La Scena Musicale

Friday, 16 July 2010

Stratford Summer Music 2010: A Preview

Tenor Ben Heppner headlines Stratford Summer Music
(Photo: Kristin Hoebermann)

Stratford has long been famous for its Shakespeare, but for classical music lovers in southern Ontario, the Stratford Summer Music is a welcome musical oasis in the months of July and August, while major musical organizations the likes of the Toronto Symphony and the Canadian Opera Company are in hiatus. Billed as "Stratford's Other Festival", SSM is now in its 10th season under the directorship of John Miller. With the news this week that the attempt to start a classical music festival at Niagara-on-the-Lake has been met with failure, classical music lovers can doubly appreciate SSM for its excellent music making. The highest profile artist this summer is undoubtedly Ben Heppner. Given the Canadian tenor is usually busy singing in European festivals, it was quite a coup for Stratford Summer Music to engage him for not just one show, but for the better part of a week! Heppner will give three hour -long rectials that start at the unique time (to SSM, that is!) of 11:15 a.m. at St. Andrew's Church (July 22, 23, 24). CBC broadcaster Barbara Budd joins Heppner in a tribute to Canadian tenor Edward Johnson, who was also the general manager of the Metropolitan Opera back in the 30's and 40's. This show is now called Edward and Beatriz: A Love Story, conceived by CBC's Neil Crory. With John Hess at the piano, Heppner will sing songs and arias that featured prominently in Johnson's career, including "If With All Your Hearts" from Elijah, "Aprile" by Tosti, "Donna non vidi mai" from Manon Lescaut, "Amor ti vieta" from Fedora, and "Waltzes and Wine" from Oscar Strauss' A Waltz Dream. Other Heppner programming includes a solo recital on July 20, a masterclass for three young Canadian singers (tenors Joey Niceforo and Van Abrahams and baritone Vasil Garvanliev). Heppner is also the soloist with the 100-member National Youth Orchestra under the baton of Jacques Lacombe on Sunday evening, July 25.

Heppner is by no means the only game in town. SSM also features many other fine artists. If jazz is your thing, be sure to catch Jackie Richardson, Peter Appleyard, Gene DiNovi and others in the Festival Finale on Sunday Aug. 22. Jean-Philippe Tremblay conducts musicians from the L'Orchestre de la francophonie canadienne. Other classical musicians appearing in the festival includes cellist Winona Zelenka , violinist Benjamin Bowman and pianist Jan Lisiecki, who happens to be a 15-year old piano sensation. I look forward to his all Chopin recital on Aug. 12 at 11:15 a.m. For complete program and ticket information, go to

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