La Scena Musicale

Friday, 8 April 2011

McGill's Golden Violin Award Goes to Ewald Cheung

By Crystal Chan

The $20,000 Golden Violin Award was started in 2006 to recognize the talent of a string student each year who is near the completion of their studies at McGill's Schulich School of Music. It's the largest privately funded music scholarship in all of Canada. This year's winner is 21-year-old violinist Ewald Cheung, who will graduate with a Bachelor of Music in Performance  this spring. Cheung will put the money towards the costs of travelling for international competitions. This award follow wins (he's a five-time laureate and two-time winner) at the Canadian Music Competitions from 2000 to 2004, the 2007 Standard Life Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal Competition, the 2009 Shean Strings Competition, the 2010 McGill Concerto Competition and the 2010 Orchestre Symphonique de Trois-Rivières Competition. Cheung was a founding member of the former Roddick String Quartet. He first started playing at age four at the Suzuki School in Edmonton and was one of three child prodigies featured in the 2004 documentary Minor Keys, which was produced by the National Film Board of Canada.

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COC Ensemble and OdeM Atelier lyrique Joint Concert Features Voices of the Future

Top:Nurse, Craighead and Giunta from the Trio in Cosi Act One

Middle: Rigden and Kramer acting it up as Rosina and Figaro; Upchurch at the piano.

Bottom: COC Ensemble - OdeM Atelier lyrique Joint Concert (l. to r. Aaron Ferguson, Pierre Rancourt, Neil Craighead, Adrian Kramer, Chantale Nurse, Suzanne Rigden, Wallis Giunta, Jacqueline Woodley)
Photo: Chris Hutcheson

COC Vocal Series
Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre, Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts
12 pm, April 7, 2011

Liz Upchurch, piano

'Tornami a vagheggiar" from Alcina - Suzanne Rigden, sop.
"Un'aura amorosa" from Cosi - Aaron Ferguson, ten.
"Il est doux, il est bon" from Herodiade - Chantale Nurse, sop.
"Come un'ape nei giorni d'aprile" from La cenerentola - Pierre Rancourt, bar.
"Ah! Perdona al primo affetto" from La clemenza di Tito - Rigden & Wallis Giunta, mezz.
"Tickling a trout, poaching a Hare" from Albert Herring - Adrian Kramer, bar. & Ferguson
Scenes from Cosi - "La mia Dorabella", "Ah, guarda sorella", "Soave sia il vento" - Nurse, Giunta, Ferguson, Rancourt, & Neil Craighead, b-bar.
"La ci darem la mano" from Don Giovanni - Rancourt & Woodley
"Dunque io son" from Il barbiere di Siviglia - Rigden & Kramer
"Questo e il fin" from Don Giovanni - Tutti

We Torontonians are familiar with our marvelous young singers at the COC Ensemble Studio, but we don't get a chance to hear their counterparts at the Opera de Montreal. Thanks to this new initiative - well, new as of last year - opera lovers now have an opportunity of hearing the voices of the future in Quebec. The joint concert yesterday, labeled Collaborations, had four singers from each program. They all have young, fresh, promising voices and youthful and attractive appearances, just the right combination for the rigorous demands of an operatic career. To be sure, these artists are in various stages of development, some are works in progress in need of seasoning and polish, while others are definitely ready for prime time.

There was much to enjoy in the concert. We in Toronto are of course familiar with our COC singers. Wallis Giunta is leaving for the Lindemann Young Artists Program at the Met. Together with the Adler Program in San Francisco, these two programs are the most prestigious in the U.S. Her contributions in this concert show why she is earmarked for a significant career - musicality, firm grounding, gleaming tone of good volume and attractive stage presence. Her duet with Suzanne Rigden from La clemenza di Tito was nicely sung, their voices blended beautifully. The trio from Act One Cosi was also enjoyable - both Giunta and Nurse were in the RCM production two years ago so they sang the piece with experience and assurance. Bass-baritone Neil Craighead continues to improve and he was a mellifluous-sounding Don Alfonso in the Trio. A highlight of the concert was the excellent Sid of Adrian Kramer and Albert of Aaron Ferguson in the deliciously funny scene from Albert Herring. I had the pleasure of seeing Canadian baritone Josh Hopkins as a wonderful Sid in Santa Fe Opera last summer. Kramer reminds me of Hopkins - firm, manly voice, droll acting and good comedic instincts. Ferguson's light tenor with its slender timbre is ideal in acting parts like Albert, and he acquitted himself very well. His voice is at its best in mezza voce which he showed off in Ferrando's aria. Suzanne Rigden has a bright, clear high soprano, which she used to advantage, adding extra appoggiaturas in Morgana's aria from Alcina, just a little short on accuracy in the runs. Chantale Nurse sings with rich tone and an interesting fast vibrato, despite occasional support and pitch issues in her middle voice in "Il est doux, il est bon" - a promising singer to watch. Pierre Rancourt and Jacqueline Woodley contributed a charming "La ci darem la mano", with the soprano a sparkling Zerlina. The singers were well applauded by a very appreciative audience.

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Tuesday, 5 April 2011

When You Wish Upon an Opera ...

The newest operatic kid on the block kicks off with Rose Marie

By Joseph K. So

What’s more quintessentially Canadian than the Rockies, Mounties, Indians and Romance? It’s billed as a Canadian love story between a French girl and an English boy, set in the wild west of the Canadian Rockies. Throw in a scintillating score with catchy tunes, sung by up-and-coming singers with beautiful voices and attractive stage presence, and you’ve got the right ingredients for success. That’s certainly the strategy of Wish Opera, in its inaugural production of Rudolf Friml’s operetta, Rose Marie. Founded in the spring of 2010, Wish Opera has as it mission the fusion of fashion and design with the beauty of the operatic art form in productions that appeal to the contemporary audience. Given its mandate to support and nurture Canadian artists, Rose Marie stars an all-Canadian cast, led by Quebec mezzo-soprano Maude Brunet as Rose Marie La Flamme. Her love interest, English Canadian miner Jim Kenyon, is sung by baritone Todd Delaney. Bass-baritone Olivier Laquerre is Rose Marie’s brother Emile. This musical was a huge hit on Broadway in 1924, and it was adapted for film no less than three times. The most famous version was the 1936 Hollywood movie starring Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy, and the song “Indian Love Call” became the signature tune of this screen couple.

Soprano Tonia Cianciulli is the driving force behind this ambitious venture. Recently she spoke with TMS about her new project:

Tell us a little about your background as an artist and what is your vision for Wish Opera. Can you explain the concept of combining music with fashion and design for our readers?

I am a classically trained singer – I studied voice at the University of Western Ontario. The idea for Wish Opera came out of an event I did for clients of my husband’s company six years ago. We took over an empty loft space in the Liberty Village area in downtown Toronto, painted it white and we had six or seven different artists displaying their works. We had a stage built for live jazz, opera, and fashion; it represented a fusion of the arts. We got great feedback from the arts community. This event provided a platform for artists to gain exposure and experience. Through that I developed a passion for working with artists of all mediums, and I see this as a way of expanding the audience of opera. By fusing the different art forms, we are opening it up to younger people, people who may not even think of going to the opera. In our productions, in addition to singers we also feature Canadian designers of fashion, furniture, interiors, and photographers.

Last year at the Wish Opera Launch Concert at York University, you announced plans for a production of Don Giovanni in a different venue and with a different conductor. Why the change?

We had planned to do Don Giovanni up at York University, but after the launch, we quickly realized that to sustain the company we needed to be downtown. A lot of our audience are in the downtown core – that’s just the reality of it. We found a new home in the John Bassett theatre at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. It’s a stunning 1300 seat facility, and they are excited to have us there. We also found a new music director in Kerry Stratton. He’s got an incredible personality and is very supportive of Canadian talent.

Combining the beauty of music with fashion and design, which are by nature also expressions of beauty. In other words “beauty” figures prominently in the ethos of Wish Opera. Does that mean when it comes to opera singers, you want them to be beautiful too?

(Laughs) I guess that’s an understandable question! No, we are looking for singers who can perform the role – we are not looking to fill the roles with the same tall, skinny people! Ideally we want to hire singers who can do a quality job. Where the fashion comes in at this point is that we are pulling pieces from different designers’ lines that we can use as costumes. It gives the designers exposure and let people know that there are lots of local talent. For Rose Marie we have two designers from Montreal who have agreed to feature their lines on stage for us. There’s actually a scene in Rose Marie that takes place in a dress boutique in Quebec City where a little fashion show takes place!

That’s not in the movie…

No it’s not, because the movie is not true to the original operetta. In the original this scene does exist. The Montreal designers are Denis Gagnon and Marie Saint Pierre - they are very talented and certainly designers to watch. When we get a larger budget, we’ll be able to go to the designers and ask if they can create specific costumes for us. For now we are just going with what they already have.

Considering that you use contemporary designers, is it safe to say your productions are going to have a contemporary feel to them, as opposed to traditional productions?

Well, I am not looking for things to be abstract. If it’s more contemporary, it’ll be more accessible for the audience. We might be doing period pieces as well, but for now, I think we are just focusing on bringing things up to date and to make it accessible to the modern day audience.

Tell us about your plans for the orchestra…

We are forming a Wish Opera Orchestra. Kerry (Stratton) can speak to that. Trumpeter Andre Dubelsten is working with Kerry to pull together a team. For Rose Marie it will be an orchestra of 19 or 20 musicians. This work has a lot of Canadian content – it’s set in the Rockies and we have an all-Canadian cast. We’ve even have the RCMP on board. They are often reluctant to come to these events as people often don’t take them seriously. I had to convince them that it would be a good opportunity for them to educate the public. Before curtain, Constable Terry Russel will appear, dressed in his Royal Red Surge regalia, and speak to the audience about the significance of the Mounties uniform. Canadian painter Charles Pachter has also agreed to be on board. He is well known for his renderings of the Canadian flag and the Queen on the moose and his classic painting of a Mountie – you can’t get more Canuck than that (laughs)!

Friml & Stothart: Rose Marie, April 15 & 16, John Bassett Theatre, 255 Front Street West, Toronto, Ontario.

Photos » Top: Mezzo Maude Brunet as Rose Marie; Bottom: WO founder, soprano Tonia Cianciulli

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DSO and van Zweden: A Persuasive "Manfred" in Dallas!

by Paul E. Robinson
My first encounter with Tchaikovsky’s Manfred Symphony was most likely Toscanini’s 1953 recording with the NBC Symphony; it is intense, exciting and almost life-changing in its range of emotion. The sound of the recording left a lot to be desired, of course, but for its time, this was a great performance.
Over the years, although I rarely encountered Manfred in the concert hall, I continued to check out fresh performances and new recordings; unfortunately, not one of them could hold a candle to the Toscanini - until, that is, now.
This extraordinary performance was live, and I may have to wait a little longer for the recording, but the Manfred I heard at the Meyerson Symphony Center in Dallas, Texas last week not only rivaled the Toscanini in excellence - it may, in fact, have surpassed it!
Jaap van Zweden has long since shown himself to be an exceptionally gifted Tchaikovsky interpreter. Live performances of the Fourth and Fifth symphonies have already been released by the Dallas Symphony and they are remarkable for their exceptional standard of playing and commitment.
Manfred Symphony Difficult and Flawed
In Manfred, van Zweden has taken one of Tchaikovsky’s less popular works and raised it to the status it has always deserved as one of the composer’s most inspired and deeply personal compositions.
This is a difficult piece to play, and it has its weaknesses, but van Zweden has incomparable skills as an orchestra builder. In less than two seasons he has transformed a ‘very good’ Dallas Symphony into one of the finest orchestras in the country. Difficulties take only a little longer to surmount with van Zweden on the podium. There is never any doubt that he will get his musicians where they need to be, and so it was with Manfred.
The maestro’s tempi were sometimes very fast indeed – but they always made perfect sense – and the DSO players were equal to every challenge. The horn section, led by Gregory Hustis and David Heyde, had a particularly fine night with robust playing and a golden sonority, rivaling the best in the business.
And Manfred’s weaknesses?
One could begin with the stop-start feeling one often gets when the piece is performed; it can sound like Russian Bruckner, if such a thing can be imagined. Then there is the meretricious character of the theme introduced at bar 81 in the last movement, and a fugue that can sound pedantic and unconvincing.
Worst of all, in the opinion of some listeners, is the final section depicting the death of Manfred and, presumably, his ascent to heaven with the help of an organ introduced for the first time in the symphony. After this fortissimo apotheosis comes a very weak winding down over several pages to the end of the score. By all accounts, Tchaikovsky himself was not satisfied with the ending of Manfred; in fact, on one particularly depressing day, he declared in a letter that nothing in the piece, with the exception of the first movement, was of any value!
DSO/van Zweden Reading Puts Manfred Back in Play
Weaknesses there may be in Manfred, but most of them ceased to exist in van Zweden’s remarkable reading.
How did he do it?
Generally speaking, he did it by simply understanding the shape and substance of the piece and working assiduously with his orchestra to translate that understanding into sound. Specifically, he eliminated the alleged fragmentation of the piece by making sure every phrase had life and destination. That is to say, the music was always going somewhere and pulsed with inner life. This magic doesn’t just happen by itself; it requires the conductor to meticulously work out every slight alteration in tempo and every minute change in dynamics.
Van Zweden is a great conductor, partly through sheer force of personality, but also because he takes the trouble to understand every detail of the music he conducts and then to convey that understanding to his players.
Another “weakness” that disappeared in this performance was the triteness of the D minor theme in the finale. By taking a very fast tempo, thereby eliciting ferocious playing from his musicians – the tempo marking is Allegro con fuoco – this tune became suitably menacing, in the manner of similar tunes in the last movement of Berlioz’ Symphonie Fantastique.
What about the organ apotheosis and its underwhelming aftermath? We may never know what van Zweden might have done to find greatness in these bars because he simply threw them out! In fact, he substituted a different ending altogether – an ending borrowed from the legendary Russian conductor Evgeny Svetlanov. Still Tchaikovsky’s music, this ending, taken from the first movement of Manfred, works perfectly and brings the symphony to a much more powerful conclusion.
It would be foolish to dwell on the alleged weaknesses of Manfred when the work has so many strengths and so much beauty. The very first sounds in the symphony are a case in point. I defy anyone who is hearing the piece for the first time to identify the instruments playing here. In fact, Tchaikovsky has created the most hauntingly beautiful sound for these mournful opening bars by scoring three bassoons and bass clarinet in unison. They play their melody together for fully the first 14 bars.
What about the doleful but thrilling tutti in the Andante con duolo* section in the first movement? Van Zweden achieved an incredibly rich string sonority at this point. What gives this passage much of its power is the scoring involving trombones, tuba and timpani along with the strings, added to the driving syncopated figure played by the lower winds.
The second movement Scherzo outdoes Mendelssohn’s Midsummer Night’s Dream and Berlioz’ Queen Mab in its magical evocation of fairies. The instrumentation is, again, highly original and the rhythms complex and unorthodox. The Trio section, with its meltingly beautiful violin melody accompanied by two harps, is exquisite. At the very end of the movement, Tchaikovsky divides the violins into five parts to raise the magic another notch. The DSO violins were wonderfully delicate and precise in this difficult section. New associate concertmaster Nathan Olson topped off the wizardry with seemingly effortless execution of the solo passage ending the movement.
There is greatness in this symphony, but it takes a conductor who believes wholeheartedly in the piece and who has the energy and expertise to bring it out. Van Zweden is such a conductor and with the Dallas Symphony at the top of its game, the music soared.
Glamour, Technique and a Too Cool Kern
In the first half of this all-Tchaikovsky programme Olga Kern was the soloist in the Piano Concerto No. 1.
Ms. Kern has become a favourite in these parts after winning the Cliburn Competition in Ft. Worth in 2001. As a Russian-born and Russian-trained pianist, she might be assumed to have an affinity for this music. There is no doubt that she has extraordinary technique. but her performance on this night was curiously restrained; one had the impression that she was trying to intellectualize the music. The result was slow tempi and rumination over material that didn’t warrant it.
Ms. Kern also gave the regrettable impression that she was not much interested in the orchestra’s contribution to the performance. She seemed never to acknowledge important orchestra solos – flute and oboe principals deserved better than that – and played her accompanying figures much too loudly over the winds’ melodic lines. Van Zweden and the DSO did their best to interact with their glamorous soloist; unfortunately, it was mostly a one-sided conversation.
For Those Wanting More…
It’s always a delight to visit Dallas and its ever-expanding Arts District. The Dallas Museum of Art is world class and nearby are the Nasher Sculpture Garden and the Trammel Crowe Museum of Asian Art. From these facilities, it’s a short walk to the Myerson – did I mention that it’s one of the world’s great concert halls? – and next door to the Myerson is the new Winspear Opera House. Across the street is the Dallas Theater Center, etc. Just a short drive down I-30 to Ft. Worth is another fine complex of museums and concert halls.
If your interests are wide enough to include major league sports, check out the Texas Rangers (baseball), the Dallas Cowboys (football), the Dallas Stars (hockey) and the Dallas Mavericks (basketball)?
Eating in fine restaurants is one of my favorite sports and Dallas provides endless opportunities to participate. Marita and I usually stop in at La Duni, but on this visit we only had time for Samar – try combining the cuisine of Spain, India and the Mediterranean - on Ross near the Arts District and for Lavendou, a wonderful old Provencal-inspired French bistro on Preston Rd.
*Andante con duolo is a very unusual tempo marking. It might be rendered in English as “Slow with grief”. This is the state of mind of the tormented Manfred of Byron’s poetic drama. This ill-fated man must try to live with the memory of his incestuous love for his sister Astarte. Music lovers may be aware of a similar relationship recounted in the Finnish epic poem Kalevala, set to music by Sibelius in his Kullervo Symphony.
Paul E. Robinson is the author of Herbert von Karajan: the Maestro as Superstar, and Sir Georg Solti: His Life and Music. NEW for friends: The Art of the Conductor podcast, "Classical Airs."

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Lang Lang and Roberto Alagna Share the Stage

by Frank Cadenhead

It was a high-risk venture that finished as a major triumph in Paris on Tuesday night (March 29, 2011). The superstar pianist Lang Lang, as part of a week's residency, joined with the French tenor Roberto Alagna in a program of rare French arias at the historic Salle Pleyel.  But the success of this "carte blanche" evening for Lang Lang was not automatically assured.

The French have a history of neglecting their rich musical heritage and the arias, with one exception, have not been heard in Paris in living memory. While some of this repertory is beginning to appear in regional opera houses, only the aria, "Anges du paradis" from Gounod's Mireille, has been heard at the Paris Opera recently when that opera opened its previous season. Would the audience, even with these star names, warm to this effort?

Sometimes the omnivorous musical appetites of Lang Lang leads him to say yes to a project he has not had time to sufficiently digest prior to the performance. There was no hint of that this night. There was a vibrant rapport between the two extrovert stars with Lang Lang, no mere "accompanist" here,  relishing the lovely melodies which began each aria. 

Alagna sang with French style and clarity of expression uncommon on current world stages. A tenor at the heights of his power, the hall rang with his generous passion for these musical treasures. Including the Gounod, there were arias by Adolphe Adam ("Mes amis, écoutez l'histoire" from Le Postillon de Longjumeau), Edouard Lalo ("Vainement, ma bien-aimée" from Le Roi d'Ys), Ernest Reyer ("La bruit des chants" from Sigurd), Giacomo Meyerbeer ("Pays merveilleux... ô paradis" from L'Africaine) and Alfred Bruneau's passionate "Le jour tombe, la nuit va bercer les grands chênes" (from L'Attaque du moulin), among others. 

Toward the end, Alagna took a brief break to sip backstage tea (a result of Spring allergies) and the audience happily prodded Lang Lang into playing a second delicious Rachmaninov prelude. Lang Lang's solo works, including Chopin etudes and a sensitive reading of Schumann's "Träumerei." were part of the evening's program. With the unrestrained cheering at the end, Alagna and Lang, arm in arm, circled the stage like victorious bull-fighters, shaking hands and collecting bouquets of flowers. Clearly this music has strong appeal but could Parisian opera bosses still be unconvinced? 

Alagna's album of French Opera Arias (with Bertrand De Billy and the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden) contains a few of the arias he sang this night.  Lang Lang had a live transmission the following day from the Cite de la Musique in Paris streamed on  The concert was recorded by France Musique radio for later broadcasting with no date yet specified. 

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Hamelin Finest of the Finest

By L.H. Tiffany Hsieh

Sometimes music just makes sense, especially when it’s in the hands of Marc-Andre Hamelin.

The Canadian pianist’s Music Toronto piano recital at the Jane Mallett Theatre March 29 was one of those classic affairs that can only be regarded as the finest of the finest.

Schumann’s much-celebrated Carnaval was at the heart of a Hamelin signature program of lesser-known pieces. The purposeful delivery of the opening majestic chords made way for a joy ride that was full of crispness, striking convictions and subtle nuances. The overall sound was bold without being hard and colourful without being overly polished.

Prior to the Carnaval, Hamelin opened the program with a brilliant performance of Haydn’sPiano Sonata No. 53 in E minor. The style here was clean, succinct and easy.

Following the Carnaval and an intermission, Hamelin delved straight into Stefan Wolpe’sPassacaglia from Four Studies on Basic Rows, Op. 23. Composed in 1936, thePassacaglia is a force of pianistic rollercoaster and not exactly the kind most people would enjoy in Canada’s Wonderland. This piece is dark, full of angst and deep intensity. It requires the pianist to make sense of a pounding battleground with his own reason or belief. Hamelin delivered something like a Hollywood-made head-on collision in that it wasn't a disastrous but spectacular event to witness.

This was followed by a descriptive performance of Faure’s Nocturne No. 6 in D-flat, Op. 63 and the official program concluded with Liszt’s elaborate Reminiscences de Norma. Hamelin showed off his steely fingers nicely here, at times looking like he would just end up with a big blur of piled-on climaxes. In reality, whatever this pianist did made sense on stage.

Hamelin played two contrasting encores, The Gardens of Buitenzorg from Leopold Godowsky’s Java Suite and a short, spirited piece by Haydn that sent the audience home with an affair to remember.

> Music Toronto

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Monday, 4 April 2011

La Sagouine tells us stories about ourselves

By Rebecca Clark

La Sagouine opens with a sweet old lady having a cup of tea and gossiping with you in her kitchen. Her tiny cabin kitchen is modest and her clothes old and more sturdy than fashionable, but otherwise it's much like having lunch with your grandmother: a catalogue of aches, pains, and who has died this year. And yet you can sense immediately that la Sagouine will be more entertaining, in her sweet, naive old way than your grandmother. Soon, gossip about her neighbours gives way to rollicking yarns about their shenanigans, and complaints about ailments to funny and touching ruminations on life, and what comes after.

Written in 1971, La Sagouine was originally a series of sixteen monologues for radio. Acadienne novelist and playwright Antoine Maillet based the character, and her environs, on a real-life character in Maillet's native town of Bouctouche, New Brunswick. It was her friend Viola Léger who animated the role, and has performed it some two thousand times in French and English since 1971. Léger is certainly a fitting actress for the role; in addition to being an Officer of the Order of Canada, she herself was born to Acadian parents in Massachusetts—like her forefathers, in a foreign land and far from her ancestral home.

In the Segal Centre's production, she performs select monologues, reflecting on worrisome things like death, confusing things like dealing with the Feds, and happy things like springtime and the war. Some of her musings show us a different perspective, like the War. It takes a crisis, la Sagouine muses, to remind people "that there are still some folks alive out here", and when there are no crises, they starve. Or how at Lent, la Sagouine and her siblings desperately wished to give something up so that they might have some fun like the other, richer kids. Other monologues echo sentiments with which we are more familiar. When the census-takers arrive, la Sagouine and her husband are unsure of how to report their nationality. They don't know what they are, just that they aren't Americans or French, and they don't speak English like the MacPhersons, so they can't be Canadian like them. Their struggle and inability to articulate their nationality echoes the ever-present Canadian anxieties surrounding Canadian culture and what it is to be Canadian.

Perhaps the monologue that is most appropriate at most resonant with Montreal audiences, particularly at this time of year, is about springtime. We all know what it is to "freeze our feet from All Saint's Day to Easter", or rather, to wade through snowbanks from November to April. But thanks as much to Maillet's writing and Léger's exuberant, joyful performance as to a beautifully-conceived set and lighting design, you can almost feel the first soft breezes and warm sunbeams of springtime as la Sagouine takes simple pleasure in watching a flock of geese return, like the Acadians of yore and the Canadians of today, home once again.

» La Sagouine at the Segal Centre for the Performing Arts. Directed by John Van Burek. Runs until April 10. $22 - $39. 514-739-7944.

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Sunday, 3 April 2011

This Week in Toronto (Apr. 4 - 10)

Soprano Angela Gheorghiu (

For voice fans the big news this week is the appearance of Romanian soprano Angela Gheorghiu in Toronto, with the COC Orchestra conducted by Steven White on April 7th, 8 pm at Roy Thomson Hall. Gheorghiu is of course one of a handful of superstar opera divas today, a group that includes Anna Netrebko, Renee Fleming, and Cecilia Bartoli. Every bit of news of the soprano is devoured with gusto by her legions of fans, and believe me there's been plenty of news lately! First it was her much publicized divorce from her hubby French tenor Roberto Alagna - although according to the most recent news reports, the two may have reconciled. The other big news is her most recent cancellation, that of Juliette at the Met for reasons that are not entirely clear. What is very clear however is Gheorghiu has a gorgeous voice and a stage persona that only the authentic divas can command, and Torontonians will get a chance to experience her magic first hand. This concert will be her Toronto debut. For program details and ticket information, go to

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra is presenting Cape Breton Ceilidh, a tribute to Celtic music and culture this week in three performances at Roy Thomson Hall, April 5 at 8 pm, and April 6 at 2 and 8 pm. Canada's pre-eminent Celtic group, The Barra MacNeils stars with TSO guest conductor John Morris Russell in this celebration. Details at

The other important Toronto Symphony Orchestra event this week is the performance of Beethoven's Symphony No. 3, "Eroica" led by the terrific American maestro Jame Conlon. For the opera buffs, Conlon is known as a great opera conductor, but he is also an estimable leader of symphonic concerts. Here we'll get a chance to hear him in person with the TSO on Saturday April 9 at 8 pm. Also on the program is an extremely interesting piece - a piano concerto by Erwin Schulhoff, a Czech-born victim of the Holocaust. Orion Weiss is the pianist. Rounding out the program is Dvorak's Carnival Overture.

Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra, as the name implies, focuses on the baroque repertoire. However it has been exploring for some years Beethoven's symphonies on period instruments. This week Tafelmusik is presenting for the first time Beethoven's 9th symphony, with a quartet of soloists including soprano Sigrid Plundrich, mezzo Anita Krause, tenor Rufus Muller and baritone Christopheren Nomura, under the direction of Bruno Weil. The performances are at Koerner Hall on April 7 at 8pm, repeated on April 9th at 8 pm and again on April 10 at 3:30 pm. Details at

And finally I want to mention an upcoming joint recital by the COC Ensemble Studio and the artists from Opera de Montreal's Atelier lyrique. I attended such an event last year and it was a great opportunity to hear young Quebec singers whom we normally don't get to hear in Toronto. The free noon hour concert is on Thursday April 7 at the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre. Participating singers are sopranos Susanne Rigden and Chantale Nurse, mezzo Wallis Giunta, tenor Aaron Ferguson, baritones Pierre Rancourt and Adrian Kramer, and bass-baritone Neil Craighead with Liz Upchurch at the piano. This is an extremely popular event, so remember to line up one hour ahead to have a chance of a seat! For the program, go to

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