La Scena Musicale

Sunday, 26 October 2014

This Week in Toronto (Oct. 27 - Nov. 2)

My concert picks for the week of October 27 to November 2 - Joseph So

Opera Atelier's Alcina (Wallis Giunta, Allyson McHardy, Meghan Lindsay) Photo: Bruce Zinger

The big news in opera this week is Opera Atelier's Alcina, which opened last Thursday at the Elgin Theatre.  Given OA's specialty is baroque opera, it doesn't seem possible that this is OA's first staging of a Handel opera. Well, apparently it is, but better late than never!  I attended the opening night last Thursday Oct. 23, and it was a knockout of a production. For the first time, OA is using video projections to augment its excellent painted tableaux expertly executed by Gerard Gauci. Given its a fantastical story about the sorceress Alcina, moving images make it that much more visually striking. The subtle transformation of landscape and architectural columns into male nude bodies create quite a sensation in the media, although it must be said that there is really no more nudity than one would find in an evening at the ballet!  The true sensation of the evening was the singing.  I will write a full review of this show for a future issue of the British magazine, Opera. For now, I can say this is a show not to be missed!  Excellent singing from everyone, but particularly Allyson McHardy (Ruggiero), Meghan Lindsay (Alcina), Wallis Giunta (Bradamante), and Mireille Asselin (Morgana). Three more shows this week on Tuesday, Friday and Saturday at the Elgin Theatre.

Bass John Relyea (Photo: Shirley Suarez)

At the Toronto Symphony Orchestra this week is a comparative rarity, Elgar's "oratorio" Dream of Gerontius.  I put oratorio in quotation marks as it was said that Elgar didn't want this label for the work, but if truth be told, that's what it is, given its strong Catholicism. This is considered to be among the finest of the genre of British choral music.  Canadian heldentenor Ben Heppner was originally scheduled to sing the title role, but he announced his retirement last April.  In his place is a very suitable replacement in terms of the vocal demands of this dramatic tenor role, Australian tenor Stuart Skelton.  Joining him are British mezzo-soprano Catherine Wyn-Rogers, and Canadian bass John Relyea, one of the finest basses in the world today, although he's still relatively young at 42,  I recall with pleasure seeing his Figaro last August in Ravinia.  Compared that to the first time I saw his Figaro in Santa Fe Opera when he was only 28, he's better than ever.  This is a superb trio of soloists and this is a show not to be missed by all Elgarians. Peter Oundjian conducts the TS forces, Amadeus Choir and the Elmer Iseler Singers.

The Canadian Opera Company's fall season comes to an end this week, with its production of Falstaff and Madama Butterfly. The last Falstaff  is on Nov. 1, your last chance to see and hear the magnificent Falstaff of the great Canadian bass baritone Gerald Finley. There are three more performances of Madama Butterfly on Oct. 28, 30 and 31.

Ukrainian Art Song Project: Galicians I

Ukrainian bass-baritone Pavlo Hunka is no stranger to Toronto audiences, having appeared with distinction in several leading roles with the Canadian Opera Company back in the Richard Bradshaw era. In recent years, Hunka continued his association with Toronto (and Canada) through his Ukrainian Song Project. Hunka's goal is to commit to recording the vast repertoire of songs by Ukrainian composers. Back in 2011, I interviewed Hunka about this project, the article, together with a review of the Lysenko recordings, can be found below (click to enlarge image). On Sunday Nov. 2 3 pm, Hunka and several Canadian artists - soprano Monica Whicher, mezzo Krisztina Szabo, baritone Russell Braun, and pianist Albert Krywolt, will be giving a recital at Koerner Hall. This concert, Galicians 1, presents the recently discovered compositions of four Ukrainian composers - the late romantic Denys Sichynsky, post-romantic Stanyslav Liudkevych, impressionist Vasyl Barvinsky and the modernist (and also Ukraine's first female composer) Stefania Turkewich. The event is hosted by Stuart Hamilton and produced by composer Roman Hurko. It is presented under the auspices of  the Ukrainian Art Song Project, an endeavour spearheaded by Pavlo Hunka and supported by Ukrainian communities in Canada and worldwide.

   My 2011 interview with Pavlo Hunka about the Ukrainian Art Song Project (click on image to enlarge)

Canadian pianist Janina Fialkowska

Music Toronto is presenting Canadian pianist Janina Fialkowska in recital on Tuesday Oct. 28th 8 pm, at its usual venue, Jane Mallett Theatre, St. Lawrence Centre. On the program are works by Grieg, Schubert, Ravel and Chopin.

Talisker Players (Photo: )

One of my favourite song cycles is Songs of Travel by Ralph Vaughan Williams. It's tailor made for the baritone voice. Last week, baritone Robert Gleadow sang it at the COC noon hour concert, and this week, another fine baritone Geoffrey Sirett is singing this wonderful cycle in a joint recital with soprano Virginia Hatfield and the Talisker Players. The long title is appropriately Songs of Travel: reflections on travel, movement, departures, arrivals and wanderlust. In addition to Vaughan Williams, the program also features works by Louis Applebaum, Vally Weigl, and Elisabeth de la Guerre. Graham Abbey is the actor and reader. The concert is at Trinity St. Paul's Centre on Oct. 29th 8 pm.

Another noteworthy event this week is the Second Toronto International Piano Competition, spearheaded by the Chinese Cultural Centre of Greater Toronto and sponsored by Rolex, Steinway and Sons, as well as the Ontario government.

First Round has already begun, starting Oct. 25th and continues this week, culminating in the Finals to take place at Koerner Hall on November 1st. The high-powered jury panel includes Irish pianist John O'Conor, Canadian James Anagnoson, Italian Fabio Bidini, and the chair is Yoheved Kaplinsky (USA).

Jury panel member Fabio Bidini performs at Opening Ceremony (Photo: Toronto International Piano Competition 2014)

Labels: , , , , , , , ,


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home