La Scena Musicale

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Toronto Summer Music Festival Announces its Fifth Anniversary 2010 Programme

Photo: Agnes Grossmann, Artistic Director, Toronto Summer Music Academy and Festival

I just received an exciting press release from Toronto Summer Musical Festival. Now in its Fifth Season, this festival fills a big void in Toronto's music scene. With the absence of a summer home for the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, and with both the National Ballet of Canada and the Canadian Opera Company in hiatus, there is a dearth of classical music activities in town. Thanks to TSMF, Torontonians don't have to travel for their music fix. I'm sorry to say that, for the second year in a row, there won't be any staged opera from TSMF. But my disappointment is assuaged by the presence of the great German baritone Matthias Goerne, who is making one of his infrequent visits to our city. He is giving a recital with pianist Andreas Haefliger on July 27. The last time I heard Goerne in Toronto was April 2004, during the sad winter and spring of SARS in Toronto. Many artists, fearing an epidemic, cancelled their appearances at the time. But to his great credit, Matthias Goerne fulfilled his obligations and showed up at Roy Thomson Hall. He sang beautifully a program of Mahler with the symphony, if memory serves. Incidentally, Goerne is giving a public masterclass on July 26, 7 - 10 pm in Walter Hall - not to be missed!

Other vocal delights this summer include an evening of German lieder with three of Canada's brightest singers- tenor Colin Ainsworth, soprano Lesley Ann Bradley and baritone Peter McGillivray. Another interesting concert is a TSMF-commissioned piece, Song of the Earth, by Canadian composer Glenn Buhr. Soloists are Romanian alto Roxana Constantinescu and tenor Gordon Gietz. This is paired with Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde (chamber version). This takes place on August 7th.

For more information, go to

See below for the complete press release:


“…a virtual oasis in the musical desert of the Toronto summer.”
—The Globe and Mail

2010 marks the fifth annual TORONTO SUMMER MUSIC FESTIVAL (TSMF), and Artistic Director Agnes Grossmann is delighted to unveil her plans for this year’s edition devoted to the theme Songs of the Earth. The Festival takes place in downtown Toronto from July 20 to August 13, and features an array of Canadian and international stars including Matthias Goerne, Andreas Haefliger, Anton Kuerti, Menahem Pressler, Connie Shih and Tsuyoshi Tsutsumi; top flight international chamber ensembles the Pacifica String Quartet, the Vienna Piano Trio, the Gryphon Trio and the Penderecki String Quartet; and four imaginative concert programmes that combinemusic with an added dimension: the Bunraku Bay Puppet Troupe from the United States together with Japan’s Imada Puppet Troupe; The Art of Time Ensemble with musical transformations based on Korngold-inspired themes; a tribute to the legendary choreographer, the late Pina Bausch, with a film of her ballet set to Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring projected as duo-pianists Anagnoson and Kinton perform the composer’s chamber version of this volcanic dance score; and the Gryphon Trio with James Campbell performing Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time against the backdrop of evocative paintings by Stephen Hutchings. Another highlight of the Festival will be a performance of Mahler’s masterpiece, Song of the Earth in the Schoenberg/Rhien chamber version. Landmark anniversaries of composers Schumann, Chopin and Mahler will be celebrated in concert programmes throughout the four-week Festival, which includes the world-premiere of a new Mahler-inspired work by Glenn Buhr.
“As the Toronto Summer Music Festival enters its fifth season, I am truly thrilled with the opportunity to share these 13 concerts inspired by the theme Songs of the Earth. With Mahler’s eponymous masterpiece as my cue, I have selected music that celebrates the beauties of the earth and reflects the profound love that many of the featured composers felt for nature. I am sure that audiences will find these concerts fascinating, engaging and thought-provoking,” says Agnes Grossmann.

Toronto Summer Music Festival at a Glance
Honouring two of the most inspiring piano-composers of the Romantic era
July 20, 8 pm at Koerner Hall
Anton Kuerti, piano
Master pianist and 2007 Schumann prize-winner Anton Kuerti launches the 2010 festival with a solo homage to Schumann’s 200th anniversary. Praised as “one of the truly great pianists of this century” (CD Review, London), Kuerti’s past three Festival appearances have sold out. His gala performance in the superb acoustics of Koerner Hall on a brand new Hamburg Steinway includes Schumann’s Novelettes, Op. 21, Sonata No. 1 in F sharp minor, Op. 11, the Fantasy in C major, Op. 17, and the Toccata in C major, Op. 7. July 27, 8 pm at Koerner Hall
Masters of Song — Matthias Goerne, baritone and Andreas Haefliger, piano
6:45 pm: pre-concert talk with Dr. Ryan McClelland
Known as “perhaps the greatest Lieder singer of our day,” (Chicago Sun-Times), baritone Matthias Goerne makes his highly anticipated Festival debut. He is joined by his long-time collaborator, the superb pianist Andreas Haefliger in a programme of Lieder including Schumann’s Three Songs to texts by Heinrich Heine, Liederkreis, Op. 24, and Brahms Lieder, Op. 32. Haefliger also performs the Three Intermezzi, Op. 117 — among the best-loved of Brahms’ music for solo piano. August 3, 8 pm at MacMillan Theatre
Piano Legends — André Laplante, piano
6:45 pm: pre-concert talk with Don Anderson
One of the great Romantic pianists of our time, André Laplante returns to the Festival to pay tribute to the Chopin bicentenary. He performs the rarely-heard chamber version of Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in E minor, Op. 11 with string quartet. Franz Liszt’s Book 2 Pilgrimages (Italy), which was inspired by timeless masterpieces of painting, sculpture and poetry by Raphael, Michelangelo, Petrarch and Dante, completes the programme.
August 10, 8 pm at Walter Hall
Romantic Duo — Tsuyoshi Tsutsumi, cello and Connie Shih, piano
6:45 pm: pre-concert talk with Dr. Robin Elliott
Japan’s revered cellist Tsuyoshi Tsutsumi returns to share the stage with the Canadian-born,
Germany-based young pianist, Connie Shih. The programme features virtuoso Romantic cello
sonatas by Mendelssohn and Chopin and is completed by folk-flavoured selections including
Schumann’s Five Pieces in Folk Style, Op. 102 and Chopin’s Introduction and Polonaise brillante in C major, Op. 3.
Wednesday concert:
August 4, 8:00 pm at MacMillan Theatre
An Evening of German Art Song — Colin Ainsworth, tenor; Leslie Ann Bradley, soprano;
Peter McGillivray, baritone This celebration of German art song features three of Toronto’s most remarkable and accomplished young Lied-singers. The programme includes some of the most beautiful songs by Robert Schumann, and shows the evolution of German art song into the 20th century through Hugo Wolf and Richard Strauss.
Thursday series: MUSIC PLUS SERIES
Music experienced through multi-disciplinary forms
July 22, 8:00 pm at MacMillan Theatre
Music & Theatre — Buraku Bay Puppet Troupe and Imada Puppet Troupe
6:45 pm: pre-concert talk with Martin Holman
Bunraku [boon-rah-koo]: a vivid, sophisticated style of puppet theatre that originated in Japan more than 300 years ago. TSMF is thrilled to present the Toronto premiere of the only American troupe that performs traditional Japanese Bunraku puppetry. The Bunraku Bay Puppet Troupe is joined by its Ina Valley, Japanbased mentors, the Imada Puppet Troupe, which was founded in 1704. Using half life-size puppets and accompanied by chanted narration and music played on traditional instruments, the two companies perform a series of delightful, inspiring short plays. Chicago Weekly praised the Bunraku Bay Troupe’s “wonder in craftsmanship and coordination,” remarking, “the entrance was enough to send chills down everyone’s spines ....”
July 29, 8:00 pm at Walter Hall
Musical Transformations — Erich Korngold: Source and Inspiration
Andrew Burashko and Art of Time Ensemble
6:45 pm: pre-concert talk with Andrew Burashko
Andrew Burashko and the Art of Time Ensemble performances have earned the reputation for being among Toronto’s most engaging concert experiences, with programs that are thought-provoking and compelling. TSMF is proud to present Art of Time’s programme inspired by Erich Korngold, the father of the classic Hollywood film score. Korngold’s Suite, Op. 23 for Two Violins, Cello and Piano anchors the evening. A performance of six contemporary songs inspired by Korngold’s Suite are performed by their composers, the singer-songwriters Martin Tielli, “who paints aural pictures from the heart” (Chart Attack), John Southworth, who is “delightfully eccentric, and seems to have emerged out of a time vacuum,” (New York Press), and Danny Michel, “one of this country’s most undiscovered musical treasures.” (Toronto Star).
August 5, 8:00 pm at Walter Hall
Music & Dance — James Anagnoson, piano and Leslie Kinton, piano
This performance is presented in memory of choreographer Pina Bausch (1940–2009)
6:45 pm: pre-concert talk with Michael Crabb
The dynamic combination of dance on film with live music promises an unforgettable experience.
The Festival honours the celebrated modern choreographer Pina Bausch, who died in 2009, with a film of her thrilling ballet set to Stravinsky’s 1912 landmark composition The Rite of Spring that forever changed the way we listen to music. Festival favourites, the piano duo Anagnoson and Kinton perform the composer’s four-hand piano transcription of the score. The programme includes cornerstones of the two-piano repertoire: Brahms’s Haydn Variations and the spectacular Suite No. 2 by Rachmaninoff.
August 12, 8:00 pm at MacMillan Theatre
Music & Painting — Gryphon Trio with James Campbell, clarinet
6:45 pm: pre-concert talk with Stephen Hutchings
One of Canada’s pre-eminent chamber ensembles, the Gryphon Trio returns to the Festival following four previous sold-out concerts. In the grand finale to the 2010 Festival, they are joined by clarinetist James Campbell to perform Olivier Messiaen’s prophetic Quartet for the End of Time. Paintings by artist Stephen Hutchings, inspired by Messiaen’s music, will be projected above them. The Trio closes the Festival with a final song of the earth, Schumann’s Piano Trio No. 2 in F major, Op. 80.
Friday concert
July 30, 8 pm at Walter Hall
New Compositions — Penderecki String Quartet
6:45 pm: pre-concert talk with Dr. Glenn Buhr
Canada’s renowned Penderecki String Quartet continuously pushes the envelope of their musical
medium with repertoire that ranges from Brahms and Britten to collaborations with a wide spectrum of contemporary musicians from trip-hop performer DJ Spooky to Chinese pipa player, Ching Wong. For this concert, the Quartet performs works by four emerging composers who are in residence at this year’s Toronto Summer Music Academy. The programme also includes Quartet No. 4 by Academy composition coach, Glenn Buhr.
Concerts created around the music of Gustav Mahler
July 24, 8:00 pm at Walter Hall
Mahler & Friends — Vienna Piano Trio with Sharon Wei, viola
6:45 pm: pre-concert talk with Dr. Robin Elliott
The Vienna Piano Trio, hailed by BBC Music Magazine for performances that are “quite simply,
stunning,” presents a programme of early works by composers who enjoyed close ties. Arnold
Schoenberg’s love poem Transfigured Night is paired with Piano Trio, Op. 3 by Alexander Zemlinsky and Mahler’s one-movement Piano Quartet in A minor.
July 31, 8:00 pm at MacMillan Theatre
Mahler’s Heroes and Admirer —Pacifica String Quartet with Menahem Pressler, piano
6:45 pm: pre-concert talk with Dr. Colin Eatock
Profound experience joins hands with youthful passion in this concert, as revered pianist Menahem Pressler – who toured the world for more than 50 years as a member of the illustrious Beaux Arts Trio – teams up with the brilliant young artists of the Grammy Award-winning Pacifica String Quartet. They salute the Mahler anniversary with music by two of the composers he most admired – Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 6 in B flat major, Op. 18, No.6, and Schumann’s Piano Quintet in E flat major, Op. 44. The String Quartet No. 3 in F major, Op. 73 by Shostakovich — a composer who was deeply influenced by Mahler — completes this programme.
August 7, 8:00 pm at MacMillan Theatre
Song of the Earth — Roxana Constantinescu, mezzo-soprano, Gordon Gietz, tenor
TSM Festival Ensemble
6:45 pm: pre-concert talk with Dr. Jürgen Thym
The stunning Romanian alto Roxana Constantinescu and the outstanding tenor Gordon Gietz are
the featured artists in Song of the Earth, a TSMF-commissioned vocal work by the prominent
Canadian composer Glenn Buhr. It is paired with a chamber version of Mahler’s monumental Das Lied von der Erde, the work that provided the thematic anchor for the entire 2010 festival.
Public Master Classes Rewarding behind-the-scenes experiences, master classes offer insight into the development of exceptional musicians. Observers may attend and listen as top artists pass along their musical expertise to artists in the Toronto Summer Music Academy. $20 per master class.
Vienna Piano Trio —Friday July 23, 3:00 - 6:00 pm at Edward Johnson Building, Room 330
Matthias Goerne — Monday July 26, 7:00 - 10:00 pm at Walter Hall
Menahem Pressler — Sunday August 1, 10:00 am - 1:00 pm at Walter Hall
Pacifica String Quartet — Sunday, August 1, 2:30 - 5:30 pm at Walter Hall
Janos Starker — Sunday, August 8, 11:00 am - 1:00 pm at Remenyi House of Music
Rising Stars In Concert — FREE!
Wednesday, July 28, 7:30 pm at Walter Hall
The Festival is proud to present excellent up-and-coming musicians in a FREE concert as they
interpret some of the most moving and challenging pieces in the repertoire.
Emerging Artists in Concert at Walter Hall — FREE!
Wednesdays at 12:30 pm on July 21, July 28, August 4 and August 11
Fridays at 7:30 pm on July 23, August 6, August 13
Saturday July 31 at 2:00 pm
TSMF offers a series of FREE concerts featuring emerging artists at the threshold of their
professional careers. These exceptional musicians study with Festival performers in master classes at the Toronto Summer Music Academy.
Toronto Summer Music Festival 2010
July 20 Anton Kuerti, piano
July 22 Bunraku Bay Puppet Troupe and Imada Puppet Troupe
July 24 Vienna Piano Trio
July 27 Matthias Goerne and Andreas Haefliger
July 29 Andrew Burashko and The Art of Time Ensemble
July 30 Penderecki String Quartet
July 31 Pacifica String Quartet and Menahem Pressler, piano
August 3 André Laplante, piano
August 4 Peter McGillivray, baritone, Colin Ainsworth, tenor and Leslie Ann Bradley, soprano August 5 James Anagnoson and Leslie Kinton, piano duo / Pina Bausch film
August 7 Roxana Constantinescu, alto, Gordon Gietz, tenor and TSM Festival Ensemble
August 10 Tsuyoshi Tsutsumi, cello and Connie Shih, piano
August 12 Gryphon Trio and James Campbell, clarinet
Festival passes ($130 - $345) and single tickets ($30 - $75) are available at or by calling (416) 408-0208.

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Monday, 29 March 2010

This Week in Toronto (March 29 - April 4)

Yefim Bronfman (Photo: Dario Acosta)

This being Easter Week, the music scene is heavy on sacred works, in venues large and small. A good choice is Toronto Mendelssohn Choir's Sacred Music for a Sacred Place, on Good Friday, April 2, 7:30 pm at St. Paul's Basilica. Noel Edison conducts a program of more contemporary sacred pieces by Arvo Part, Eric Whitacre, Pavel Lukaszewski and Timothy Corliss. Rick Phillips presents a pre-concert chat at 6:50 pm. For ticket information, go to

If you aren't into religious music, here's the antithesis of Sacred Music - the Toronto Symphony Orchestra has TSO Goes Vegas: A Jackpot of Vegas Hits! Three shows, on March 31, 8 pm and again on April 1 at 2 pm and 8 pm at Roy Thomson Hall.Taken directly from the TSO website, "Jack Everly returns with a jackpot of hip Vegas hits, include Luck Be a Lady, Big Spender, Viva Las Vegas, My Way, and Lady is a Tramp. He is joined by a cast of showgirls and high rollers, including stars from Broadway and the Vegas Strip, and Mr. Showmanship himself, Martin Preston, as the legendary Liberace. It's Vegas, Baby - Symphony Style!" Gotta hand it to the TSO for innovative programming!

Tafelmusik continues with its Enchantress program starring Quebec soprano Karina Gauvin singing selections from Handel's Alcina. It moves to the George Weston Recital Hall for a single performance on March 30, 8 pm.

Pianist Yefim Bronfman is making a welcome return to Toronto on April 1 8 pm, this time in a recital at the new Koerner Hall of the Royal Conservatory of Music. On the program are Beethoven's 32 Variations, plus sonatas by Prokofiev, Tchaikovsky and Schumann.

The Esprit Orchestra presents an all-Canadian concert, A 'aventure! on March 31, 8 pm at the Jane Mallett Theatre. On the program are music by Evangelista,Gougeon, and Schafer, with Robert Aitken on the flute and Erika Raum on the violin. Alex Pauk conducts.

Finally, a brief report on an interesting event - Sir Ernest MacMillan Memorial Foundation Orchestral Conducting Award for 2010 is presently being chosen March 29, Monday afternoon 3:15 - 6:00 pm at the MacMillan Theatre, Edward Johnson Building, University of Toronto. The three finalists are Ghassan Alaboud (Montreal), Genevieve Leclair (Montreal) and Matthew Otto (Toronto). They will rehearse with the University of Toronto Symphony Orchestra for between 30 and 45 minutes in selections from Berlioz' Symphonie fantastique, Op. 14. Jury panel members are Victor Feldbrill, Tania Miller, Alain Trudel and David Briskin (chair). At 6:15 pm, the Tokai String Quartet, winners of the 2004 MacMillan Award in Chamber Music, will be performing Britten and MacMillan while the jury deliberates. After the winner is announced, there will be a reception open to the public. Admission is free but donations welcome.


Sunday, 28 March 2010

Auspicious Concert Launch for Wish Opera

Wish Opera Launch Concert Programme Cover

Curtain call - (l. to r.) Vania Chan, Tonia Cianciulli, Sabatino Vacca, Deirdre Kelly, Sinead Sugrue, Jennifer Fina, Theodore Baerg

Auspicious Concert Launch for Wish Opera

Joseph K. So

Saturday March 27, 8 pm, Sandra Faire and Ivan Fecan Theatre, York University
Ermanno Mauro, tenor; Theodore Baerg, baritone; Ambur Braid, soprano; Jennifer Fina, mezzo; Sinead Sugrue, soprano; Vanvia Chan, soprano
Orchestra conducted by Sabatino Vacca
Deirdre Kelly, Emcee

Don Giovanni Overture - Orchestra
"Non mi dir" Don Giovanni, Ambur Braid
"Non piu mesta" La Cenerentola, Jennifer Fina
"Largo al factotum" Il Barbiere di Siviglia, Theodore Baerg
"Dunge io son" Il Barbiere di Siviglia, Jennifer Fina and Theodore Baerg
"Qui la voce" I Puritani, Sinead Sugrue
"Ch'ella mi creda" La fanciulla del West, Ermanno Mauro
"Soud le dome epais" Lakme, Jennifer Fina, Vania Chan
"Dein ist mein ganzes Herz" Land of Smiles, Sinead Sugrue, Ermanno Mauro
West Side Story Medley - Orchestra
Olympia's Aria Les contes d'Hoffmann, Vania Chan
"O zittre nicht" Die Zauberfloete, Ambur Braid
"Ah fors'e lui...Sempre libera" La Traviata, Sinead Sugrue
"Di provenza" La Traviata, Theodore Baerg
"Vesti la giubba" I Pagliacci, Ermanno Mauro
"Soave sia il vento" Cosi fan tutte, Sinead Sugrue, Jennifer Fina, Theodore Baerg

The mission of the newly minted Wish Opera is to create "a modern vision of opera by fusing the existing beauty of operatic sound with contemporary fashion and design. As its Executive Director Tonia Cianciulli said to the audience at the beginning of the performance last evening, this new initiative has been a dream of hers for a long time. It came to fruition in two launch concerts at the intimate surroundings of the Sandra Faire and Ivan Fecan Theatre on the York University campus this week.

I saw the second show, on Saturday. It starred a mixture of emerging singers and experience veterans, in a varied program from the opera, operetta, and musical theater genres. In addition to the orchestra, the stage was tastefully decorated with contemporary furniture and art work on the two sides, serving as staging areas for the soloists. The six women - four singers plus Cianciulli and Emcee Deirdre Kelly - appeared in a succession of smashing high fashion gowns. All four female singers sang a challenging repertoire, each brought to the stage her unique gift of a beautiful voice and lovely stage presence. There were many highlights, but I particularly enjoyed Sinead Sugrue in "Ah fors'e lui...Sempre libera", Ambur Braid in "O zittre nicht" and the crystalline tones of soubrette Vania Chan in Olympia's Aria. Jennifer Fina also impressed with her rich timbre and wide range in "Non piu mesta".

The two men of the evening are veterans of the opera stage. Tenor Ermanno Mauro proved that at the grand age of 71, he can still produce a powerful and vital sound and plenty of dramatic intensity, bringing the house down with his "Vesti la giubba." Deputizing for an indisposed James Westman, Theodore Baerg was his ebullient self in a vocally suave and dramatically vivid "Largo al factotum". The evening ended with the trio from Cosi, "Soave sia il vento", a symbolic send-off of Wish Opera to a smooth voyage into the future. Given the current economic climate and the ever-diminishing government support to the arts, any private endeavor like Wish Opera deserves the support of opera and art lovers in Toronto. This new company is planning to stage Mozart's Don Giovanni in two performances on June 24 and 26. Stay tuned!

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Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Review: Spanish Maestro Rafael Fruhbeck de Burgos Returns to Toronto

Conductor Rafael Fruhbeck de Burgos (Photo courtesy of Columbia Artists Management)

Review: Spanish Maestro Rafael Fruhbeck de Burgos returns to Toronto

Joseph K. So
We are in an era of the "youth movement" in conducting, witness the ascent of wunderkinder the likes of Gustavo Dudamel, Yannick Nezet-Seguin and Philippe Jordan, just to name a few. Yet, conductors are like fine wine - they get better with age, or if they are great to begin with, the best ones have staying power. This is certainly true with Spaniard Rafael Fruhbeck de Burgos. Born in Burgos, Spain in 1933 and trained in Spain and Germany, de Burgos at 76 is an elder statesman among conductors, having led many of the great orchestras of the world, including a stint as the chief conductor of the Montreal Symphony in the pre-Charles Dutoit era. Colourful and flamboyant are oft-used adjectives to describe the conducting style of de Burgos - it seems that he is incapable of making ugly sounds. Among conductors, his fluid and graceful movements make him a joy to watch. Despite the aforementioned youth movement, de Burgos is still around and going strong, his energy and charisma in full display this evening, the first of his two performances with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.
The first half of the evening’s program consisted of two Spanish pieces – Joaquin Turina’s La Oracion del torero, Op. 34, and the famous Concierto de Aranjuez by Rodrigo. Originally composed in 1925 for string quartet, it was later adapted for string orchestra and is one of Turina's most popular pieces. de Burgos gave a masterful reading of the score, bringing out the lush, Debussy-like lyricism of the work. This was followed by arguably the most popular piece of the evening - Concierto de Aranjuez. The appearance of Pepe Romero elicited quite a stir from the large audience. Pepe Romero is of course a member of the legendary Romero family that dominated classical guitar for generations. I recall my undergrad days attending many Angel Romero’s concerts on campus, hearing him play many pieces including the Concierto de Aranjuez. The magical second movement remains one of the most evocative in all of classical repertoire. There is no denying that the large Roy Thomson Hall isn’t an ideal venue for the guitar, an instrument that requires a more intimate space. The soloist was discreetly miked, and de Burgos held down the orchestra for him. A beloved figure, the audience was very supportive of Romero, although I feel that at 66, he has lost a bit of the fleetness in his fingers, more noticeable in the first movement, which came across as rather choppy and tentative. The long second movement with it exquisite lyricism went considerably better. With such wondrous music, it's hard to criticize! The audience clearly loved him and gave him a standing ovation.
The centerpiece of the evening was Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique, which took up all of the second half. This piece is considered by many to be the composer's signature work. It certainly is a staple in the standard repertoire. The composer revised it several times between 1830 and 1855. In the 1855 version, Berlioz was supposedly under the influence of opium, through which he saw visions which inspired the central themes of the work. This massive work with its five moments can be challenging for any conductor, but de Burgos held it together beautifully, bringing out fully the lyricism without sacrificing the intensity inherent in the score. He was rewarded with sustained ovations at the end. All in all, a most enjoyable evening of music-making.

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Strauss's Don Quixote Brought to Life by Bay and Austin Symphony

What a revolutionary idea it was to provide surtitles (“translated or transcribed lyrics/dialogue projected above a stage or displayed on a screen”) in the opera house! All of a sudden, people actually understood what was going on. An art form that had been forbidding and impenetrable for millions was transformed into something welcoming and meaningful. Shame on the Karajans and Levines who, for whatever reason, delayed that monumental breakthrough in communication.
I believe the concert hall could use the same communication overhaul afforded the opera house. To my mind, vocal works should always have surtitles; most often, they do not. To take it a step further, as conductor Peter Bay demonstrated in Austin with StraussDon Quixote this week, many purely orchestral works could also benefit enormously from surtitles.
Richard Strauss’s great tone poem Don Quixote, like most of his orchestral music, has a story or programme attached. The work is based on episodes from Don Quixote, the classic novel by Miguel de Cervantes. Curiously, in his notes for this Austin Symphony concert at the Long Center, David Mead never once mentioned Cervantes.
A Verbal Match for Musical Humour
Much of the enjoyment of Don Quixote springs from an understanding of the episode that is being depicted at any given moment. Strauss complicates Cervantes’ scenarios by casting his tone poem in the form of a theme or themes and variations, with each variation flowing into the next without pause. The listener is hard put to know which episode from the Cervantes’ novel is being portrayed at any given time.
Peter Bay solved this problem by using surtitles, a practice frequently used in performances of this piece, but never, in my experience, this effectively. The surtitles, on this occasion, gave the audience far more than a simple headline for each variation/episode. In a few carefully chosen words and at just the right moments (setups followed by punchlines), they also revealed much of the humour present in the music. Audience members clearly loved the process since they readily laughed in all the right places - a phenomenon I had never before witnessed in performances of Don Quixote.
Again, the programme book erred in failing to mention the person responsible for this brilliant contribution to our understanding. In fact, the text for the surtitles was written by Maestro Peter Bay. Technical operation (assuring that text and music meshed perfectly) was by Susan Threadgill of the Austin Lyric Opera. The work of this pair was so good that it could be used as a model for other orchestras and other works in the repertoire.

The Austin Symphony was substantially enlarged for this performance of Don Quixote, with many more strings, including no fewer than eight double basses - additions which made a huge difference in the depth and timbre of the string sound. The entire orchestra played superbly and the solo parts, taken by section leaders, were equally good. Violist Bruce Williams made a colorful Sancho Panza and the extraordinarily gifted young cellist, Douglas Harvey, (photo: right) played Don Quixote with his usual impeccable technical command and beautiful tone. In short, this performance of Stauss’s brilliant tone poem was entirely worthy of the imaginative effort that went into the surtitles.
Harvey’s Dying Don Quixote not Altogether Credible
I do have one small quibble, however; it seemed to me that the expression of the final section of the piece was a little on the formal side for what should be one of the most poignant moments in the classical repertoire.
Strauss was a master of writing deeply moving orchestral and operatic epilogues and in Don Quixote he has given us one of the best of them. These epilogues are often nostalgic reflections on lives lived and loves lost and in this case, of a life lived in fantasy and delusion.
We can all relate to Strauss’s themes to some degree and so we see and hear in Don Quixote’s music the sobering recognition of what could have been and will never be. Strauss indicates in the score that this music is to be played expressively, quietly, for the most part, and with the tempo getting slower and slower as the moment of death approaches.
I suspect that when Douglas Harvey returns to this piece later in his life, this section will mean more to him and he will give the music a more personal character. What is needed is a slower tempo, to be sure, but also a more inward quality perhaps achieved through a greater use of tonal colors and more flexibility in the phrasing.
As always, of course, there is a fine line between genuine depth of feeling and tasteless sentimentality. For example, Strauss himself cautioned cellists performing this piece against drawing out the final glissando inordinately. Like any great masterpiece, however, Don Quixote cannot possibly yield up all its riches in any single performance; for both performer and audience, there is always more to discover.
Maestro Peter Bay deserves credit, not only for rehearsing the ASO to such a high standard in this detailed and complex repertoire, but also for his imaginative programming.
Stories and Music from Dukas and Tchaikovsky
On the first half of the program were two other well-known works inspired by literature: Dukas The Sorcerer’s Apprentice and Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet. Together with Strauss’ Don Quixote, these three are very successful examples of their genre and give the audience a good deal to ponder with regard to how words and ideas can be translated into music.
The Dukas piece, as Maestro Bay pointed out in his pre-performance remarks, is already a vivid memory for many as portrayed on the screen by Walt Disney, with Mickey Mouse as the hapless apprentice. For many, Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet is also familiar from classroom study, theatrical productions or screen adaptations. By contrast, Cervantes’ Don Quixote is unlikely to have been studied by many at school, at least in North America. Those listeners who are familiar with the work, probably know the highly successful Broadway musical version (Man of La Mancha), or the movie version starring Peter O’Toole as a truly memorable Don Quixote.
Overall, one might say that this evening’s programme was a ‘popular’ one. But at the same time, each of these three works is a classical masterpiece and deserves to be taken seriously. And so they were.
I have written at length about Don Quixote. The other pieces also deserve discussion. Dukas’ The Sorcerer’s Apprentice is a tightly-constructed orchestral scherzo that builds inexorably in excitement and has a programme (or story) that is easy to follow in the music. The piece is also notable for the brilliance of its orchestration. Bay and the ASO gave us a very good performance, albeit a tad too careful to be as exciting as it can be.
The same could be said of Romeo and Juliet. The performance was disciplined and well-balanced where it could have been intense and passionate. The final timpani roll was uneven and the punctuating chords half-hearted and anti-climactic. In my experience, the sustained power desired here is best accomplished by using two sets of timpani.
Photo: Maestro Peter Bay and Austin Symphony rehearsal by Marita


Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Review: Massenet's Cendrillon at Koerner Hall

(top) Meghan Lindsay (Cendrillon) and Michael Ciufo (Prince Charming)
(bottom) Joelle Tan (Fairy Godmother)
Photos by Nicola Betts

One of the pleasures of springtime in Toronto is the opera production from the Glenn Gould School of the Royal Conservatory of Music. This year, it is particularly momentous because for the first time, it is taking place in the spanking new Koerner Hall. Opened since last September, this venue boasts excellent sight lines and superb acoustics. Having heard a number of concerts there already, most recently the Canadian Chopin Competition Winners' Concert, I was eager to hear (and see) an opera production. This year, the GGS Opera is Jules Massenet's Cendrillon. To most opera buffs, when they think of Cinderella, it is usually Rossini's La Cenerentola, with Cendrillon a distant second, a real shame as there's some beautiful music in the Massenet score. Depending on the production, it can be either rollickingly funny or whimsical and touching. It's not performed very often, but quite remarkably, it is being done by both GGS-RCM as well as Opera de Montreal within a couple of months this spring! The last time I saw this piece was a screamingly funny Paris Opera production by Laurent Pelly. It was one of the more memorable nights in the theatre in recent years.

GGS operas are sung by advanced students earmarked for professional careers, and each year there are new voices to discover. Last year's Cosi, for example, featured two excellent sisters - Inga Fillipova-Williams as Fiordiligi and Wallis Giunta as Dorabella. I attended today's show expecting some fine singing and I was not disappointed. The principal roles are all double-cast. Today's performance was the "first cast" with a bunch of fresh, appealing voices. Top vocal honours today went to soprano Meghan Lindsay as Cendrillon, a role usually sung by a mezzo. She has lovely stage presence and sang with silvery tone, with an exquisite mezza voce. Partnering her was tenor Michael Ciufo. Darkly handsome and singing with bright sound, excellent French and ingratiating tone save for a few tight top notes, Ciufo was a fine Prince Charming, a role sometimes also taken by a mezzo. The big Act 3 duet between Lindsay and Ciufo was the highlight of the opera. As Madame de la Haltiere, Ramona Carmelly had the right comic flair and rich tone. Baritone Maciej Bujnowicz looked a bit too young to be the father, but he was an unusually sympathetic Pandolfe. Also noteworthy was the crystalline, soubrette tones of Joelle Tan as the Fairy Godmother - this fairy had no magic wand but held a crystal globe in her palm! The supporting roles were all cast from strength.

The production benefited from the more spacious staging area of Koerner Hall, compared to the old Mazzoleni Hall. The simple but stylish sets by Brent Krysa worked very well in this space - it's amazing what an archway, a few screens, a settee, and a fireplace mantel can do! The presence of balconies allowed the Fairy to deliver her ethereal lines in Act 3 from high above - an effective moment. The costumes are sumptuous, particularly when you consider this is a student production. However, a few wigs would have been nice to match the period costumes, particularly for Madame Haltiere. I must say I was expecting some belly laughs along the lines of the Laurent Pelly production I saw. But it didn't happen - director Graham Cozzubbo underplayed the comic moments and emphasized the more wistful and sad elements of the story. The lighting by Robert Thomson was particularly well executed, helping the story telling greatly. The orchestra under the expert direction of conductor Uri Mayer sounded really wonderful, even if a little too loud during climactic moments. There were even surtitles, although placed a bit too high and the text too small for the audience. All in all, a most enjoyable show. The last performance takes place on March 25

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Sunday, 21 March 2010

This Week in Toronto (March 22 - 28)

Soprano Karina Gauvin (Photo: Michael Slobodian)

There are a number of very interesting concerts on offer this week. For one thing, English Canada's favourite Quebec singer, soprano Karina Gauvin is in town. She is appearing with the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra in selections from Handel's Alcina. Gauvin has had a big success in this piece, so it is a great chance to hear her live singing these arias. It is part of a program called Enchantress - the character of Alcina is a sorceress afterall. In addition to Alcina, we also get to hear the Vivaldi Motet In furore justissimae irae. The dates are March 25, 27, and 28 at the Trinity St. Paul's Centre, and March 30 at the George Weston Hall. It is good to have Tafelmusik still playing at this woefully underused North York venue. I remember so fondly the wonderful music I heard there throughout the 1990's. For concert times and tickets, go to

The Royal Conservatory of Music's production of Massenet's Cendrillon continues this week, with performances on Tuesday March 23 at the very odd time of 11:00 am at Koerner Hall. The last of four performances is on Thursday, March 25 at 7:30 pm. It features students from the Glenn Gould School program.

Another high profile visitor to TO this week is welcome return of conductor Rafael Fruhbeck de Burgos, the music director of the Dresden Philharmonic. He conducts Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, together with Spanish music - a piece by Turina and the perennial audience favourite Concierto di Aranjuez by Rodriqo, with Pepe Romero as the guitar soloist. Pepe Romero is of course part of the legendary Romero Family of great guitar players. Throughout my undergraduate days, I went to all the concerts of Angel Romero whenever I could. If you like the guitar, this is not to be missed - two performances on March 24 and 25 at 8 pm at Roy Thomson Hall. On Saturday March 27, at 1:30 and 3:30 pm, the TSO presents Spanish Fire! a program for young audiences of Spanish music at popular prices, featuring Pepe Romeo and the Esmeralda Enrique Spanish Dance Company.

On March 23 8 pm at the St. Lawrence Centre, Music Toronto presents pianist Stephane Lamelin in a program of Schubert Sonatas. The innovative Tapestry New Opera Works under music director Wayne Strongman - who incidentally was recently award the Order of Canada - is presenting Opera To Go, a revival of five short operas it had previously presented. It takes place at the fermenting Cellar, 55 Mills Street in the Distillery District of downtown Toronto. Performances on March 24, 25, and 26 at 8 pm. On Sunday March 28 at 2:30 pm, Opera in Concert presents Bellini's I Puritani at the Jane Mallet Theatre of the St. Lawrence Centre. This is a concert performance and with piano, but it seems unlikely this opera will be staged by our opera companies in town, so this is a good opportunity to hear it live.

Finally, a company previously unfamiliar to me, Wish Opera, is presenting an opera concert on March 25 and 27 8 pm at the Sandra Faire and Ivan Fecan Theatre of York University. Soloists are tenor Ermanno Mauro, soprano Sinead Sugrue, baritone James Westman, with orchestra conducted by Sabatino Vacca. Globe and Mail's Deirdre Kelly is the emcee. Wish Opera's very intriguing mission is to "create a modern vision of opera by fusing the existing beauty of operatic sound with contemporary fashion and design" - a most intriguing idea! For more information, go to

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Friday, 19 March 2010

Bear-like Pianist Denis Matsuev a Knockout

By L.H. Tiffany Hsieh

There was a bear on stage at Roy Thomson Hall Wednesday night, and he consumed the black Steinway concert grand like a toy piano.

OK, the Siberian-born pianist Denis Matsuev isn’t a bear, but the 34-year-old with all his Russian roar was bear-like in his performance of Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3 — lovable and cuddly on the outside, powerful on the inside, and prone to be violent in extreme situations.

Backed by conductor Valery Gergiev and the touring Mariinsky Orchestra (formerly the Kirov Orchestra), the Rach 3 was the centrepiece of an all-Russian program that marked the end of the Mariinsky’s two back-to-back concerts in Toronto.

Matsuev, a pianist with inhuman techniques, was more than generous in his delivery of the world’s toughest piece of piano music. The sound was big, to say the least, and depending on where you sat in the hall, it often drowned out the entire orchestra with seemingly little effort. At least that was the case sixth row from the stage and off centre to the right.

That being said, Matsuev was a pure knockout. His lyricism was subdued (lovable and cuddly), his sense of harmonics multi-dimensional (powerful), and his blistering climaxes extreme (prone to be violent). Even as he pounded across the keyboard in full force and oversaturated intensity, the lid shaking and all, there was something ecstatic about his playing that made you want to stay with the music instead of tuning out.

Gergiev and the fabled Mariinsky Orchestra did their best to keep up with the soloist, but there was only room for one bear on stage.

The crowd gave Matsuev a persistent standing ovation before receiving a solo encore prior to the intermission. With the orchestra still seated on stage, Matsuev played Figaro’s aria from Rossini’s Barber of Seville in a flashy Liszt-like transcription.

This is a pianist with a big heart and he holds nothing back. If you like things hot, you’ll love Matsuev. If you have a low tolerance for heat, Matsuev is better appreciated in small doses.

The rest of the program consisted of Liadov’s The Enchanted Lake and Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 15.

Anatol Liadov (1855-1914) was a pupil of Rimsky-Korsakov and teacher to Prokofiev. In The Enchanted Lake, which opened the concert, Gergiev created a romantic soundscape with serene colours and rich textures. Conducting baton-less and without a podium, Gergiev’s hands didn’t beat times (they musicians know how to count perfectly well by themselves). Rather, his incredibly soft-looking and what seemed like battery-run tripe-jointed fingers fluttered about in the air, sending out vibrations of feelings.

As a listener, Gergiev’s hands were intriguing to watch throughout the concert. However, by the end of the concert, in Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 15, one wondered whether it was a necessity, a conducting style, or a nervous tic that those fingers fluttered as much and fast as butterflies do.

The Mariinsky Orchestra was a powerhouse in Shostakovich’s last symphony, which isn’t an easy piece to take in for an average listener. Throughout its barren four movements — the fastest being allegretto — the musicians responded to Gergiev’s ever-animated hand gestures and displayed a well-absorbed understanding of the piece’s dark inner meaning. The solo cello was especially haunting and beautiful while the percussions offered a striking blend with absolute precision.

Gergiev gave an encore following another standing ovation. After several more bowings, he signaled section principals to exist the stage and waved goodbye at the audience.

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Thursday, 18 March 2010

Pressler at Pollack

By Hannah Rahimi and Kali Halapua

The 86 year-old Menahem Pressler appeared last night at Pollack Hall before a packed house of appreciative musicians and music lovers. A generous performer, Pressler smiled throughout the evening, possessed with a twinkling energy that fueled his playing and spread throughout the audience. Well-programmed, the concert consisted of Dvorak’s Quintet in A Major, Op. 81, performed with the Cecilia String Quartet, McGill’s graduate quartet in residence, followed by Schubert’s beloved “Trout” quintet, performed with McGill faculty members, Jonathan Crow (violin), Douglas McNabney (viola), Matt Haimovitz (cello) and Ali Yazdanfar (double bass).

The young Cecilia Quartet presented an elegant interpretation of Dvorak’s lyrical, folk-inspired work, to a standing ovation. They showed their best in the livelier moments of the piece, displaying an impressive unity of expression and articulation. At times, their phrasing and melodic contrasts could have been more strongly emphasized to give the piece a greater intensity. Pressler’s exquisite phrasing stood out; he transformed the piece with melodic expression that seemed as natural as breathing.

After intermission, the performance of the Trout quintet exemplified the best of chamber music with highly responsive, nuanced playing. Crow displayed his remarkable sense of phrasing and tone, enjoying a brilliant rapport with Pressler. The blend of sound between Crow, McNabney, Haimovitz and Yazdanfar was beautifully rich and varied.

Watching Pressler interact with the other performers was a reminder of the pure joy that can arise from playing chamber music. Music appears to be an energizing force that has carried Pressler through 86 years with no sign of slowing down.

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Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Interview: Sondra Radvanovsky at The New Classical 96.3 FM

(b) Soprano Sondra Radvanovsky in Concert at the New Classical 96.3 FM
(t) Radvanovsky interviewed by broadcaster Alexa Petrenko (Photos by Soula Zisidis)

Soprano Sondra Radvanovsky is Canada's - and Toronto's - best kept secret. I say that because the internationally renowned soprano sings in all the important opera houses of the world, yet hardly ever in her adopted country of Canada. The American-born Radvanovsky is married to a Canadian, Duncan Lear, who is also her business manager. They have been living near Toronto for quite some years now. Yet the only time she has sung in Toronto was a brief appearance in LUNA, an opera concert during the Luminato Festival three years ago. But things are going to change. This Saturday March 20 8 pm, Radvanovsky and the Russian baritone sensation Dmitri Hvorostovsky will give an opera concert at Roy Thomson Hall. This is part of a tour sponsored by Show One Productions that will take them to Montreal and New York. They have sung together in many opera productions, but particularly in Verdi's Il Trovatore. They will reprise the opera at the Arena di Verona this coming summer. This fall, Radvanovsky will be making a belated COC debut, as Aida, which will also be her role debut. An authentic "Verdi soprano", Radvanovsky has a dark-hued and sumptuous soprano of beauty and power, with a remarkable range, from mezzo lows to a high E-natural. She is also capable of a full range of dynamics, from honeyed mezza voce to knock 'em dead fortissimos. I have heard Regine Crespin and Gwyneth Jones live, two legendary sopranos known for the huge sounds they made. Judging by yesterday's concert that Radvanovsky gave at the New Classical 96.3 FM, our Sondra has them beat in the volume department, and beautiful too!

For an hour, Radvanovsky sang a very generous recital of six arias, including four very substantial pieces. She began with 'Tacea la notte placida' from Il Trovatore. Hearing that vibrant, dark-timbred soprano up close was thrilling. She followed by "Tu che le vanita", Elisabetta's last act aria from Don Carlo, which she just sang in Paris last week. This long, 7 minute aria requires a true grandi voce and Radvanovsky has it in spades. The third aria was 'Ernani, involami', complete with the vocal fireworks, followed by Amelia's 'Morro, ma prima di grazia' from Ballo, a role she is going to tackle next season. She then surprised us with the chestnut, 'O mio babbino caro' - not something in her repertoire, but of course one of the most recognizable arias. It was amazing to hear her huge voice singing this essentially soubrette piece! Her last piece was an even bigger surprise, a song made famous by Canada-born Deanna Durbin, "Beneath the Lights of Home", a sentimental piece sung with great feeling by Radvanovsky. In between, she chatted with the host Alexa Petrenko. After the concert, I had a chance of interviewing the soprano. She is a completely delightful person, very down to earth with no trace of the diva. Here is a transcript of our interview:


JS: Is it true that you started your career at the age of eleven? What were you singing at that age?
SR: I was singing a lot of Italian art songs. I did my first opera as a smoke girl in Carmen, at 13! It was in a little town in Richmond, Indiana.
JS: Have you always had this dark timbre in your sound?
SR: Yes, I have. Actually my voice developed very early. I started as a mezzo...that's where the colour came from. Maybe it's also the Czech part of my heritage. My father is Czech and my mom Danish.
JS: Can you still speak Czech?
SR: Yes, a little.
JS: Where did you do your vocal studies?
SR: I went to USC and UCLA, as a theatre major. I also studied privately with Martial Singher when I was at UCLA.
JS: You also studied with Ruth Falcon?
SR: Yes, for fourteen years - I left her two years ago.
JS: What about Diana Soviero? Do you still work with her?
SR: Yes, I work with her on and off - it's just hard to find the time. I work mostly with my coach in New York: I've been with him now for sixteen years. I basically know how to sing...I just need a set of ears to tell me if something is right or not.
JS: You said your voice changed drastically the last year and a half....can you explain?
SR: When a singer is forty, the voice starts to deepen and is a maturity thing that singers go through. I'm learning about my voice...
JS: Does that mean Norma is beckoning?
SR: Yes it does! I have three contracts for it, maybe even four...It'll be in 2012. I did Lucrezia Borgia a year ago and it's a really good step into Norma. I also have the three Queens (Donizetti's Maria Stuarda, Roberto Devereux, and Anna Bolena) slated. I'll be doing them together in one place...can't say where yet, but it's in a very large opera house (laughs). I'll then be doing them separately around the world....
JS: I'm so looking forward to your Aida....
SR: It's a role that has scared me for the longest time, I must say. There is so much tradition associated with this opera...
JS: With your high pianissimos it'll be perfect...
SR: What scares me more is the first aria, 'Ritorna vincitor' - it's so dramatic and so easy to get caught up in the drama as opposed to staying calm. Yes, I'm excited but a little nervous!
JS: Would you say the Trovatore Leonora is your signature role?
SR: Absolutely! I've done it hundreds of times.
JS: What about Elena in Vespri?
SR: Oh I do love sing Vespri! You get to show off so much of your voice - I throw in the high E-natural at the end of the Bolero. She has three really great arias...
JS: It's not done very often, is it?
SR: I think it's because it is such a big production, and it really requires some sincere, honest, true Verdi singers to carry it off. I'll be doing it in Torino in March 2011.
JS: Who had the biggest influence on you when you were growing up and studying to be an opera singer?
SR: The biggest influence was Placido Domingo. I saw him on TV singing in Tosca at the Arena di Verona when I was eleven. I said to my mom - 'I want to do that'! The first recording I bought was La forza del destino with Leontyne Price, Domingo and Sherrill Milnes. I listened to Price and I thought - oh, where did this voice come from?! It's so beautiful, like molten lava, the chocolaty warm sound. Then I found Maria Callas! Domingo, Price and Callas had the biggest influence on me. I was very lucky to find and be attracted to voices that are similar to mine too!
JS: What do you love most about your work, as an opera singer?
SR: I love to sing, I really do. It sounds cheesy and simple, but the thrill of standing on stage emoting, telling the story to the audience, capturing them for three hours, transporting them to a different world, having people forget their worries for three hours...for me, the visceral feeling of singing - there's nothing like it in the world! And I get paid to do it...
JS: Do you still study? Do you vocalize every day?
SR: Yes, studying - it's a constant, ongoing thing. During the opera season I vocalize every day, but in the summer time, I like to take time off. We sing such heavy music, I need a rest in the summer. I try to take three months off, but things sneak in. I'll go to Vienna for a Verdi Requiem, and then I go to Verona to sing Trovatore with Dmitri. I sang there six years ago. I was doing 'D'amour sull'ali rose', and a shooting star went across the sky - you think, where else in the world can you have this...
JS: Now, what do you NOT like about your profession?
SR: (Big laughs) The travelling! For me, travelling, and being away from home is difficult. Luckily, my husband travels with me, so I bring part of my home with me. It's become such a hassle after 9/11. Just simple things like taking a bottle of water on the plane, being body feel so violated. Just the hassle of it.
JS: Have you ever missed an engagement because of this?
SR: No, thank goodness! But I've missed a plane because of it. That part of it is tough...missing birthdays, weddings, anniversaries. You really get to know who are your real, dear friends. Unfortunately, they often have to come travel to you. But you make it work. The good thing is you know when you are going to be home. I have my schedule for the next 6 or 7 years - I'm booked to 2016-17, so I know when I'll have a free week to go to the Bahamas!
JS: How many performances do you sing a year?
SR: It depends, maybe 40 operas. Including concert, it's maybe up to 50, 55.
JS: If you do have spare time, what do you enjoy doing?
SR: Sitting at home (laughs) I'm a real homebody...sitting at home and having friends over. It's such a simple joy. We have a new house we bought in September and I haven't seen the flowers grow yet. We have ten acres, trees, pond...I love going into the garden.
JS: Do you enjoy your life here in Canada?
SR: I do, I really love it! We live right by the forks of the Credit now...walking down there right by the river. Canada is breathtaking...this area is spectacular, and the people are so nice.
JS: When you are not learning music, not studying, what do you listen to?
SR: A lot of pop music...I just bought Barbra Streisand's CD - she's a good friend of ours. I also like Josh Groban... he's also a friend of ours. Love Billy Joel, 80's music... of my generation. It's fun, easy listening.

A short 2 minute video clip of the Radvanovsky concert at The New Classical 96.3 FM can be found on Youtube:

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Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Cette Semaine à Montréal / This Week in Montreal (16 – 23 mars / March)

Musique / Music

The prodigious German violinist Christian Tetzlaff makes his debut with the OSM on March 15 and 16 in a performance of Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto. This concert will feature the renowned conducting skills of Sir Andrew Davis, who will also lead the orchestra in performances of Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune and Elgar’s first symphony. (, 514-842-2112) – Hannah Rahimi

The Molinari Quartet celebrates the Russian composer Alfred Schnittke with a series of lectures and performances at the Conservatoire de musique de Montréal. On March 17, 18, and 19, audiences can attend free lectures at 5 p.m. Each evening at 8 p.m. various Schnittke quartets will be performed (tickets are $5). The series culminates in a marathon concert on March 20 with performances of all four string quartets, In memoriam Igor Stravinsky for quartet, and the piano quintet with guest Louise Bessette. (, 514-527-5515) – Hannah Rahimi

Pour clore la saison de leur 40e anniversaire, l’ensemble de musique de chambre Musica Camerata de Montréal présente Les Russes et le klezmer, comprenant deux œuvres pour clarinette, violoncelle et piano : le Trio Pathétique de Glinka et Les Noces du Klezmer de Srul I. Glick. Une première canadienne terminera le programme: un Quintette pour piano et quatuor à cordes de Sergey Taneyev. Le concert aura lieu le 20 mars à 20 h – et non en avril, comme indiqué au dépliant – à la salle Redpath de l’Université McGill. (514-489-8713, – Renée Banville 

Polyphonie européenne et musique traditionnelle latine, c’est ce métissage unique que présente le samedi 20 mars à 20 h l’Ensemble Caprice dans la Salsa baroque sous l’habile direction du flûtiste Matthias Maute. Reconnu sur la scène internationale, l’ensemble instrumental est récipiendaire avec le SMAM du prix Opus
« Concert de l’année – Musiques médiévale, de la renaissance, baroque » et d’un prix Juno « Meilleur album de musique classique – Catégorie musique vocale ou chorale ». (Chapelle Notre-Dame-de-
Bon-Secours. 514-423-3611, – Renée Banville

Le dimanche 21 mars à 19 h 30, le Studio de musique ancienne de Montréal (SMAM), aussi lauréat aux prix
Opus, présente un concert avec les Voix Humaines. Intitulé La Traversée de la Manche, le programme comprend des oœuvres pour voix et violes signées Gibbons, Jenkins, du Caurroy, Lejeune et Bouzignac. Les oeuvres choisies démontreront ce qui se faisait de mieux autour de 1600 des deux côtés de la Manche, dans le domaine tant sacré que profane. (Église Saint-Léon-de-Westmount. 514-861-2626, – Renée Banville

Le dimanche 21 mars à 15h30, la Chapelle est heureuse d’accueillir pour la première fois le pianiste belge de réputation internationale Olivier de Spiegeler. Encensé pour son jeu d’une grande clarté au timbre subtil et au toucher délicat, le pianiste interprète des œuvres de Schumann, Frank et Chopin. (Chapelle Historique du Bon-Pasteur, 514-872-5338) – Renée Banville


Amateurs de musiques improvisées, prenez note ! Le mardi 16, la série hebdomadaire Les Mardis Spaghetti met sa main aux pâtes (sic) avec son Marathon Macaroni, soit 14 heures ininterrompues de musiques créatives tous azimuts, et ce, dès 10 h le matin. Plus d’une cinquantaine de prestations défileront sur la petite scène du Cagibi (5490, boulevard Saint-Laurent, angle Saint-Viateur) avec des participants d’ici et d’ailleurs (Canada, É-U. et Europe).

Mar. 16
* Le marathon Macaroni. La série hebdomadaire de musiques improvisées Les mardis Spaghetti fête ses deux ans au Cagibi de 10 h à minuit. [Programmation en ligne :]

* Jean-Nicholas Trottier Big Band. Maison de la culture Mercier. [872-8755] 20 h

Mer. 17
* Quartette du tromboniste Jean-Nicholas Trottier. (Lancement du disque sur Étiquette Effendi.) Upstairs Jazz Bar. 20 h 30 (En reprise, le 24 au même endroit.)

Jeu 18
* Quartette du batteur Simon Delage. Jazz Club Restaurant Dièse onze. 20 h 30

Mar. 23
* Le guitariste Larry Coryell et son ensemble. L’Astral. 20 h

Marc Chénard

Arts visuels / Visual Arts

Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal, jusqu'au 2 mai 2010


The Centaur follows up with The Comedy of Errors, a co-production with the National Arts Centre. Inspired by Montreal’s crazed festival season, the play provides a modern look at one of Shakespeare’s earliest and most comedic plays. It tells the story of a family divided by business. Two sets of twins, separated for 33 years, suddenly find themselves in the bustling city of Ephesus. Needless to say, mass confusion and hilarious accidents ensue, including mistaken identities, infidelities and wrongful beatings. Yet, the family is reunited through love in the end, and establishes a richer and deeper bond than ever before. The Comedy of Errors runs from March 2nd to the 28th. – Jessica Hill

Theatre: In March at the Segal, a co-production with Théâtre du Rideau-Vert brings us Old Wicked Songs, the story of a young American piano prodigy and his teacher. The young virtuoso, hoping to re-ignite his artistic spark, ventures to Vienna. However, he ends up colliding with his Viennese music teacher instead. Separated by their experiences, their ideas and their generations, it is their mutual love for music that becomes the one bond strong enough to bridge the gap. Robert Schumann’s songs are woven throughout the play as past and present confront each other through these two men.

Theatre: Infinitheatre presents Fatherland during the month of March. It tells the story of a quiet Westmount family that finds its sheltered world shattered one Sunday morning. A young boy is busy writing an essay about Saddam Hussein’s two sons and the aftermath of the American invasion, when his uncle lets slip to his father that he owes money to a mobster and that the mobster is on his way over to collect. Outrage, desperation and tumult arise, leading the boy to draw parallels between Saddam’s sons and his own father and uncle: brothers trapped in an opulent house while a mortal enemy draws near. Fatherland explores the power of blood ties and the mutual debt owed between sons and fathers
Jessica Hill


EXCUSE-MOI. L’auteur de la télésérie Aveux n’a plus besoin de prouver sa maïtrise du suspense, son don pour faire vivre avec sensibilité les personnages de gens ordinaires qui cachent de douloureux secrets. Dans cette nouvelle pièce attendue, Serge Boucher ramène le protagoniste de 24 Poses et , François, confronté ici à deux épisodes charnières de la vie de ses parents. Jusqu'au 27 mars, au Théâtre Jean-Duceppe

HUIS CLOS. On n’a plus guère l’occasion, à Montréal, de voir sur scène le théâtre de Jean-Paul Sartre. Quelle résonance aura aujourd’hui l’impitoyable – et la plus célèbre – pièce du philosophe existentialiste, créée en 1944 ? L’infernal trio condamné à passer l’éternité à se faire souffrir prend ici les visages de Pascale Bussières, Patrice Robitaille et Julie Le Breton. Jusqu'au 3 avril, au Théâtre du Nouveau Monde

Marie Labreque

Danse / Dance

Jusqu’au 21, Tangente y va d’une programmation tous azimuts avec, notamment Caroline Dubois, Andrew Turner et Isabel Mohn. Du 5 au 20, Paula de Vasconcelos revient séduire avec sa dansethéâtre en racontant l’histoire de la découverte de la route des Indes dans Boa Goa. La danseuse tétraplégique France Geoffroy (voir le photo) se produit quant à elle au Monument national du 17 au 27, dans une chorégraphie d’Estelle Clareton précédée d’une pièce de hip hop. Du 18 au 27, les GBCM nous offrent un programme triple de pièces de Jiri Kylian alors qu’Harold Rhéaume se déplace de Québec pour mettre son âme à Nu sur la scène de l’Agora. Organisé par le Studio 303, le Festival Edgy Women s’invite à Tangente du 20 au 28 pour son volet danse et c’est avec du flamenco contemporain que mars rejoint avril.

Fabienne Cabado

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