La Scena Musicale

Sunday, 17 April 2011

This Week in Toronto (Apr. 18 - 24)

Gioachino Antonio Rossini (1792 - 1868)

by Joseph K. So

The Canadian Opera Company's spring season swings into action this week with Rossini's La cenerentola, one of the best known among his 39 operas. I had a sneak peek at one of the working rehearsals last week, and can say Torontonians are in for a real treat! Absolutely gorgeous production - best described as an updated and stylized traditional style - with amazing costumes and superlative singing. This Rossini was last staged by the COC exactly fifteen years ago in April 1996, starring the glamorous Italian diva Ana Caterina Antonacci as Angelina. Although billed as a soprano, Antonacci has one of those "falcon" or Zwischenfach voices that are good in low soprano or high mezzo roles (Octavian, Donna Elvira, Marie, Didon, Santuzza). This time around, we have a totally different Angelina in Elizabeth DeShong, a genuine low mezzo with a rich, resonant timbre, an exceptional upper extension and great agility. The Ramiro is the terrific American Lawrence Brownlee. I first heard Brownlee in the Montreal Opera Gala in 2001. Even at the very beginning of his career at that time, his voice was already amazing. To my ears, Brownlee is the only legitimate competition to the great Peruvian Juan Diego Florez, and the American's mellower sound is preferable to Florez's extremely bright but somewhat edgy timbre. Canadian baritone Brett Polegato is Dandini and Italian buffo Donato DiStefano makes a welcome return to the COC as Magnifico. American baritone Kyle Ketelson is Alidoro - talk about luxury casting! Italian maestro Leonardo Vordoni makes his company debut. The show opens on Saturday April 23 at 7:30 pm at the Four Seasons Centre for nine performances. The COC's free noon-hour vocal series at the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre continues on April 21 with a recital of songs by Mahler and Strauss featuring artists of the COC Ensemble Studio. No program as of press time but you can be sure it will be good. Be sure to show up an hour ahead for a seat.

On Good Friday, a day before the opening of the Rossini, Opera Atelier opens with Mozart's La clemenza di Tito starring soprano Measha Brueggergosman as Vitellia. It follows her highly successful OA debut as Elettra in Idomeneo three years ago. Measha has achieved pop diva status in Canadian culture. She doesn't sing opera all that often so this is a good chance to hear her. Returning to the company is Serbian dramatic tenor Kresimer Spicer as Tito, and American male soprano Michael Maniaci as Sesto. Canadians soprano Mireille Asselin (Servilia) and mezzo Mireille Lebel (Annio) round out the cast. David Fallis conducts the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra. Six performances at the Elgin Theatre starting April 22.

The Canadian Music Centre is celebrating the life of the late Ann Southam in a tribute at the MacMillan Theatre, Edward Johnson Building of the University of Toronto Faculty of Music on April 21 at 7:30 pm. This is billed as a gathering of family, friends, colleagues and admirers of the late Canadian composer. This event is free but please email to let the organizers know at

This being Easter Week, there are numerous concerts big and small celebrating the Christian event. A particularly interesting one is the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir presenting Sacred Music for a Sacred Space: a celebration of Healey Willan. On the program are sacred works by the late Canadian composer. Noel Edison as usual conducts. The event is on Good Friday at 7:30 pm, at the St. Paul's Basilica, 83 Power Street in Toronto.

Finally for something a little different, the 2011 Christina and Louis Quilico Awards is going to take place on Wednesday at 5:30 pm at the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre of the Four Seasons Centre. This event will be hosted by the Ontario Arts Foundation. The late Louis Quilico was of course Canada's greatest Verdi baritone, and his second wife Christina Petrowska Quilico a well known pianist and pedagogue. This competition is unusual in that all contestants are COC Ensemble Studio members. The jurors are Alexander Neef of the COC, David Speers of Opera Hamilton and John Hess, pianist and head of Queen of Puddings Theatre. Remember to show up an hour ahead to ensure a seat.



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