La Scena Musicale

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Canadian Opera Company Ensemble Studio Welcomes Six New Voices

This Just In.....

The Canadian Opera Company announces this morning that six new singers are being added to the COC Ensemble Studio for the 2013-14 roster.

They are bass-baritone Gordon Bintner, tenor Andrew Haji, soprano Aviva Fortunata, mezzo Charlotte Burrage, mezzo Danielle MacMillan, and baritone Clarence Frazer. Bintner, Haji and Burrage are the three prize winners of the recent COC Ensemble Studio Competition.

Congratulations to them and we look forward to hearing them in the coming seasons at the COC!

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Sunday, 6 January 2013

This Week in Toronto (Jan. 7 - 13)

Canadian soprano Layla Claire sings Mozart with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (Photo: )

Now that the Holidays are over, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra winter season is gearing up with the celebrations of Mozart's 257th birthday.  Since commemorating his 250th in January 2006, this has turned into an annual event.  This year we have a series of programs that are sure to delight the Mozart lovers in us.  For voice fans, a "do not miss" event is the appearance of the beautiful voice (and face) of BC lyric soprano Layla Claire, who burst onto the scene three years ago. She returns to the TSO to sing Susanna's wonderful "Giunse alfin il momento...Al desio di chi t'adora" from Le nozze di Figaro, "Crudele fermate" from the rarely staged La finta giardiniera, ending with the magnificent "Alleluja" from the motet Exsultate jubilate. The other soloist is pianist Jeremy Denk, who's playing a real chestnut, the Piano Concerto No. 21 K 467. This piece is forever identified as the "Elvira Madigan" because of its use in the 1967 Swedish movie Elvira Madigan - unbelievable that it's been 46 years!  Given the passage of time, this reference is appearing less and less in promotional material now.  The Overture to Die Zauberfloete and Symphony No. 35 K 385 round out the program. The guest conductor is COC's Johannes Debus, who must be the busiest maestro in the world this month.  Originally scheduled for these two concerts plus Mozart's La clemenza di Tito at the COC, Debus is taking on seven performances of Tristan und Isolde, his very first time conducting this monumental piece!  He is taking this on due to the illness and cancellation of the great Czech conductor Jiri Belohlavek - talk about a superhuman schedule!  But if anyone can do it, it would be the enormously gifted Debus. (Note:  After I wrote this, I have since discovered that Debus has given up Tito. In his place are conductors Daniel Cohen and Derek Bate)Two performances, Jan. 9 at 6:30 pm and Jan. 10 at 2 pm, at Roy Thomson Hall.  Note: the Jan. 9 concert is abridged and performed without an intermission. On Jan. 10, 12 and 13(m), TSO music director Peter Oundjian conducts a different Mozart program, featuring harpist Heidi Gorton, flutist Nora Shulman and violinist Augustin Hadelich. Performances on Jan. 9, 10, and 12 at Roy Thomson Hall; and performance on Jan. 13 takes place at George Weston Recital Hall of the Toronto Centre for the Performance Arts in North York. For details go to  

On the operatic side, rehearsals for Tristan und Isolde has started but it won't open for another three weeks. This is arguably the most anticipated COC event in recent memory. Canada's reigning heldentenor Ben Heppner hasn't sung a complete opera with the company since the 1995-6 season as Canio. It is high time that he is back with the COC and in a role that has defined his career since that first concert Tristan in Geneva. I will have more to say about it in the coming weeks.  In the meantime, the Canadian Opera Company Ensemble Studio members are putting on a noon hour concert of songs and arias by Mozart and his contemporary Salieri on Jan. 8, at the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre. Soloists include sopranos Claire de Sevigny and Sasha Djihanian, tenor Owen McCausland, baritone Cameron McPhail, and bass-baritone Neil Craighead. Timothy Cheung and Jenna Douglas are at the piano. As usual, the concert is free but be sure to show up an hour ahead to ensure a seat.

The COC Ensemble noon hour concert mentioned above unfortunately clashes with a recital given by tenor Andrew Haji, the recipient of this year's Jim and Charlotte Norcop Prize in Song at the University of Toronto. You may remember Haji won Second Prize at the recent COC Ensemble Studio Competition.  He also sang a highly praised Nemorino recently at the U of T Opera School. Accompanying him is Narmina Afandiyeva, winner of the Gwendolyn Koldovsky Prize in Accompaniment. The recital takes place in Walter Hall. The clash is really too bad as I'd love to attend both, but such is life!

Elsewhere, Music Toronto is presenting the Tokyo Quartet in a program of Bartok and Haydn. The concert takes place on Thursday Jan. 10 8 pm at the Jane Mallett Theatre.

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