasure of seeing her Butterfly a few summers ago in Santa Fe, and it was quite unforgettable. Here is a short video clip from the Santa Fe production - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cnkvkxxYSuU

American soprano Patricia Racette (Photo: Devon Cass)

The two sopranos are partnered by Stefano Secco and Andrea Care respectively. I heard Secco in San Francisco as Pinkerton and his clarion tones were thrilling. Here's Secco singing "Che gelida manina" from Bilbao, Spain. I think the Mimi here is Albanian Inva Mula, who sang Violetta in Toronto some years ago - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-_r2NOwfRi0  The alternate Pinkerton is the fast-rising spinto Andrea Care, a great voice that I look forward to hearing in person.  Here's Care singing very beautifully the Flower Song from Carmen   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FlaYVQ9jSyg

Tenor Andrea Care (Photo: www.askonasholt.co.uk )

American baritone Dwayne Croft shared Sharpless with Canadian baritone Gregory Dahl. Suzuki is mezzo Elizabeth DeShong, our Cenerentola a couple of seasons back. German conductor Patrick Lange makes his COC debut. The show opens on Friday Oct. 10 7:30 pm with Racette and Secco, and the second performance is Saturday Oct. 11 at the unusual start time of 4:30 pm, with Kaduce and Care. Meanwhile, Falstaff continues with performances on Oct. 9 and 12 http://www.coc.ca/Home.aspx

Violinist Karen Gomyo (Photo: www.karengomyo.com )

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra is presenting a very popular program this week, pairing Sibelius Violin Concerto played by Karen Gomyo with the beloved New World Symphony No. 9 by Antonin Dvorak. Czech conductor Jakub Hrusa is at the helm. If memory serves, Maestro Hrusa deputized for the indisposed Jiri Belahavek a couple of seasons back. Three performances, including the Wednesday show at 6:30 pm. This is part of the Afterworks Series, with no intermission. On Thursday Oct 9  at 8 pm only, there is an additional piece,  the Carnival overture by the late Czech-Canadian composer Oskar Morawetz. The third performance on Saturday Oct. 11 has a start time of 7:30 pm. http://www.tso.ca/


Violinist Davide Monti

For baroque fans, Tafelmusik is presenting The Canals of Venice this week, with violinist Davide Monti as guest director and soloist. On the program are concertos by Albinoni and Vivaldi, among others. Five performances, from Oct. 9 to 12 at the St. Paul Trinity Centre, and Oct. 14 at the George Weston Recital Hall in North York. Details at http://www.tafelmusik.org/


Opera Canada Awards recipient soprano Adrianne Pieczonka (Photo: www.adriannepieczonka.com)

Canadian soprano Adrianne Pieczonka is one of four recipients of the Opera Canada Awards ("The Rubies") this evening (Monday Oct. 6).  This award was established in 2000 to honour Canadians who have made significant contributions to opera.  The other recipients this year are soprano/coach Rosemarie Landry, and philanthropists Father Edward Jackman and the Honourable Hal Jackman. Bass-baritone Gerald Finley, currently singing Falstaff at the COC, is the master of ceremony. There will be several singers performing, plus the Canadian Children's Opera Chorus. This event is sold out!  I will be giving a full report tomorrow on the La Scena Musicale Blog. 

For song recital enthusiasts, there are two free noon hour recitals this week at the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre. On Tuesday, tenor Colin Ainsworth sings works by Derek Holman, with collaborative pianist Stephen Ralls. Details at http://files.coc.ca/pdfs/concert141007.pdf   The other recital features two new COC Ensemble Studio members, tenor Jean-Philippe Fortier-Lazure and baritone Iain MacNeil.  The very well known Butterworth song cycle A Shropshire Lad will be sung by MacNeil.  Fortier-Lazure is the soloist in the less familiar cycle, Ludlow and Teme  by Ivor Gurney. http://files.coc.ca/pdfs/concert141009.pdf   Ensemble Studio member Jennifer Szeto is at the piano.  Be sure to show up early to secure a seat. 


Tenor Colin Ainsworth (Photo: www.colinainsworth.com)



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Cette semaine à Montréal : le 6 au 12 octobre

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Trio Wanderer

Pro Musica en octobre: le Trio Wanderer
Distingué par les « Victoires de la musique » à trois reprises comme meilleur ensemble instrumental de l’année, le Trio Wanderer se place sous le thème du voyage, tirant son nom du fameux lied de Franz Schubert, Der Wanderer. Au programme: Schubert et Tchaïkoski. Théâtre Maisonneuve, 6 octobre, 20 h. promusica.qc.ca
- Renée Banville


CIOC – le concours 2014 est à nos portes

Du 7 au 19 octobre, le Concours international d'orgue du Canada présentera 16 candidats de partout dans le monde qui auront l'occasion de remporter plus de 70 000 $ en prix. Parmi les 9 juges, on compte Olivier Latry, titulaire des grandes orgues de Notre-Dame de Paris, qui a participé au dévoilement du Grand Orgue Pierre-Béique de l’Orchestre symphonique de Montréal à l'occasion du concert inaugural, le 28 mai dernier. Le concert d'ouverture du CIOC aura lieu le 7 octobre à l'église Unie Saint-James, avec Martha Wainwright, Jean-Willy Kunz et Christian Lane. Les lauréats auront le privilège de jouer sur le Grand Orgue au Concert Gala du concours le 19 octobre. Les épreuves se tiendront aux églises de l'Immaculée-Conception (8, 9, 10), Saint-Jean-Baptiste (13, 14) et à la basilique Notre-Dame (17). www.ciocm.org 
- Renée Banville

Quatuor Molinari: trois compositeurs, trois styles
Paris-Vienne 1900, trois chefs-d’œuvre de Webern, Schoenberg et Debussy, présentés en lien avec l’exposition De Van Gogh à Kandinsky, l’expressionnisme en Allemagne et en France, 1900-1914. Explorez l’incroyable diversité de la musique pour quatuor à cordes. Salle Bourgie, 8 octobre, 19 h 30. www.mbam.qc.ca
- Renée Banville

Rémi Bolduc, fois deux
Saxo alto de premier plan en ville, Rémi Bolduc se produira deux fois au cours du mois : le vendredi 9 octobre 18h, il sera en concert à la salle Bourgie du MBAM avec son jazz ensemble; trois semaines plus tard, le vendredi 30, il accueillera en spectacle à la salle Schulich de l’Université McGill un compatriote québécois, François Théberge. Professeur titulaire de saxophone jazz au Conservatoire de Paris, ce dernier tiendra aussi des cours de maître durant la journée sur l’essence même du jazz : l’improvisation. www.remibolduc.com
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Marc Chénard

À la Chapelle Historique du Bon-Pasteur
Pour le premier concert dans le cadre de sa résidence, l’Ensemble Transmission présente des œuvres de Boulez, Vivier, Essl, Murail, Ristic et Perron. 10 oct. 20h. www.ville.montreal.qc.ca/chapellebonpasteur
- Renée Banville

MET Live in HD
Dans le cadre de sa 9e saison, la série MET Live in HD diffusera, dans les cinémas du Québec, les opéras Macbeth de Verdi (11 octobre, rediffusions les 10 et 15 novembre), Les Noces de Figaro de Mozart (18 octobre, rediffusion les 6 et 15 décembre), et Carmen de Bizet (1er novembre, rediffusions les 29, 30 novembre et 8 décembre). www.metopera.org
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Justin Bernard

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Sunday, 5 October 2014

COC Opens New Season with a Stunning Falstaff (Review)

COC Opens New Season with a Stunning All-Canadian Falstaff

Joseph So

Gerald Finley / Falstaff
Lyne Fortin / Alice
Russell Braun / Ford
Marie-Nicole Lemieux / Quickly
Lauren Segal / Meg
Simone Osborne / Nannetta
Frederic Antoun / Fenton
Colin Ainsworth / Bardolfo
Robert Gleadow / Pistola
Michael Colvin / Dr. Caius
COC Orchestra and Chorus / Johannes Debus, conductor
Robert Carsen / stage director
Four Seasons Centre, October 3rd 2014

Opera is arguably the most complex of art forms, one that combines story, text, music, sets, and costumes, brought to life by singers, orchestra, conductor, and stage director. Given its complexity, it's rare that all the stars are aligned to create a truly memorable experience for everyone.  Judging by the opening night performance, the planets are indeed aligned perfectly for Canadian Opera Company's season opening Falstaff. People say we North Americans are too ready to leap to our feet for a standing ovation - perhaps, when you compare us to European opera audiences. But last evening, the total and spontaneous standing ovation was well deserved. In forty-seven years of opera attendance, this one ranks right up there with the best of them.


Bass-baritone Gerald Finley as Falstaff (Photo: Michael Cooper)

First of all, this is an All-Canadian show.  The cast is led by bass-baritone Gerald Finley, simply one of the very top singers in the opera world today. This marks his return to the COC after more than two decades, and in his role debut as Sir John Falstaff.  The famous Merry Wives of Windsor are no slouch either - Quebec soprano Lyne Fortin (Alice) makes her very belated COC debut. Playing her daughter is former COC Ensemble Studio soprano Simone Osborne, opposite the Fenton of Quebec tenor Frederic Antoun.  Another COC Ensemble alumna, Lauren Segal, is Meg. Quebec contralto Marie-Nicole Lemieux (Dame Quickly) returns to the Company in one of her signature roles. COC frequent guest and audience favourite Russell Braun is Ford. Even the supporting roles are cast from strength, with Colin Ainsworth (Bardolfo), Robert Gleadow (Pistola), and Michael Colvin (Dr. Caius).  This Falstaff has already been staged at the Met and was part of the Met in HD series last year, starring the great buffo baritone Ambrogio Maestri.  A comparison with the Met is inevitable, so the stakes are high.


The Merry Wives (l. to r.) Marie-Nicole Lemieux, Lyne Fortin, Lauren Segal, Simone Osborne (Photo: Michael Cooper)

I am happy to report that our Canadian edition of this show is every bit as good.  A lot of the credit goes to Gerald Finley. He possesses a gorgeous voice - that's never in question.  What surprises a lot of people is his comedic flair - how often does one encounter a singer who's not only perfect as the uber-angst Amfortas or a stately Hans Sachs, but also a rip-roaringly funny Falstaff?  On opening night and looking delightfully corpulent in his fat suit, Finley sang thrillingly and acted up a storm, in a performance to cherish. It was so good to finally see Lyne Fortin on the COC stage, and she shined as Alice vocally and histrionically. Simone Osborne, vivacious of voice and stage manner, was an adorable, pony-tailed Nannetta, a perfect partner for the handsome and clarion-voiced Fenton of Frederic Antoun. It's not easy to be singing side-by-side with the golden-voiced Finley, but fellow baritone Russell Braun gave the star a run for his money with a thrillingly sung "E sogno o realta" And what can one say about Marie-Nicole Lemieux's droll and unusually youthful Dame Quickly, except to say that her rich contralto and comic timing are priceless? As a role Meg isn't terribly showy, but Lauren Segal's knockout voice and Vogue-worthy costume turned it into a starring role. Michael Colvin, with his bright tenor was an unusually well sung Dr. Caius. When it comes to physical comedy, you can't do better than the kleptomaniac Pistola of Robert Gleadow, whose banana-peel tumbles were totally convincing. Colin Ainsworth sacrificed his handsome looks to be a scruffy Bardolfo, but his voice remained princely.  


Ford (Russell Braun) catches the lovers (Frederic Antoun, Simone Osborne) (Photo: Michael Cooper)

Robert Carsen for me is a fine example of a stage director who knows how to update and re-imagine a classic for a 21st century audience, at the same time remaining sensitive and respectful of the composer's intentions. He knows the Verdi score inside out, and he uses the many musical cues already supplied by the composer in his very detailed stage direction. His attention to detail is remarkable, down to the smallest props. Whie there's plenty of physical comedy in this production, there's nothing stock or stale about any of it. I've seen Falstaff literally dozens of times over the years, and most of the time these days I no longer find it funny enough to laugh. But last evening I did many times, heartily.  Of course all of this is only possible if you have committed singing actors and brilliant staging. The COC ensemble cast is well rehearsed with razor-sharp timing, navigating the musically complex score with ease, under the helm of conductor Johannes Debus. Physically the cast also look perfect, so in a way, our singers even surpassed the Met's. It's also worth noting that Carsen is a master in directing the chorus as an "organic whole," The COC chorus was in top form on opening night, with particular kudos to the men in the kitchen scene in Act 2 Scene 2.  Carsen's way with a crowd is evident in almost every production of his, from the Munich Ariadne to the recent Les dialogues des Carmelites.  He's one stage director I never get tired of.   Conducting his first Falstaff, COC Music Director led the orchestra with a sure hand, drawing luscious yet translucent sounds from the pit, particularly the shimmering strings.  Yes, this show is the stuff of memories for every opera fan.

General Director Alexander Neef with a happy Cast and Creative Team at the Post Performance Reception (Photo: Joseph So)



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