La Scena Musicale

Sunday, 10 March 2013

This Week in Toronto (March 11 - 17)

British Composer Benjamin Britten (1913 - 1976)

This being March Break, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra is having its one-week hiatus, and the Canadian Opera Company is in the early stages of rehearsal for the upcoming Spring Season opening of Lucia di Lammermoor. Currently the Four Seasons Centre stage has been taken over by the National Ballet of Canada for its presentation of Romeo and Juliet in its new version by Russian choreographer Alexei Ratmansky. The music is Prokofiev's alternately fiery and lyrical score that is an audience's favourite. Performances from March 12 to 17.

2013 marks the centenary of the birth of British composer Benjamin Britten, and many companies are rushing to stage his works. The COC has programmed Peter Grimes with Canada's own Ben Heppner in the fall season. The University of Toronto Faculty of Music is presenting Britten's Turn of the Screw, for four performances at the MacMillan Theatre. It features students of the U of T Opera Division, conducted by Stephen Hargreaves with Michael Cavanagh as stage director. This is a good opportunity to hear voices of the future.

While the Brits have their Benjamin Britten centenary coming up, we Canadians have composer John Weinzweig, who was born on March 11, 1913, which is Monday. To celebrate, the University of Toronto Faculty of Music and Soundstreams are presenting the Weinzweig Centenary Concert with the Cecilia String Quartet performing the composers Violin Sonata, Cello Sonata, and String Quartet No. 3. It is at Walter Hall at noon and admission is free.

Canadian Opera Company's noon hour free concert series at the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre is offering as part of its Vocal Series, Interactive Opera, a kids/family-friendly show on Wednesday March 13. Soprano and art educator Kyra Millan is leading an "interactive concert" of popular arias and duets, including fun vocal exercises and the opportunity to learn and sing the Papageno-Papagena duet. If you are young or young at heart, this is the event for you. Also participating is baritone Jesse Clark and pianist Christina Faye. Full program details at

Music Toronto, the august presenter of chamber and instrumental performers, is offering another concert in its Discovery series, the appearance of the Trio Fibonacci on Thursday March 14 8 pm at its usual venue of Jane Mallett Theatre. This ensemble is in residence at the Conservatoire de Quebec, and their specialty is new music. On this occasion, they are playing works by Laurie Radford, George Onslow and Ana Sokolovic.

I know this is not specific to Toronto, but if you are an opera fan, don't miss the Met in HD presentation of Zandonai's Francesca da Rimini, an infrequently performed opera last seen at the Met almost thirty years ago. I do vividly recall seeing this on the stage of the O'Keefe Centre when the Met was last on tour to Toronto for the Sesquicentennial.  It starred Renata Scotto and Placido Domingo, probably the only time they sang on the stages of the O'Keefe. (Scotto did sing in a COC orchestral concert around that time)  This time around, it stars Dutch soprano Eva Maria Westbroek in the title role, and Marcello Giordani as Paolo. Marco Armiliato conducts. It's going to be the same gorgeous 1984 Ezio Frigerio production. Even companies with deep pockets like the Met are seldom producing grand productions on this scale now, so this is an opportunity to see this relatively rare work.  The event is on Saturday March 16 at 12 pm. Check your local Cineplex cinemas for availability of tickets. 

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