La Scena Musicale

Monday, 21 September 2009

This Week in Toronto (Sept. 21 - 27)


The fall music season swings into action this week, now that the Toronto International Film Festival is over and our main concert venues are once again free. For voice fans, a major event is the start of the Canadian Opera Company season, with Puccini's warhorse, Madama Butterfly, at the Four Seasons Centre beginning Saturday, Sept. 26 7:30 pm. This revival of the serviceable if slightly frayed Brian Macdonald production will receive an unprecedented run of fifteen performances. The principal roles are double cast - Butterfly (sopranos Adina Nitescu and Yannick-Muriel Noah), Pinkerton (tenors David Pomeroy and Bryan Hymel), Sharpless (baritones James Westman and Brett Polegato), Suzuki (mezzos Allyson McHardy and Anita Krause). With the exception of Romanian Nitescu, it is an all-Canadian cast. Westman is particularly well known as Sharpless, having sung it many times, including the COC about ten years ago. Tenor David Pomeroy is rapidly becoming a COC mainstay. Coached by retired Canadian tenor Ermanno Mauro, Pomeroy sings with a pleasing, Italianate timbre. The conducting duties are shared by Carlo Montanaro and Derek Bate.

A second major event is the opening of the new Koerner Hall of the Royal Conservatory of Music. The opening concert takes place on Friday Sept. 25 at 8:30 pm, with Jean-Philippe Tremblay conducting the Royal Conservatory Orchestra. It features Beethoven's Choral Fantasy and a video tribute to RCM graduate Glenn Gould on the anniversary of his birthday. On the program are pianist Anton Kuerti, Toronto Mendelssohn choir, soprano Erin Wall, mezzo Wallis Giunta, tenor Richard Margison, and bass Robert Pomakov. The tariff at $100 to $250 is not exactly cheap, with the less expensive seats all sold out at this point. But this is a special occasion and well worth attending. A more affordable alternative ($35 to $125) is the concert the next evening, with Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke and Lenny White. For me, a must-see concert is the great Frederica von Stade in a Farewell Tour Concert on Saturday, Oct. 10. This will be our last chance to hear this great mezzo.

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra launches its new season on Thursday Sept. 24, with violinist Joshua Bell playing Brahms Violin Concerto in D Major. Peter Oundjian conducts this and the Brahms Symphony No. 2. Also on the program is Canadian composer John Estacio's Frenergy. The program is repeated on Saturday Sept. 26 at Roy Thomson Hall.

On Thursday morning, the Canada Council for the Arts Instrument Bank Competition will announce its results in a press conference at the Glenn Gould Studio. Fourteen winners will get the use of 13 instruments plus a cello bow valued at a total of more than $26 million USD. This program is designed to aid promising young Canadian musicians in their careers by making available to them world-class instruments for performance. I will attend the press conference and will have more to report. In the evening at 8 pm, there will be a free concert given by the winners at the Glenn Gould Studio. Seating is limited so be sure to arrive early.

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