La Scena Musicale

Sunday, 26 May 2013

This Week in Toronto (May 27 - June 2)

To keen observers of the Toronto music scene, it has become increasingly clear that the vocal recital is a really, really hard sell. The august Roy Thomson Hall Vocal Series, a real jewel in the crown of RTH since it opened in the early 80's, has been consigned to history a few years ago. Its "replacement" - the much more modest Canadian Voices Series at Glenn Gould Studio, has not received the support from voice fans that it deserves the last two seasons, and it looks unlikely that there will be a third season. The occasional vocal recitals put on by other presenters such as Music Toronto have had disappointing turnouts. And today, the fiercely loyal fans of the Aldeburgh Connection will gather for the last time at Walter Hall, as co-artistic directors Stephen Ralls and Bruce Ubukata have decided to bring their celebrated series to a close. At a recent COC Podcast (May 10), several of us lamented the demise of the song  recital  Given the difficult environment, it is good to see that pianist Rachel Andrist and pianist-composer John Greer have decided to buck the trend, and actually start a new recital series!  Recitals at Rosedale features some of the best Canadian singers, in a series of intelligently designed, theme-based recitals. The series opens in October, but on June 1 at 7:30 pm, there will be a preview of the 2013-14 inaugural season. An Enchanted Evening of Song and Opera features songs from Schubert to Noel Coward, sung by sopranos Laura Albino, Lindsay Barrett, Leslie Ann Bradley, Ambur Braid and Miriam Khalil, mezzo Laura Tucker, tenors Colin Ainsworth and Michael Colvin, baritones Peter Barrett, Gregory Dahl, Anthony Cleverton and Robert Gleadow.  Also appearing is violinist Erika Raum. Rachel Andrist and John Greer are at the piano. Do come out and support this wonderful initiative. For details and tickets ($20) , go to

Canadian pianist Janina Fialkowska (Photo: Julien Faugere)

Tafelmusik, in a departure from its usual baroque repertoire, is presenting a concert of Beethoven and Chopin. Guest conductor Bruno Weil leads the Tafelmusik forces in Beethoven's Symphony No. 4, and the Chopin piano concerto no. 2 with pianist Janina Fialkowska as the soloist. The Chopin is arranged for a chamber orchestra and played on a 19th  century Pleyel piano. Performance on May 30 8 pm at Koerner Hall.

Soprano Miriam Khalil (

The ever adventurous Against the Grain Music Theatre is putting on Figaro's Wedding, a newly re-imagined version of Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro, with a rewritten libretto and re-situated to Toronto (!) by Joel Ivany. It stars soprano Miriam Khalil as Susanna and Lisa DiMaria as Rosina (the Contessa's real name).  Stephen Hegedus is Figaro and Alexander Dobson is Alberto (formerly  the Count). Cherubino, instead of a mezzo, is now a high soprano (Teiya Tasahara). You can be sure this show will be unlike any Marriage of Figaro you've seen. The venue is equally unconventional - at the Burroughs Building in the trendy Queen Street West neighbourhood. Christopher Mokrzewski is the music director and it marks the debut of the Music in the Barn Chamber Ensemble. It opens on May 29 with additional performances on May 30, 31 and June 2.

 Conductor Bramwell Tovey (Photo:

After the heavy (but wonderful!) Brahms Requiem last week, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra is presenting two lighter programs this week, with Bramwell Tovey conducting an audience favourite, Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue. It's paired with another popular piece, Elgar's Enigma Variations.  Performance at Roy Thomson Hall on Saturday June 1 7:30 pm. On Tuesday May 28 7:30 pm and Wednesday May 29 (1:30pm and 7:30 pm), TSO is programming a screening in HD of the newly remastered West Side Story, but instead of the musical soundtrack, we have the TSO under its pops conductor, Steven Reineke!  I have to confess I have never attended any of these movie-live orchestra pairings in the past, but this one is intriguing given the scintillating Bernstein score.

Conductor Steven Reineke 

Sonoro Quartet appears at Toronto Summer Music Festival

A happy musical event every July is the Toronto Summer Music Festival. Now in its third year under the artistic directorship of Douglas McNabney, this year's festival runs from July 16 to August 3. The theme this year is La Belle Epoque. Lots of goodies, including a personal favourite of mine, the great Dutch soprano Elly Ameling (July 15 to 20)!  No she won't be singing, at 80 she is long retired. But she will pass on her wisdom to young artists in the Art of the Song program. On Tuesday noon at the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre, McNabney will give a preview of this year's festival, and performing will be the Montreal-based Sonoro Quartet. Be sure to show up an hour ahead to get a seat.

- Joseph So

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