La Scena Musicale

Saturday, 25 February 2012

This Week in Toronto (Feb. 27 - Mar. 4)

Tenor Ian Bostridge (Photo: Simon Fowler)

With the 2012 COC winter season now history, voice fans need not feel deprived as there are a number of very interesting concerts happening this week. Top on my list is the return of the consummate recitalist, British tenor Ian Bostridge. That crack by the late Anna Russell about tenors - that "they have resonance where their brains ought to be" - is proven patently false by Bostridge. This man is simply one of the smartest around - I ask you, how many singers in the history of classical music had studied theoretical physics, received a M. Phil in the history and philosophy of science, and a D. Phil from Oxford?! His book Witchcraft and its Transformations was published by Oxford in 1997. His most recent tome, A Singer's Notebook, was published by Faber and Faber last October. (I ordered it too late to read it before the concert! o well...) On Sunday March 4 3 p.m. at Koerner Hall, Bostridge will sing a program of Schumann in the first half, with Liederkreis Op. 24 as the centerpiece, followed by thirteen Brahms songs in the second half. He is partnered by the terrific collaborative pianist Julius Drake. This is a "do not miss" event for art song lovers.

Once again, it's new music time at the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, with its New Creations Festival. The main attraction this year is the presence of Hungarian conductor and composer Peter Eotvos. Like Kaija Saariaho who was recently in town on occasion of the COC staging of her opera L'mour de loin, Eotvos is a prolific - though not exclusively by any means - opera composer. His Angels in America, based on the Tony Kushner play, received a highly acclaimed production in Paris and has since had productions in Fort Worth Opera in the US and its UK debut two years ago. I was hoping to catch his most recent opera, Die Tragodie des Teufels last year as I was in Munich at the time, but much to my regret, I missed it by a few days! I find Eotvos to be an absolutely fascinating composer and intellect. On Thursday March 1 at 8 p.m., in a concert called This Isn't Silence (which I wonder if it's a reference to John Cage's 4'33'?) Eotvos conducts his own composition, Seven, about the accident of the space shuttle Columbia in 2003. Also on the program is Canadian composer Claude Vivier's Lonel y Child, sung by the queen of contemporary music and the muse for many composers, Barbara Hannigan, who also happens to be Canadian! Works by Gyorgy Kurtag and Brian Current round out the evening. On Saturday March 3, Eotvos is joined by the Kronos Quartet for Derek Charke's Concerto for String Quartet and Orchestra, a TSO commissioned piece that is receiving its world premiere. The title of this evening's concert, Con Brio, is also the name of the work on the program by Jorg Widmann. TSO violist Teng Li plays the North American premiere of Eotvos' Replica for Viola and Orchestra.

Mooredale Concerts and the Ontario Philharmonic is presenting A Journey into Brahms, featuring Korean violinist Ye Eun Choi, with conductor Marco Parisotto. On the program is Brahms Violin concerto in D Op. 77 and Symphony No. 2 Op. 73. The Twenty-Something Ms. Choi has already garnered critical accolades from such musicians as Anne Sophie Mutter. So this is an opportunity to hear this young violinist. The concert takes place at the acoustically friendly Koerner Hall on Feb. 28, 8 p.m.

For those still needing more opera fix, there are many performances going on other than the COC. The ever-popular Die Fledermaus is put on by Opera York on Sunday Feb. 26, Mar. 1 and 3 at the Richmond Hill Centre for the Performing Arts. Brussels-based Canadian baritone Matthew Zadow returns to Toronto to take on Eisenstein. He was very good as the Count in OY's Marriage of Figaro several years ago. Others in the cast include Ilona Karan (Rosalinda), Anna Bateman (Adele) and Ryan Harper (Alfred). Geoffrey Butler conducts. These are fully staged performances with sets and costumes.

If you don't mind not having an orchestra, Toronto Opera Repertoire still has two performances left of Lucia di Lammermoor on Feb. 29 and Mar. 3, as well as two of Merry Widow on Mar. 2 and 4. Performances at the Bickford Centre near the Christie subway station. Details at!

Also on Sunday afternoon Mar. 4 is Oberto put on by Opera in Concert at the Jane Mallett Theatre of the St. Lawrence Centre. This very rarely heard early Verdi stars baritone Giles Tomkins, sopranos Joni Henson and Michele Bogdanowicz, as well as tenor Romulo Delgado. This is billed as a Canadian premiere.

York University's Faculty of Fine Arts is presenting Purcell's Dido and Aeneas for a two-performance run this week, on Thursday Mar. 1 and Friday Mar. 2 at the Sandra Faire and Ivan Fecan Theatre on the York campus. Curtain time is 7:30 p.m. York professor Canadian mezzo-soprano Catherine Robbin serves as both music director and producer of this production. Robbin was a baroque specialist during her active performing days, and she is nurturing many young voices at York. Professor Stephanie Martin conducts. Soprano Charlotte Gagnon is Dido and tenor Joseph Farahat is Aeneas.

On the recital front, former COC Ensemble mezzo Wallis Giunta - who is currently at the Met Lindemann Young Artists program - is in town to give an all-English song recital in the Music Toronto's Discovery Series. On her program is All Days are Nights/Songs for Lulu by Canadian songwriter Rufus Wainwright. I remember attending a concert given by Wainwright himself singing some of these songs at the Elgin Theatre during the Luminato Festival two years ago. Also on the program are works by Britten, Purcell, Musto, Coward, Vaughan Williams and Barber, among others. Steven Philcox is the collaborative pianist. March 1 8 p.m. at the Jane Mallett Theatre.

Another former COC Ensemble member, soprano Colleen Skull is giving a recital at Walter Hall, Edward Johnson Building on March 1 at noon. On the program are works of the 20th and 21st centuries. A former mezzo and now a dramatic soprano, Skull is going to sing Beethoven's formidable concert aria Ah! Perfido, plus selections of songs by Richard Strauss, Turina, and Alan Louis Smith. Susan Ball is the pianist. More information at as well as the artist's website

An interesting piece of news is from baritone Peter McGillivray, yet another former COC Ensemble member. He is launching his new cabaret show at the Green Door Cabaret at the Lower Ossington Theatre. I have no information of the actual program, but it takes place on March 3 at 8 p.m.



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