La Scena Musicale

Sunday, 24 January 2010

This Week in Toronto (Jan. 25 - 31)

Conductor of MSO Kent Nagano
Photo credit: Nicolas Ruel



This week marks the start of the Canadian Opera Company's winter season, with the opening of Carmen on Wednesday, Jan. 27. (The other production, Verdi's Otello, will open a week later, on Feb. 3) The Bizet opera is a true warhorse - the showing of this opera on Met in HD broke all attendance records recently. It was last staged in Toronto only five years ago, with Ukrainian mezzo Larissa Kostiuk as the Gypsy, in the Montreal Opera co-production. Much drama has already transpired offstage, with the American mezzo Beth Clayton withdrawing from all twelve performances. The COC scrambled to find a replacement, and it was announced a week ago that Israeli mezzo Rinat Shaham will sing the first six performances, which has now expanded to the first eight. I saw Shaham as Carmen just five years ago at the Montreal Opera and she was wonderful. I look forward to hearing and seeing her again. Two days ago, I received a COC press release that the young Georgian mezzo Anita Rachvelishvili will make her Canadian debut as Carmen here, singing the last four shows. Rachvelishvili, a young artist at La Scala, was chosen to sing the title role of Carmen at the La Scala 2009-10 season opening on December 7, opposite the sensational Jose of Jonas Kaufmann under the baton of Daniel Barenboim. The show was telecast live in selected movie theaters and transmitted on Italian Television. Despite the high pressure situation, Rachvelishvili acquitted herself well and received a big ovation from the audience. The rest of the COC cast include American tenor Bryan Hymel as Jose, Canadian soprano Jessica Muirhead as Micaela, and Paul Gay as Escamillo. Rory Macdonald makes his COC conducting debut. There will be a total of twelve performances, with shows on Jan. 27 and 30 this week.

Another important event this week is the return of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra to Roy Thomson Hall under the baton of Kent Nagano. On the program is Weber's Overture to Oberon, Stravinsky's Firebird, and Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 1 with pianist Till Felner. The concert is on Monday Jan. 25 at 8:30 pm, an unusually late start. On Jan. 28 and 30 at 8 pm, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra presents the grand Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 5, with conductor James Gaffigan. Also on the program is the Canadian premiere of Thomas Ades' Violin Concerto "Concentric Paths" played by soloist Leila Josefowicz.

On Thursday Jan. 28, the Canadian Opera Company presents a free noon hour concert, Songs of Heaven and Earth by Olivier Messaien, performed by members of the COC Ensemble Studio, with Steven Philcox at the piano. This is a good opportunity to hear this comparatively rare work. Remember to show up at least 30 minutes early to secure a spot.

On Sunday, Jan. 31 at 2:30 pm, Opera in Concert presents Handel's Giulio Cesare, with countertenor David Trudgen, soprano Charlotte Corwin, mezzo Catherine Rooney, and baritone James Levesque. Kevin Mallon conducts the Aralia Ensemble. Jane Mallet Theatre at the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts.


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