La Scena Musicale

Monday, 25 April 2011

This Week in Toronto (Apr. 25 - May 1)

Soprano Adrianne Pieczonka

This is another exciting week for opera lovers. The Canadian Opera Company is staging Richard Strauss' Ariadne auf Naxos after a 16-year absence. It stars the reigning Canadian prima donna Adrianne Pieczonka in one of her signature roles. I had the pleasure of interviewing her recently for the cover story of the new issue of The Music Scene in which she gave us her insight into the character of Ariadne - you can read it at Partnering her as Bacchus is Canadian tenor Richard Margison. The Composer is the wonderful British mezzo Alice Coote, and Canadian coloratura soprano Jane Archibald sings Zerbinetta. The three ladies recently sang their respective roles at the Munich Opera to rave reviews. It is hard to believe it has taken so long, but Sir Andrew Davis is finally making his COC conducting debut. Ariadne is one of my favourite operas, and with such a superlative cast, this show is not to be missed. It opens on Saturday April 30, at the rather odd time of 4:30 pm. Meanwhile, the recently opened La cenerentola continues with performances this week on Thursday April 28 at 7:30 pm and Sunday May 1 at 2pm. I attended opening night last Saturday, and it was one of the most entertaining operatic evenings in recent memory. I admit I am not much of a Rossini fan, but this scintillating production and great singing won me over.

Also at the COC this Thursday is the noon hour concert - a program of three short operas. The rarely performed Samuel Barber's A Hand of Bridge, at 12 minutes (!) is reputed to be the shortest opera in existence. It is paired with the better known work, The Telephone. This Menotti opera is often paired with The Medium but not here. However, we have a new opera inspired by the telephone, a work by Ana Sokolovic called Dring, Dring that had its premiere last October at Koerner Hall. Soloists in these three works include sopranos Ileana Montalbetti and Jacqueline Woodley, mezzo Rihab Chaieb, tenor Christopher Enns, and baritones Adrian Kramer and Neil Craighead. For details of these shows, go to

Opera Atelier's La clemenza di Tito received uniformly rave reviews, and it is easy to see why. I saw the opening on Friday and it was a terrific show. The big draw is soprano/pop diva Measha Brueggergosman as the vengeful Vitellia, a role perfect for scenery-chewing. The rest of the cast is great too - dramatic tenor Kresimir Spicer returns as Tito, male soprano Michael Maniaci as Sesto, and two Quebec singers - Mireille Lebel as Annio and Mireille Asselin as Servilia. They are all wonderful, but I must single out Lebel for praise - she is the best looking and certainly one of the best sounding Annio I've seen. I can see her as a perfect Cherubino, and maybe even Octavian in a few years. David Fallis conducts the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra. The run continues this week with performances on April 26, 27, 30 at 7:30 pm., and May 1 at 3 pm. Details at

The great Russian pianist Yefim Bronfman returns to the Toronto Symphony Orchestra in Liszt's Piano concerto No. 2 in A Major. Also on the program is ever-popular Saint-Saens Symphony No. 3, the so called Organ Symphony with Patricia Krueger as soloist. A contemporary piece by Michael Colgrass rounds out the program. American maestro Leonard Slatkin is at the podium. The Light Classics series this week features music from France. On the program is Bizet's Carmen Suite, Debussy's Prelude to an Afternoon of a Faun, and Saint-Saens' Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso. Caroline Goulding is violin soloist and conductor is Guillermo Figueroa.

The Aldeburgh Connection presents A Spring Schubertiad, its annual concert in memory of Greta Kraus on Sunday 2:30 pm at Walter Hall. Soloists are soprano Gillian Keith, tenor Lawrence Wiliford and baritone Tyler Duncan. As usual Stephen Ralls and Bruce Ubukata are at the piano.