La Scena Musicale

Sunday, 5 February 2012

This Week in Toronto (Feb. 6 - 12)

Russell Braun (Jaufre Rudel) and Krisztina Szabo (The Pilgrim) in Kaija Saariaho's Love From Afar (Photo: Michael Cooper)

The Canadian Opera Company winter opera season is in full swing, with Tosca and Love From Afar alternating at the Four Seasons Centre. Both have been well received by audience and critics alike. I caught the second performance of the Saariaho opera on Saturday. I admit to some preconceived notions about this piece, having seen it ten years ago at the Santa Fe Opera. Back then, it had fabulous singing from a great cast (Gerald Finley, Dawn Upshaw, Monica Groop) but the production itself was static and aesthetically icy, affecting my enjoyment of the music. This time around, I was bracing myself for a boring afternoon. Boy, was I ever wrong! This production, originally from ENO and Antwerp, is one of the most visually dazzling and creative shows I've seen in memory. Kudos to stage director Daniele Finzi Pasca. The video projections in Part 2 (Acts 4 & 5) are stunning. This production is on the level of the fabulous Robert Lepage Nightingale two seasons ago - in fact, I can think of stylistic similarities. The singers at the COC are equally fine, with Russell Braun an intense and moving Jaufre Rudel, and Erin Wall floating the most heavenly pianissimos as Clemence. COC Music Director Johannes Debus is at his very best in contemporary music and the orchestra played divinely. Three performances, on Wed. Feb. 8, Fri. Feb. 10, and Sunday (matinee) Feb. 10. Meanwhile, I went back to Tosca for a second go, with the alternate cast. The excellent tenor Brandon Jovanovich is the other Cavaradossi. Have heard his wonderful Pinkerton in Santa Fe and just last June his Siegmund in San Francisco. I have to say I prefer his Cavaradossi over the Uruguayan Carlo Ventre. Julie Makerov is less dramatic than Adrianne Pieczonka but still a very fine Tosca. You can catch the Puccini on Feb. 7, 9, and 11. Also don't forget to check out the joint recital of the COC Ensemble Studio and the OdeM Atelier Lyrique. This will be the third year of Collaborations, showcasing young artists from the two opera companies. Do show up early for a seat. Details at Here is a link to the program

Worth catching is the innovative programming at Tafelmusik this week - House of Dreams, a multimedia presentation of music and the visual arts. Conceived and scripted by Alison Mackay, this show combines the music of Bach, Handel, Vivaldi, and Marais against a backdrop of the projected images of Vermeer, Canaletto and Watteau. Blair Williams is the narrator and Marshall Pynkoski of Opera Atelier is the director. Performances Feb. 6 to 12 at the Trinity - St. Paul Centre.

Toronto Summer Musical Festival is presenting a benefit event, aptly called Toronto Summer Music In Winter, on Feb. 8 7:30 p.m., at Walter Hall, in the Edward Johnson Building, University of Toronto. The newly formed New Orford String Quartet will perform Beethoven's last String Quartet, Op. 135, and Shauna Rolston then joins the group for Schubert's String Quintet Op. 163 for two cellos. There will be a post-performance champagne reception with the artists. More information and tickets at

Following its recent presentation of Lohengrin, Opera by Request is back with another major work in the operatic canon, Beethoven's Fidelio. No, there won't be an orchestra in this performance, but the music remains sublime. Soloists include soprano Dolores Catherine Trart (Leonore), Lenard Whiting (Florestan), Jennifer Rasor (Marzelline), Anthony Faure (Jacquino), Frank de Jong (Rocco) and Michael Robert-Broder (Pizarro), under the direction of William Shookhoff. Friday, Feb. 10, 7:30 p.m. at the College St. United Church, 452 College Street in downtown Toronto.

Finally, I know this is not exclusively a Toronto event as the Met in HD is worldwide in reach, but the final installment of the Wagner's Ring Cycle, Goetterdammerung, is going to be shown at select Cineplex cinemas this Saturday Feb. 11 at noon. It is going to be a looooong one, so be prepared with food and drink! The show will end shortly before 6 p.m. The Robert Lepage Ring has received mixed reviews from audience and the press, so find out for yourself! Deborah Voigt is Brunnhilde and Jay Hunter Morris is Siegfried. Fabio Luisi is replacing an ailing James Levine at the podium. I do believe all tickets have been sold in the more popular venues such as Sheppard Grande, Silver City and Scotiabank downtown, but do check with the theatres for returns, or if they are opening up an extra cinemas.



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