La Scena Musicale

Sunday, 1 February 2015

This Week in Toronto (Feb. 2 - 8)

My Toronto Concert Picks for the Week of Feb. 2 to 8

Joseph So

The big news this week continues to be the two productions of the Canadian Opera Company's winter season, Don Giovanni and Die Walkure.  The Wagner opened on Saturday at the Four Seasons Centre. It was good to revisit the Atom Egoyan/ Michael Levine production once again. I saw it when it first premiered in 2004, and then again - twice - in 2006 FSC inaugural season. The principals have largely changed in the intervening 11 years with one exception, American tenor Clifton Forbis as Siegmund.  The current Brunnhilde, COC's third for this production after Frances Ginzer and Susan Bullock, is American soprano Christine Goerke. I will write a full review soon but for now, I can say she was sensational on opening night, singing the best Hojotoho I've ever heard. The rest of the cast was superb - bass-baritone Johan Reuter (Wotan) and bass Dmitry Ivashchenko (Hunding) were both outstanding. As the Walsung twins, the trumpet-like top of Forbis was most impressive, and Heidi Melton's huge, luscious soprano was ideal as Sieglinde. In his first-ever Die Walkure, conductor Johannes Debus gave an exciting reading of the score. This is a show not to be missed - in fact I'm tempted to go back to see it again. I was a bit sad to see some people leaving at each intermission. Yes, Wagner is an acquired taste, but once you 'get it' it is uniquely rewarding.  Most of the principals will appear in a singers' round-table at a meeting of the Toronto Wagner Society on Thursday Feb. 5 8 pm at the Arts and Letters Club on Elm Street in downtown Toronto. Non members are welcome with admission charge. You can find out more at    Performances of Die Walkure continue on Feb. 4 and 7.  Don Giovanni performances on Feb 3 and 6 with a fine cast led by Russell Braun.

COC Die Walkure Act 3 Final Scene (Photo: Michael Cooper)

On Feb. 4 8 pm at Roy Thomson Hall, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra continues with its Mozart@259 programming, this time combining Mozart with Chopin. Honens laureate Pavel Kolesnikov and veteran pianist Emanuel Ax are the soloists. On the program are Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 14 K.449, and Chopin's Grande Polonaise.  Also on the program is Rachmaninoff's Symphony Dances. TSO Music Director Peter Oundjian conducts.  On Feb. 6, Emanuel Ax plays Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 4, under the baton of Rob Kapilow. Details at
Honens Laureate Pianist Pavel Kolesnikov

This piano-centric week continues on Feb 07 2:00 when the TSO presents Piano Extravaganza: Pianorama. plus Saint-Saëns' The Carnival of the Animals. Peter Oundjian conducts with pianists Emanuel Ax and Pavel Kolesnikov. Also appearing are pianists Patricia Krueger, Richard Chao Gao, Amadeusz Kazubowski-Houston, Kyoko Kohno, Coco Ma, Artun Miskciyan, Marko Pejanovic, Anastasia Rizikov, Anna Vertypolokh, Sunny Zhai, and Annie Zhou. Also appearing is organist David Briggs.

Now, if you want to hear Ax and Kolesnikov for free, you can show up at the COC noon hour concert at the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheater at the Four Seasons Centre on Feb. 5. (Actually I believe Ax is the host and not playing.) Joining Pavel Kolesnikov is pianist Orion Weiss. On the program are Opera Transcriptions for Piano. Be sure to show up an hour ahead for a seat or a standing spot!

Soprano Karine Boucher

Another interesting free event is the noon hour concert at the RBA on Tuesday Feb. 3. COC Ensemble sopranos Aviva Fortunata and Karine Boucher sing Messiaen's Poemes pour Mi. I heard this once, with Adrianne Pieczonka in Montreal several years ago. It's a cycle well worth experiencing if it's new to you. Also on the program is Theme and Variations for violin and piano, performed by violinist Kerry DuWors and pianist Liz Upchurch. Program details at

The singer-driven Opera by Request under the direction of pianist William Shookhoff is presenting Cosi fan tutte on Feb. 7 at 7:30 pm. Soloists are sopranos Jami-Lynn Gubbe and Andrea Nunez, mezzo Melissa Peiou, tenor Jan Nadal, baritone Janaka Welihinda, and bass-baritone Lawrence Shirkie. William Shookhoff is at the piano. This concert takes place at College Street United Church on 452 College Street in downtown Toronto.

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