La Scena Musicale

Sunday, 7 April 2013

This Week in Toronto (April 8 - 21)

Anna Christy as Lucia in the ENO production which is coming to the COC (photo: Clive Barda)

The eagerly anticipated spring season of the Canadian Opera Company is finally upon us. The first of three operas opens on Wednesday April 17th 7:30 pm at the Four Seasons Centre. The second performance is on Saturday April 20th at 7:30 pm. It's the ever-popular Lucia di Lammermoor. This Donizetti warhorse was seen actually not all that long ago at the COC when it was staged for Russian soprano Marina Mescheriakova, a frequent visiting artist a dozen years ago. This time around, it is the wonderful American soprano Anna Christy, whose voice I first heard in Santa Fe some years ago. Edgardo is American tenor Stephen Costello, and Enrico is American baritone Brian Mulligan. Stephen Lord conducts the COC Orchestra. The production comes from the English National Opera directed by David Alden. Of course his brother Christopher has directed a number of productions here, most recently Die Fledermaus and La clemenza di Tito, but I believe this is David Alden's first time at the COC. The Alden Brothers are known for unconventional takes on old classics, so fasten your seat belts!  The second Spring production is a revival of Atom Egoyan's sensational Salome, beginning on April 21st at 2 pm. In a recent interview, Egoyan says he has given his original direction a lot of re-thinking, so we all look forward to the changes. Salome is American soprano Erika Sunnegardh in one of her signature roles. Bass-baritone Alan Held returns as Jochanaan, and tenor Richard Margison sings the character role of Herod. Also very interesting is German mezzo Hanna Schwarz singing Herodias. Wagnerites remember her well - she was the Fricka in the Centennial Ring in Bayreuth directed by Patrice Chereau in 1976. Schwarz turns 70 later this year - talk about longevity!  Johannes Debus and Derek Bate share conducting duties.

Swedish-American soprano Erika Sunnegardh (photo:

Tenor Lawrence Wiliford and collaborative pianist Steven Philcox are the two founders of the Canadian Art Song Project.  They will be presenting A Celebration of Canadian Art Song, a noon-hour concert on Tuesday April 16th at the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre The centerpiece is the world premiere of a new cycle by Norbert Palej, Fourteen Small Songs, set to text by Jan Zwicky. Also on the program is a new work by Andrew Ager and a selection of songs by Jean Coulthard. Joining Wiliford will be soprano Shannon Mercer and baritone Peter McGillivray.  Be sure to show up an hour ahead for a seat.

                             Tenor Lawrence Wiliford (photo:

On April 11th and 13th, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra is featuring soprano Measha Brueggergosman in Duparc songs and the wonderful Knoxville: Summer of 1915 by Samuel Barber. The soprano recorded this on CBC Records several years ago.  Also on the program is Stravinsky's Firebird Suite. American conductor James Gaffigan is at the helm.   

  Conductor James Gaffigan (photo:

Great Russian violinist Gil Shaham is making a welcome return to the Toronto Symphony Orchestra on April 17 and 18, as soloist in Mozart's Violin Concerto no. 5, known as the "Turkish."  It is paired with Smetana's Ma Vlast, his best known work, here presented with a twist - there are going to be projections co-commissioned by the TSO, "photo-choreographed" by James Westwater and Nicholas Bardonnay.  Peter Oundjian, the TSO Music Director, is at the helm. All performances at Roy Thomson Hall.

Violinist Gil Shaham

For a single performance on Saturday April 20th 7:30 pm, the National Arts Centre Orchestra is in town, with its Music Director Pinchas Zukerman leading the NAC forces in Mendelssohn's Symphony No. 5 "Reformation" and Saint-Saens' Piano Concerto No. 2 with Israeli pianist Inon Barnatan. The opening work is well known Canadian composer John Estacio's Brio, Toccata and Fantasy for Orchestra. This is one of the TSO Casual Concerts, meaning no intermission followed by a party in the lobby with coffee and live music by the Ron Davis Trio. 

Conductor Pinchas Zukerman 

As part of the Roy Thomson Hall Canada Voices Series, mezzo Allyson McHardy is giving a recital on April 14th 2 pm at the Glenn Gould Studio. Stephen Ralls is the collaborative pianist. I'm not able to find program information. McHardy wowed audience and critics recently as Sister Helen Prejean in the Opera de Montreal's Dead Man Walking.  She's a singer who combines a beautiful voice with musicality.

Mezzo soprano Allyson McHardy (photo: Bo Huang)

Pianist Daniil Trifonov plays Koerner Hall April 14 

Russian pianist Daniil Trifonov is a bona fide phenom. A charismatic artist, Trifonov has enjoyed tremendous success at competitions, including the Arthur Rubinstein, Warsaw and the Tchaikovsky, and all before he turned 22!  He's now concertizing widely to critical and audience acclaim. His April 14 Koerner Hall recital includes works by Scriabin, Liszt, and Rachmaninov.  This is a concert not to be missed. 

Violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg

On Friday April 19th at Koerner Hall, violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg joins forces with pianist Anne-Marie McDermott in Prokofiev's Violin Sonata No. 1 in F Minor, Op. 60 and Cesar Frank's Violin Sonata in A Major. The program also includes Arvo Part's Spiegel im Spiegel, an interesting combination.

Pianist Inon Barnatan (photo: Marco Borggreve)

My last choice - but definitely not least - for these two musically jam-packed weeks is the joint recital of pianist Inon Barnatan and cellist Alisa Weilerstein on April 21 3 pm at Koerner Hall.  (Barnatan is doing double duty this weekend, playing with the NAC Orchestra at Roy Thomson on April 20.)  Here at Koerner, they are playing a program of Beethoven, Britten, Shostakovich and Rachmaninov.

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