La Scena Musicale

Sunday, 11 October 2015

This Week in Toronto (Oct. 12 - 18)

My Toronto Music Previews for the Week of October 12 to 18

~ Joseph So

COC La traviata (Photo: Michael Cooper)

Monday being Canadian Thanksgiving, there're very few major concert events, with everything starting the next day (Oct. 13), including the COC La traviata. The Canadian Opera Company's fall season continues this week with its ultra-romantic, tradition-bound production of the Verdi warhorse, a few idiosyncrasies notwithstanding. I attended opening night and was very impressed by the three principals. Ekaterina Siurina was a beautiful Violetta, singing with gorgeous tone that's warm and appealing. Her portrayal was softer and more gentle than many others, making the character more vulnerable. The high point of the evening was her exquisitely sung "Addio del passato." Charles Castronovo, her husband in real life, offered rich, ringing, virile tone and vivid acting, a very appealing Alfredo. Of the three principals, only Quinn Kelsey has sung with the COC before, as Rigoletto and Sancho Panza. His wonderful Verdi Baritone sounded fabulous, as usual. Guest conductor Marco Guidarini led an idiomatic reading of the score. A real auspicious start to the season. It is well worth seeing, with ten more performances left, including three this week (Oct. 13, 16, 17) at the Four Seasons Centre.

Soprano Joyce El-Khoury (Photo: Kristin Hoebermann)

The October 16 performance marks the first of three shows starring an excellent All-Canadian cast, led by soprano Joyce El-Khoury as Violetta.  It's an exceptional voice, with lots of temperament. So far she has only sung Mimi and Musetta at the COC. Violetta is one of her best roles, having sung it in many houses, but most notably in Amsterdam when she replaced the high profile Russian soprano Marina Poplavskaya. Her recordings of several bel canto rarities for Opera Rara are extremely impressive. I will make sure I go to hear her Violetta.  She is partnered by fast-rising Canadian tenor Andrew Haji, who has one of the most beautiful voices among the young generation of tenors. He won the "triple crown" of Grand Prize, Audience Prize and Critics Prize a year ago in the 's-Hertogenbosch vocal competition in Holland. He is a big guy to be sure, but his acting is so good that you believe him - definitely a voice to be reckoned with.  Rounding out the principals is baritone James Westman, one of my favourite Canadian singers - wonderful, warm baritone with a stunning top. Good to have him back at the COC.

Pianist Benjamin Grosvenor (Photo: Laurie Lewis)

The brilliant, young British pianist Benjamin Grosvenor is in town for a recital under the auspices of Music Toronto. On the program are Mendelssohn, Cesar Franck, and Bach-Busoni. He received rave reviews at the recent Last Night at the Proms.  This guy is the real deal and well worth hearing at the Jane Mallet Theatre, St. Lawrence Centre in downtown Toronto. Recital on Oct. 13 8 pm. Here's a Youtube video of the brilliant Mr. Grosvenor playing Chopin, Mompou, Medtner, and Liszt.  For more information about the recital, go to

TSO Pops Conductor Steven Reineke

Steven Reineke, the charismatic pops conductor of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra is back to lead Let's Be Frank: Sinatra Hits. Vocalists include Storm Large, Tony DeSare, Frankie Moreno, and Ryan Silverman. Three performances, Oct. 13 8 pm, Oct. 14 matinee and evening, all at Roy Thomson Hall.   Maestro Reineke is also leading the TSO in a "live soundtrack" for the Hollywood movie Back to the Future on Oct. 16 and 17.

Cellist Adrian Fung - Afiara String Quartet

The Women's Musical Club of Toronto is presenting the Afiara String Quartet in recital on Oct. 15th 1:30 pm at Walter Hall, Edward Johnson Building, University of Toronto. On the program are works by Grandjany, Mozetich, Beethoven, Renie and Tournier. Guest soloist is harpist Caroline Leonardelli. An interesting tidbit is the recent appointment of a member of Afiara, cellist Adrian Fung, by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra as its new Vice President of Innovation. His tenure begins on October 13th.  His duties include working with TSO's education and outreach and fostering new collaborations. This represents an effort by the TSO to expand its audience base and likely bringing a young audience to the Symphony. It also looks like Mr. Fung will continue as a member of Afiara.

Actress Meryl Streep

Mega-star actress Meryl Streep is making an unlikely appearance in a classical music event this week with the Takacs Quartet.. She is participating in the RCM Season Gala, reading from Phillip Roth's Everyman.  The Takacs Quartet is playing excerpts from Schubert's Death and the Maiden, the Elegy from Shostakovich's String Quartet No.2, and the Passacaglia from Benjamin Britten's String Quartet No. 3.  I understand this concert is sold out, but do check with the box office as there might be returns.

 Classical Music comedy duo Igudesman and Joo

If you like your classical music irreverent, this is for you. Igudesman and Joo is back to Koerner Hall for a fun Sunday afternoon diversion, spoofing none other than Mozart, who would likely have approved!  Concert on Oct. 18th 3 pm.

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