La Scena Musicale

Sunday, 26 January 2014

This Week in Toronto (Jan. 27- Feb. 2)

This Week in Toronto (Jan. 27 - Feb. 2)

- Joseph So

Soprano Adrianne Pieczonka

The second production of the Canadian Opera Company's winter season opens this week - Verdi's Un ballo in maschera, starring Canada's prima donna Adrianne Pieczonka in her first-ever Amelia. Pieczonka has been in front of the public for a quarter century, and she's still in her prime. It was just announced this weekend that she is the recipient of the $20,000 Paul de Hueck and Norman Walford Career Development Award. The only opera singer who has received this award previously was the venerable mezzo Judith Forst. Pieczonka is celebrated in Wagner and Strauss, but she's also a noted singer in the Italian repertoire, portraying heroines the likes of Desdemona, Amelia (Simon Boccanegra), Alice Ford, and Tosca to acclaim. Now she's adding the Ballo Amelia to her growing list of Verdi soprano roles. She's partnered by American tenor Dimitri Pittas. No stranger to Canadian audiences, Pittas was the Duke of Mantua in the COC Rigoletto several seasons ago, and more recently one of three tenors singing Rodolfo last fall.  With his Italianate sound he will make an idiomatic Riccardo.  The rest of the cast includes Roland Wood (Renato), Elena Manistina (Ulrica) and Simone Osborne (Oscar).  I attended a working rehearsal of this "concept" production from the Staatsoper Berlin a few days ago, and can honestly say it's like nothing I've seen before. It'll be interesting to see how it's received by the Toronto audience. That said, it's important to keep an open mind. Verdi himself changed the setting from Sweden to Boston for political considerations, so why not have it set in the American South during the Kennedy era? Opening night is Sunday Feb. 2 at 2 pm at the Four Seasons Centre.

It's unfortunate that the Ballo opening directly conflicts with Rameau's Hippolyte et Aricie put on by VoiceBox (Opera in Concert). (Of course if you are willing to attend a later performance of the Verdi, then problem solved!)  Kevin Mallon conducts the Aradia Ensemble with a strong cast including tenor Colin Ainsworth, mezzo Allyson McHardy, soprano Meredith Hall, bass Alain Coulombe and baritone Benjamin Covey. Sunday Feb. 2 2:30 pm at the Jane Mallett Theatre.

Meanwhile, the other COC production Cosi fan tutte continues. This visually lovely Atom Egoyan production with excellent musical values will delight every Mozart fan.  Performances this week on Jan. 29 7:30 pm and Feb. 1 at 4:30 pm.  On Tuesday Jan. 28 noon at the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre, members of the COC Ensemble Studio will sing excerpts from Cosi, in anticipation of their special performance on Feb. 7.  This is a good chance to hear these artists in an opera that is ideally suited to these young voices. It's only an hour so we'll only get snippets of the opera. Be sure to line up an hour in advance to ensure a seat.

Baritone Luca Pisaroni

The fine Italian baritone Luca Pisaroni is returning to Toronto for a recital at Koerner Hall on Wednesday Jan. 29.  Mr. Pisaroni was previously here in a joint recital with Canadian tenor Michael Schade, replacing the originally scheduled Thomas Quasthoff when he decided to retire from the stage. Now we get to hear Pisaroni in a solo recital, in an evening of Beethoven, Schubert, Liszt, Bellini and Tosti. At the keyboard is pianist Wolfram Rieger.

Legendary songwriters Simon and Garfunkel

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra goes pops this week with three performances of Sounds of Simon and Garfunkel. Michael Krajewski leads the TSO in the greatest hits by the legendary song writing duel, interpreted by singers A J Swearingen and Jonathan Beedle. This will be one of those feel-good, nostalgic throwback events, a real winter's tonic for pop fans of a certain age, including yours truly! Jan. 28 8 pm and Jan. 29 2 pm and 8 pm at Roy Thomson Hall.

Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra

Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra under the direction of Jeanne Lamon is presenting Intimately Bach, an almost all Bach program, with the sole exception of a concerto by Gregoire Jeay. Five performances, on Jan. 29, 30, 31, Feb. 1 and Feb. 2, this last a matinee, at the Trinity-St. Paul's Centre.

Alcan Quartet

Music Toronto is presenting the Chicoutimi PQ-based Alcan Quartet on Thursday Jan. 30 8 pm at the Jane Mallett Theatre. This group is named after its principal patron, Alcan the aluminum company. On the program are works by Mozart, Alessandro Annunziata, and Beethoven. The musicians are violinists Laura Andriani and Nathalie Camus, violist Luc Beauchemin and cellist David Ellis. They have toured extensively in North America, Europe and Asia.

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