La Scena Musicale

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Institut du Cancer's Invigorating Italian Soirée

By Naomi Gold

L’Institut du cancer de Montréal recently staged its 4th annual Concert Contre le Cancer on a chilly February evening at Place des Arts. The gala commenced with a sumptuous cocktail reception for benefactors and sponsors, which was attended by Quebec Minister of Health, Dr. Yves Bolduc. Traiteur Dansereau, which is celebrating 75 delectable years in business, delighted palates with its dazzling dinner menu and luscious libations.  Attendees were also kept busy bidding on fabulous auction lots, including a trip for two to Italy. 

Guests proceeded to Salle Wilfrid Pelletier for keynote addresses by ICM president André Boulanger, who heads distribution at Hydro-Québec, and campaign committee president Tony Loffreda.  Both discussed ICM's crucial role as a research centre which ultimately translates laboratory progress into clinical protocols.  

Montreal native maestro Giuseppe Pietraroia flew in from Victoria, B.C., to conduct the Orchestre Métropolitain and choir in a mellifluous Italian program. Baritone Gino Quilico, soprano Gianna Corbisiero and tenor Antoine Bélanger interpreted operatic arias by Verdi, Puccini, Donizetti and Bellini. A wildly enthusiastic sold-out crowd burst into rapturous applause following "Va pensiero" from Nabucco and "Gloria all'Egitto" from Aïda. 

Post-performance, patrons and sponsors headed back to the piano nobile reception area for a seriously sinful sweet table which featured a plethora of scrumptious, Italian-style eats 'n treats.  Honorary gala president this year was Sanofi-Aventis Canada Inc. A total of $550,000 was netted for the oncology program at the 'Centre de Recherche du Centre Hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal. Funds are specifically earmarked for CRCHUM's 'Reverse the Brain Drain' initiative. The initiative has repatriated five high-caliber medical researchers since 2007.  Bravissimi tutti e fino all'anno prossimo !

Photo courtesy of l’Institut du cancer de Montréal

Photo caption:
Artists and ICM directors, from left to right:
Antoine Bélanger, ténor; guest conductor Giuseppe Pietraroia; Gino Quilico, baritone; André Boulanger, president of l'Institut du cancer de Montréal; Maral Tersakian, ICM director general; Gianna Corbisiero, soprano; Tony Loffreda, 2011 campaign committee president and  Western Quebec VP for the Royal Bank's commercial financial services division

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Monday, 21 February 2011

This Week in Toronto (Feb. 21 - 27)

Tenor Frederic Antoun (photo courtesy of IMG Artists)

There is still time to catch the very wonderful Canadian Opera Company's The Magic Flute this week. I went to see it for the 3rd (!) time yesterday... yes, I am a Flute junkie when it is as beautifully staged and sung as this production. Yesterday I was mightily impressed by the Quebec tenor Frederic Antoun. He sang with gorgeous tone and elegant phrasing, a perfect timbre for Mozart. I recall seeing his Belmonte with Opera Atelier about three years ago and he was just terrific. If memory serves, for some strange reason 'Ich baue ganz' was cut. I remember writing in my review for Opera (UK) to the fact that if any tenor can do justice to this great aria, it would be Antoun. Well, his Tamino is just as wonderful. And he has good chemistry with his Pamina, soprano Simone Osborne. Aline Kutan reprised her famous Queen yesterday. It was great to see the irrepressible Mr. Rodion Pogossov again as Papageno - you won't find a more energetic and beautifully sung Papageno anywhere. You have two more chances to hear these great artists - Wednesday Feb. 23 and Friday Feb. 25.
The other COC production, Nixon In China, is a bit overshadowed by Flute, and it's a shame as the production is terrific and John Adams' music is very accessible, and yes beautiful too. Three more performances this week on Feb. 22, 24, and 26. For details, go to

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra presents an eclectic combination of Elgar, Liszt and Stravinsky under the baton of Vasily Petrenko. Canadian pianist Andre Laplante is the soloist in Liszt's Piano Concerto No. 1, paired with the ever popular The Rite of Spring by Stravinsky. The opener is Elgar's In The South, Op. 50, "Alassio" Two performances, on Wednesday and Thursday at 8 p.m. in Roy Thomson Hall. On Saturday Feb. 26, it's a special performance in the Beyond The Score series with an exploration of the historical and musicological aspects of The Rite of Spring. According to the program, "The Exposed concert series takes both new and experienced music lovers on a journey into selected major works. Hear musical excerpts and commentary, and discover what makes each piece unique and important. Concerts are presented within an informative context during the first half, followed by a full performance of the work in the second half." This is another example of the innovative programming at the TSO. For details go to

An intriguing concert is Masque of Irony, an evening of Randy Newman songs sung by Canadian tenor Benjamin Butterfield. I recall interviewing Ben Butterfield many years ago and he told me of his special affinity for Randy Newman songs. The concert is presented by Toronto Masque Theatre on Feb. 25 and 26 at 8 p.m. at the Enoch Turner Schoolhouse, 106 Trinity Street. For details, go to

Music Toronto is presenting French pianist Alexandre Tharaud in a program of Schubert and Scarlatti at the Jane Mallett Theatre on Tuesday Feb. 22 at 8 p.m. Thaurad grated from the Paris Conservatorie and came into prominence after winning 2nd prize at the ARD Competition in Munich. He records for Virgin Classics label. He will play Schubert's Moments Musicaux, and Scarlatti's 10 Sonatas. For details, go to

Finally, Swedish mezzo Ann Sofie von Otter makes one of her infrequent visits to Toronto at Koerner Hall at the Royal Conservatory of Music on Friday. She currently on tour with American composer/pianist Brad Mehldau, singing songs written specifically for her by Mehldau, plus the pop standards by Brel, Legrand, and Bernstein, among others. Details at