La Scena Musicale

Saturday, 16 October 2010

This Week in Toronto (Oct. 18 - 31)

top: soprano Marianne Fiset (Photo: Joseph So)
left: baritone Brett Polegato ( Photo: Joseph So)

bottom: Barbara Cook (Photo: Mike Martin)
Lower left: Rubies recipients (l. to r.) Roger Moore, Edith Wiens, Dawn Martens, Stephen Ralls, Bruce Ubukata

Now we are in mid October, the musical season is in full swing. The second production of the Canadian Opera Company, Death in Venice, opened last Saturday for an eight performance run (Oct. 16 - Nov. 6). Early reports praised British tenor Alan Oke as the very embodiment of the central character Aschenbach vocally and dramatically. And we are fortunate to have conductor Steuart Bedford, who conducted the premiere, to be here! The co-production with Aldeburgh, Lyon, Bregenz and Prague is atmospheric and visually striking. This opera isn't performed very often - last time at the COC was back in June 1984. Be sure to catch it or you may have to wait another twenty-six years! Two other bits of COC news - the Lepage production of Nightingale and Other Short Fables is going to the Brooklyn Academy of Art in March, with essentially the same cast, but conducted by COC music director Johannes Debus. The other news is starting Oct. 21, the role of Aida will be taken over by Canadian soprano Michele Capalbo for the next six performances. Capalbo has sung Aida in Nice, Houston, Toulouse, Santiago, among other places, and is scheduled to sing it in San Francisco. For ticket information, go to

Opera Atelier, Canada's baroque opera company, opens its season with Handel's Acis and Galatea. It starts tenor Thomas Macleay as Acis and soprano Mireille Asselin as Galatea. Macleay was excellent in his last appearance in OC's Iphigenie en Tauride so it is good to have him back. Portuguese baritone Joao Fernandes makes a welcome return as Polyphemus. David Fallis conducts. The show opens on Saturday Oct. 30 7:30 pm at the Elgin Theatre.

More on the subject of opera - the 11th Opera Canada Awards, "the Rubies", a glittery black tie affair, took place last Thursday in Toronto. Recipients included Edith Wiens, Dawn Martens, Roger Moore, Stephen Ralls and Bruce Ubukata. They were honoured for their contribution to opera in Canada. Among the presenters were MC soprano Carol Vaness and COC general director Alexander Neef. Singing in honour of the recipients was soprano Marianne Fiset for Edith Wiens, bass-baritone Jason Howard for Dawn Martens, soprano Shannon Mercer for Roger Moore, and baritone Brett Polegato for Ralls and Ubukata. For the first time, an additional award, the ARIAS Emerging Young Artist Award was given to Canadian baritone Elliot Madore, who won the Met Auditions in March of this year.
On Monday October 18 8 pm is a special Opera Gala, starring several singers who have never sung in complete operas locally - sopranos Violeta Urmana and Michele Crider, tenors Antonello Palombi and Alfredo Nigro, baritone Alberto Gazale, and bass Paata Burchuladze. No program or orchestra information at press time. Go to

Opera in Concert's mandate is to present rare operas or pieces that are unlikely to be staged by our opera companies. OIC begins its season with Glinka's Ruslan and Lyudmila, apparently a Canadian premiere! Singers are bass-baritone Taras Kulish and soprano Luiza Zhuleva. It is on Sunday 2:30 pm at the Jane Mallet Theatre.

One more opera event - Opera York is presenting the perennial favorite of Puccini's La boheme, with soprano Sinead Sugrue and tenor James Ciantar, both students of retired Canadian tenor Ermanno Mauro. Sugrue and Ciantar have excellent voices and look the part. The show is on Sunday Oct. 31 at 2 pm at the Richmond Hill Centre for the Performing Arts. Go to for more details.

There are many concerts and recitals in the next couple of weeks, perhaps none as rare as the appearance of 83 year old Barbara Cook, a legend of Broadway and Jazz. I remember she used to come to Toronto quite often, having caught her show at the Bayview Playhouse, Royal York Hotel, and Harbourfront Centre. Just when I thought she must be happily retired, here she is coming to do a performance at Koerner Hall at the Royal Conservatory on Friday, Oct. 22 at 8 pm! It will be an evening of Stephen Sondheim and others. If you have been a fan like I have in the past, go to her show. If you have never heard her, this is your chance! And yes, at 83, she can still sing, sounding like someone half her age. Go to

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra presents a light-hearted evening of Broadway Divas: Music from Wicked, My Fair Lady, Chicago, Phantom of the Opera. Steven Reineke conducts vocalists Julia Murney and Jennifer Laura Thomson. Three shows at Roy Thomson Hall on Oct. 19 8 pm and 20 (2 pm and 8 pm). With Halloween coming, the TSO is presenting Phantom of the Orchestra on Saturday Oct. 23 1:30 and 3:30, at very popular prizes, aimed at a young audience. Performing are artists from the Magic Circle Mime Company, conducted by Stuart Chafetz. Lest you think that the TSO is going pop completely, it's good to know they are presenting a program of Beethoven, Haydn, and Bruckner, with Canadian super virtuoso pianist Marc-Andre Hamelin, conducted by Thomas Dausgaard. The concert is on Thursday Oct. 28 at 7:30 pm. Dausgaard is a highly regarded conductor from Denmark. He is chief conductor of the Swedish Chamber Orchestra and the Danish National Symphony Orchestra. The Toronto Mahler Society is sponsoring an event, An Evening With Thomas Dausgaard, for the absolutely minimal fee of $5.00 and it is free for students! Here is the link to the press release - it is definitely worth attending -
On Halloween weekend, the TSO presents Creepy Classics, like The Sorcerer's Apprentice and selections from Symphonie Fantastique. The conductor is Alastair Willis, and audience is invited to come in costume! Well, this must be a first for the TSO! This program is repated on Sunday Oct. 31 at 3 pm.

On Tuesday Oct. 26, the Venice Baroque Orchestra presents The Seasons Project, in a novel program of pairing Vivaldi's Four Seasons with Philip Glass' The American Four Seasons. Robert McDuffie is the violinist and leader. The concert is at Roy Thomson Hall at 8 pm.

The Aldeburgh Connection, the brainchild of Rubies recipients Stephen Ralls and Bruce Ubukata (see above) presents The Patrons' Salon, with works by Britten, Grainer, Honegger, Lehmann, Mahler and others. Singers include soprano Monica Whicher, mezzo Anita Krause, tenor James McLean and baritone Alexander Dobson. There will be three honorary patrons, mezzo Catherine Robbin, stage director Christopher Newton, and conductor Steuart Bedford. The concert is at Walter Hall on Sunday Oct. 24 2:30 pm.

UpdateMichael Nyman, composer of the award-winning soundtrack to Jane Campion's The Piano, visits TIFF Bell Lightbox for one weekend in October with two special musical presentations. Both programmes will include performances of additional works selected from Michael Nyman’s music and film repertoire. On Saturday October 23 at 8 PM the Michael Nyman Band performs the composer’s original score for Dziga Vertov’s masterpiece of montage Man With a Movie Camera. On Sunday, October 24 at 1 PM, the Michael Nyman Band will play alongside Nyman's painstaking shot-for-shot reconstruction of Vertov's film, NYman With a Movie Camera, which uses footage from the composer's personal film archive shot over the past two decades to create a modern-day take on experimental documentary filmmaking.

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