La Scena Musicale

Sunday, 8 June 2014

This Week in Toronto (June 9 - 15)

My Toronto concert picks for the week of June 9 to 15

Joseph So

This week Toronto Symphony Orchestra is presenting in its Masterworks Series Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 3 with the brilliant Chinese virtuoso Yuja Wang on June 11 and 12 8 pm at Roy Thomson Hall. But as they say, the best laid plans of mice and men... it was announced a few days ago that Ms. Wang has suffered an injury, to her hand presumably. Replacing her is fast-rising Canadian pianist Stewart Goodyear.  I have heard him a number of times, including the Beethoven Marathon last year.  He's a fine pianist in possession of a brilliant technique and uncommon sensitivity.  Also on the program is Weber's Overture to his opera Oberon, as well as  Shostakovich's Symphony No. 5, which also appears on TSO Late Night Saturday June 14th at 10 pm, in conjunction with the Luminato Festival 2014. The Orchestra gives a free concert at the David Pecaut Square (right next door to RTH) on June 15th 7 pm, the closing night of Luminato, playing Music of the Americas. It features music of Copland and Bernstein to John Estacio (his Frenergy is just the right piece to open the proceedings!) and Astor Piazzolla, plus others.   TSO music director Peter Oundjian is at the helm for all events. For details go to

Pianist Stewart Goodyear (Photo: Anita Zvonar)

A major presence in Luminato is Canadian singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright - remember his opera Prima Donna and his several one-man shows?  Well, he is back with the cleverly titled If I Loved You - Gentlemen Prefers Broadway. It's billed as an evening of love duets, and Wainwright will bring his gay sensibilities to these old standards. If you haven't, be sure to read the interview he gave to Martin Knelman at the Toronto Star last week.  Wainwright will be joined by a stellar cast of musical luminaries including Josh Groban and Boy George! It's at the Sony Centre on June 14th at 7:30 pm.

Singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright

Opera By Request, the grass-roots, artist-driven opera group, is presenting Berlioz's Beatrice et Benedict on Wednesday June 11 at 7:30 pm at College Street United Church. It's a piece based on Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing. I saw the Berlioz opera twice in quick succession, first at the Santa Fe Opera in the late 90s and then at the Canadian Opera Company with pretty much the same cast. There are some lovely music in the score - I particularly like the Ursule-Hero duet. (Here is a recording of this duet, gorgeously sung by American soprano Sylvia McNair and Canadian mezzo Catherine Robbin. ) This performance on Wednesday stars two talented singers, mezzo soprano Michele Bogdanowicz (Beatrice) and tenor Ernesto Ramirez (Benedict).  They are a couple in real life and in art. Ramirez had an auspicious debut in the title role of Roberto Devereux at the COC just last month. Bogdanowicz is a former member of the COC Ensemble Studio. This performance is, as usual, with piano accompaniment by William Shookhoff.

Mezzo-soprano Michele Bogdanowicz

Tenor Ernesto Ramirez

Canadian pianist Helena Bowkun is giving a rare public performance on Tuesday June 10 7:30 pm at Yorkminster Park Baptist Church 1585 Yonge Street.  This will be Bowkun's first Toronto recital in 10 years.  She had a major career in the 1970s onwards but as I understand it she scaled back her performing activities due to ill health. On her program this Tuesday are works by Beethoven, Chopin and Rachmaninoff. This is a benefit concert for the Benevolent Fund of the Yorkminster Park Baptist Church. You can find out more about Ms. Bowkun at

Pianist Helena Bowkun

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