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.


Monday, 20 February 2012

This Week in Toronto (Feb. 20 - 26)

Soprano Karina Gauvin

Quebec soprano Karina Gauvin brings her exquisite voice to the Toronto Symphony Orchestra this week, in a highly unusual repertoire (for her) - Les Illuminations for Voice and String Orchestra. Guest conductor Jean-Marie Zeitouni is at the helm. Also on the program is Brahms Symphony No. 4 and Pelleas et Melisande by Faure. Two performances, Wed. Feb. 22 and Thurs. Feb. 23 at 8 p.m. at Roy Thomson Hall.

The winter season of the Canadian Opera Company is winding down this week, but it's not too late! The one remaining performance of Love From Afar is on Wednesday Feb. 22, while there are three more performances of Tosca this week, all with the excellent Brandon Jovanovich as Caravadossi. This tenor is in such demand that in between performances here at the COC, he went to Deutsche Oper Berlin for several performances of Don Jose! Now he's back so catch him if you can. The Tosca is American soprano Julie Makerov a frequent guest of the Company.

Soprano and Saskatchewan native Ileana Montalbetti is give a farewell recital at the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre on Thurs. Feb. 23 at noon. She is finishing an unprecendented fourth year as a member of the COC Ensemble, the longest tenure of any singer in the history of the Ensemble. Montalbetti has the voice that in Germany is classified as a Jugenlische Dramatischer, a youthful dramatic soprano that is suitable in the lighter Wagnerian roles such as Elsa, Eva, Freia, Gutrune, Elisabeth, as well as Strauss roles such as Arabella, Chrysothemis, Kaiserin, and maybe Ariadne, Farberin and the Marschallin as the singer matures. Montalbetti's big voice was impressive as Elettra in a mainstage performances of Idomeneo two years ago. In her farewell concert, in addition to songs by Britten and Strauss, she is singing Eva's short aria, 'O Sachs, mein Freund', and the longer, very gorgeous 'Das war sehr Gut, Mandryka' at the end Arabella. This is a good chance to catch this singer one more time. Here is the link to her program Rachel Andrist is the pianist. Be sure to show up at least 45 minutes in advance for a seat.

Russian violinist/conductor Vladimir Spivakov and pianist Olga Kern are embarking on their first North American tour as a duo with a stop at Toronto's Koerner Hall. They are of course no strangers to Toronto audiences, so it's good to have them back. (I just interviewed Kern for an article which you can read here: ) In addition to the Koerner Hall duo recital, Kern is also giving a masterclass at the Robert Lowrey Piano Experts' European Gallery. Details at The recital is presented by Show One Productions Ticket information at

Opera York is presenting Johann Strauss' ever-popular Die Fledermaus. Belgian-based Canadian baritone Matthew Zadow is Eisenstein. Other members of the cast are Ilona Karan (Rosalinda), Anna Bateman (Adele), Ryan Harper (Alfred) and Luisa Cowie (Orlovsky) Geoffrey Butler conducts.

Other opera activities include Toronto Opera Repertoire's continuation with their spring productions of Lucia di Lammermoor and Merry Widow The Toronto Operetta Theatre is presenting the world premiere of Taptoo! a Canadian work by John Beckwith and James Reaney.

Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra is putting on Virtuoso Vivaldi under the direction of Jeanne Lamon, on Feb. 21 (George Weston Hall), 23, 24, and 25 8 p.m. at the Trinity St. Paul's Centre. Guest artist is Dutch recorder virtuoso Marion Verbruggen.