La Scena Musicale

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

This Week in Toronto (Jan. 16 - 22)

Photo: Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra's leader Jeanne Lamon

The big news this week is the beginning of the Canadian Opera Company's winter season, with its duo offerings of a warhorse, Tosca, with a contemporary opera, Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho's Love From Afar. Tosca stars soprano Adrianne Pieczonka in the title role. She has sung it to acclaim in other major venues such as San Francisco and LA, and it's time for her hometown audience to catch her in one of her best Italian roles. Opposite her is tenor Carlo Ventre. Given there are something like 14 shows, the two principals are double cast, with Julie Makerov and Brandon Jovanovich as the other pair of lovers. Paolo Carignani conducts.
Kaija Saariaho is one of the few contemporary opera composers whose works regularly receive revivals. I saw this work several years ago in Santa Fe, as L'amour de loin, starring Canada's own Gerald Finley, American soprano Dawn Upshaw and Finnish mezzo Monica Groop. Peter Sellars directed. It was a very intriguing experience. It is not easy music, but the more one delves into it, the more rewarding it becomes. Other than Finley, up and coming Canadian baritone Phillip Addis had a big success singing the role of Jaufre Rudel in Antwerp. Now we have another great Canadian baritone, Russell Braun tackling this most enigmatic of opera characters. Erin Wall and Krisztina Szabo complete the small cast. At the helm is COC Music Director Johannes Debus, who has made quite a name for himself in contemporary works particularly those of Henze. It's not often that we encounter the works of female composers in opera. The COC noon hour concert is taking a look at the work of female composers from Hildegard von Bingen to present day. The concert, In Praise of Women, takes place on Jan. 17 in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre, and features members of the COC Ensemble. On Jan. 19 at noon, the COC Chamber Music Series presents East Meet West, a program of the music of Debussy and Tan Dun. Be sure to line up at least 45 in advance for both concerts to ensure a seat.

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra continues its celebration of Mozart with a series of performances of his last composition, the Mozart Requiem. The soloists are Simone Osborne, Kelley O'Connor, Frederic Antoun, and Tyler Duncan, joined by the Amadeus Choir and the Elmer Iseler Singers. Also on the program is Canadian piano wunderkind Jan Lisiecki playing the Piano Concerto No. 20 K466. There will be four performances - Jan 18 8 p.m. at Roy Thomson Hall, Jan. 19 at 2 p.m., Jan. 21 at 7:30 p.m. (a shortened show minus the concerto), and Jan. 22 matinee at the George Weston Recital Hall. Details and tickets at

Another major event for voice fans is Tafelmusik's presentation of Handel's Hercules, staged by Marshall Pynkoski. Instead of its usual venue of Trinity St. Paul's Centre, it will take place at Koerner Hall on Jan. 19, 20, 21, and 22. The soloists are Nathalie Paulin, Mireille Lebel, Colin Balzer and Sumner Thompson. These performances mark the 30th anniversary of Tafelmusik's Music Director Jeanne Lamon. I am told that a ceremony honoring Lamon will take place at the Jan. 19 performance, including the announcement of an important Tafelmusik initiative - be sure not to miss this important event.

A very intriguing event is the University of Toronto Opera Student Composer Collective presenting Rob Ford: The Opera. Well, this I've got to see! It will be directed by Michael Albano and features students of the U of T Opera Division. One performance only on Jan. 22, 2:30 p.m. at the Macmillan Theatre, Edward Johnson Building. It opens the New Music Festival.

A bit farther afield - an hour down the QEW if the traffic gods are willing - is Opera Hamilton's Popera Plus, an evening of operatic arias and duets featuring four excellent singers - soprano Mireille Asselin, mezzo Norine Burgess, tenor Bruce Sledge and baritone Phillip Addis. Three shows, on Jan. 14, Jan. 19 and Jan. 21. For details of times and venue, go to


Sunday, 8 January 2012

This Week in Toronto (Jan 9 - 15)

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Jan. 27 1756 - Dec. 5 1791)

Now that we are firmly into 2012, the classical music scene is heating up once again. The Toronto Symphony Orchestra is continuing it albeit fairly new tradition of celebrating Mozart's birthday in January. For Mozart @256, the TSO is offering three concert series, the magnificent Mozart Requiem, the Jupiter Symphony, plus the children-friendly Mozart's Magnificent Voyage. The legendary pianist/pedagogue Leon Fleisher leads the TSO forces in Mozart's Symphony No. 41 K.242 "Jupiter", and joins his former student at Curtis Canadian pianist Stewart Goodyear and his wife Katherine Jacobson Fleisher in Mozart Concerto for Three Pianos. The performance on Jan. 11 is part of the Afterworks Series, starting earlier (6:30 pm.) to accommodate office workers. On Jan. 12 Thursday 8 p.m., the performance is augmented by an early work by Mozart, his Symphony No. 1 K.16, as well as his Piano Concerto No. 23 K. 488 this last work with Goodyear as soloist. Also there are two young people's concert on Saturday Jan. 14, at 1:30 and 3:30 p.m., Mozart's Magnificent Voyage, conducted by Joshua Weilerstein. This specially designed program is from the producers of Beethoven Lives Upstairs and will feature 23 excerpts of Mozart's most important works.

Music Toronto welcomes the new year with a duo recital featuring flutist Leslie Mewman and harpist Eric Goodman in a wide-ranging program from Bach to Ravi Shankar. The concert is on Thursday Jan. 12 8 p.m. at the Jane Mallett Theatre. More information at

On Jan. 15 3:15 p.m., Mooredale Concert is presenting violinist Dmitri Berlinsky and the International Chamber Soloists at Walter Hall. Berlinsky is the youngest winner of the Paganini International Violin Competition and the Grand Prize winner of the Montreal International Musical Competition a few years back. He teaches at Michigan State University, where he founded the International Chamber Soloists as a showcase for his advance students. On the program are works by Mendelssohn, Tchaikovsky and Astor Piazzolla. Earlier at 1:15 p.m., there will be a one-hour Music and Truffles concert designed for children 5 - 15. More information at

Last but certainly not least, Canadian baritone Alexander Dobson is giving a recital, Songs For A Winter's Day, at Gallery 345, at 345 Sorauren Avenue in Toronto on Sunday Jan. 15 at 3 p.m. On the program are songs by Schubert and Schumann. Marc di Ruggiero is at the piano. Five years or so ago, I heard him sing Die Winterreise with Yannick Nezet-Seguin (piano) at the Heliconian Hall and can attest that Dobson is a very fine singer and particularly marvelous in the song repertoire. We don't get to hear him very often in Toronto and this is a great opportunity to experience his artistry. More information at