La Scena Musicale

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal's Jeunes Gouverneurs stage princely soirée

Photo courtesy of Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal

Last row 3rd&2nd from right:
Jeunes Gouverneurs co-president Élise Sauvé & Jessica Drolet, JG founder/co-president flanked by committee members (left to right): 
Catherine Coursol, Camille Lamy, Marie-Christine Beaulieu, Caroline Abastado, Coco Messier, Luce Caillères, 
Sophie Gagnon, Nicolas Rubbo, Lise Berichel, Sophie Bergeron, Alexandra Meunier 

Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal's Jeunes Gouverneurs stage princely soirée
by Naomi Gold 

For their third Grand Ballets Canadiens gala, the Jeunes Gouverneurs choreographed a fabulously festive fundraiser fit for, well, a prince.  Held in conjunction with the hugely successful springtime production of Didy Veldman's Le Petit Prince, the benefit was led by JG co-presidents Jessica Drolet and Élise Sauvé.  TV host Virginie Coossa served as emcee, while GBC CEO Alain "dance man" Dancyger and veteran artistic director Gradimir Pankov lent their support.  Some 400 enthusiastic attendees were treated to scrumptious eats, silky smooth spirits, a silent auction, hair and makeup stations, DJ Thomas H spinning discs and the performance itself.   After much schmoozing, grooving, mixing, dining and imbibing, thoroughly satiated attendees were ushered into PdA's Théâtre Maisonneuve for the main event.

London-based, Dutch-born choreographer Didy Veldman created Le Petit Prince for Les Grands Ballets Canadiens and it premiered to critical acclaim in May of 2012.  Based on Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's timeless classic, Veldman's oeuvre is set in a more urban environment and performed as a series of earthly encounters.   Evoking the fable's pithy, philosophical musings whilst maintaining the simplicity of its message, it challenges viewers to confront their personal prisms and perspectives.  The fast-paced, spectacularly performed ballet, with its mesmeric, at times hypnotic beats clearly resonated with spectators, who responded with a standing ovation and rapturous applause.    

Post-performance, sybarites sashayed their way back to Maison Symphonique's Salon Urbain for some high octane dessert refueling, serious fun and the event's major announcement.  Thrilled to learn that $83,000 had been raised, partygoers busted out all the right moves and danced like no one was looking.  Eventually emerging from backstage, GBC pros pranced over to party central to unwind, recharge and biorefuel. Dancing like everyone was looking, they wowed and dazzled once again, until the proverbial wee hours.

Top corporate sponsors were Banque Nationale and L’Oréal Professionnel. Panache Coiffure stylists proved particularly popular as they preened and pampered tresses with curls, updos, and touch-ups throughout the gala.

GBC will be staging their flagship fundraising ball at Uniprix Stadium on April 18th.  And in mid-April they welcome Boris Eifman's ballet troupe from St. Petersburg who will perform Anna Karenina at Place des Arts. Gala tickets and information can be found on their website:  Eifman's Anna Karenina runs from April 15-18; call the Place des Arts box office @(514) 842-2112.

Labels: , , , , ,

Monday, 30 March 2015

Burrage and Frazer Bid Adieu in Superb Recital (Review)

Burrage and Frazer Bid Adieu in Superb Recital 

Joseph So

Schubert / Der Einsame
                 Nacht und Traume
                 Auf der Bruck
                 Lied eines Schiffers an die Dioskuren

Brahms / Die Nonne und der Ritter

Mahler / Ruckert-Lieder
               Ich atmet' einen linden Duft
               Liebst du un Schonheit
               Blicke mir nicht in die Lieder
               Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen
               Um Mitternacht

Gounod / Barcarola

Charlotte Burrage, mezzo
Clarence Frazer, baritone
Jennifer Szeto, piano

Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre, March 26, 2015 12:00 pm

Clarence Frazer and Charlotte Burrage (Photo: Chris Hutcheson)

As a follower of all things COC, I must say it's always wonderful to see how the young artists in the Ensemble Studio develop during their tenure here. But at the same time it fills me with sadness when they leave the nest and venture forward to forge a career. So it was with mixed emotions that I attended the noon hour recital. I came away with a feeling of satisfaction, knowing that both mezzo Charlotte Burrage and baritone Clarence Frazer are ready, willing and able to make their respective marks in the musical world.

Baritone Clarence Frazer (Photo: Chris Hutcheson)

The  recital began with a group of Schubert sung by Frazer, five of the best known pieces. Whether it was joyful or sad, fast or slow, Frazer sang with firm tone and vivid expression. I have to say that over the course of his time at the COC, Frazer has developed tremendously.  A good voice to begin with, it has grown in refinement and musicality. To my ears, he's really singing very well these days, better than at any time during his tenure here. There was a time when his lower range has a too pronounced vibrato, but he seems to have fixed that. At the same time, his top voice is blooming more than ever.  These Schubert songs were dispatched with robust tone and fine expression - his Auf der Bruck was particularly nice, with pianist Jennifer Szeto offering perfect support. The acid test was of course the highly operatic Erlkoenig, which he sang with rich tone and very good textual nuance. There are four "voices" in the piece - the boy, the father, the Erl-King, and the narrator. Frazer was able to modify his delivery to separate the four characters, although he could do it even a bit more. Given Frazer's voice seems to be moving up, the father's lines are less than ideally solid, but other than that, it was beautifully done.  Jennifer Szeto mentioned that this was her first Erlkoenig - well, it could have fooled me. She was fully up to the fearsome technical challenges of the piece and played marvelously well.
Mezzo Charlotte Burrage (Photo: Chris Hutcheson)

This was followed by one of Brahms' great duets for low voices, The Nun and the Knight. I've always enjoyed this song, so very Brahms! And the text is so Gothic!  I feel like I am in Flying Dutchman or an Emily Bronte novel.  Burrage and Frazer sang it very expressively if a touch heavily - but then that's the nature of the beast, ie Brahms Lieder!  Well done.  Then it was Burrage's turn to shine, in five of the Ruckert songs, leaving out Revelge and Der Tamboursg'sell. These are very spiritual songs, and Burrage sang them with poise and repose. The mezzo has a lovely, rich, distinctive timbre, which I find ideal in the German things. She sang all five songs with beauty, poise and expressivity. The first, Ich atmet' einen linden Duft was lovely. I think she's best in the slower songs, it gives her lively vibrato some breathing room. My desert-island song, Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen was delivered with an admirable Zen-like quality. Her voice has quite a bit of metal which allows it to carry, but perhaps in this song, a bit more hushed quality in the last line with its ppp high G would have been icing on the cake.  All in all, it was an impressive showing by Burrage, and I can really see her as an Octavian and Komponist in the not too distant future.   

Burrage and Frazer in duet from Il barbiere di Siviglia (Photo: Chris Hutcheson)

To vigorous applause, Burrage and Frazer offered two duets - the Figaro-Rosina duet from Il barbiere di Siviglia, and from Oklahoma - the delightful "People will say we're in love."  And delightful they were!  Frazer is a bit of a "ham" which is of course perfect in this repertoire. The two acted it out with lots of charm and panache, together with beauty of tone and impeccable diction.  They were so charming that one could easily believe they were in love. All this bodes well for these two young artists.  And I mustn't forget the collaborative pianist Jennifer Szeto who outdid herself in her beautiful playing today. Bravi tutti!

If you missed this concert, you can catch these two as Figaro and Rosina in the special Ensemble Performance of Il barbiere di Siviglia on May 15. Also, Charlotte will be the Gypsy in the upcoming Janacek song cycle Diary of One Who Disappeared, with tenor Owen McCausland.

Labels: , , ,

This Week in Montreal: March 30 to April 5 / Cette semaine à Montréal : 30 mars au 5 avril

This Week in Montreal: March 30 to April 5

25 Candles for Quatuor Alcan
Quatuor Alcan have been seducing and captivating audiences for twenty-five years. In a fresh manner, it alternates between masterpiece repertoire and fascinating discoveries. The recording of Beethoven’s works for quartet will be released during the celebration of the ensemble’s 25th anniversary. Also performed during the festivities, “Les lundis d’Edgar”, a concert animated by Edgar Fruitier, will presents pieces by Beethoven, Mendelssohn and Denis Gougeon. Maison de la culture Frontenac, March 20, 8 pm. .
- Renée Banville 

Cette semaine à Montréal : le 30 mars au 5 avril

25 bougies pour le Quatuor Alcan
Le Quatuor Alcan captive et séduit depuis maintenant vingt-cinq ans. Il alterne d’une façon rafraîchissante joyaux du répertoire et découvertes fascinantes. L’enregistrement de l’œuvre pour quatuor de Beethoven paraîtra au cours des festivités soulignant les 25 ans de l’ensemble. Présenté dans le cadre de l’évènement « Les lundis d’Edgar », ce concert animé par Edgar Fruitier présente des œuvres de Beethoven, Mendelssohn et Denis Gougeon. Maison de la culture Frontenac, 30 mars, 20 h.
- Renée Banville

Labels: , , , , ,

Sunday, 29 March 2015

This Week in Toronto (March 30 - April 5)

My Toronto Concert Picks for the Week of March 30 to April 5

~ Joseph So

American conductor James Conlon

This being Easter Week, there's plenty of religious programming but fewer than usual purely classical offerings. Still I have several that I can highly recommend. Following last week's scintillating Toronto Symphony Orchestra concerts of Stravinsky/Dvorak under the baton of visiting maestro Krzysztof Urbanski, we have another famous guest conductor this week in the person of American James Conlon, leading the TS forces in Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 4 and the Prelude to Lohengrin. For me, the big draw is Korngold's Violin Concerto, a piece of music that really speaks to me, like almost all of Korngold's music.  My first exposure to Korngold was his Die tote Stadt which I saw at the New York City Opera way back in 1975 - yikes, that's forty years ago. That started a lifelong love for Korngold. Some would consider his musical idiom old fashioned, or worse, syrupy. I suppose that's true. He stuck with the post-Romantic aesthetic to the end while his contemporaries were into 12-tone and serialism. When he moved from Hollywood back to his native Vienna after WWII, he was practically ignored by the musical establishment and he spent his last, unhappy years with his star in eclipse. That in itself is a poignant story fitting for an opera libretto!  I can highly recommend the documentary on Arthaus, Korngold: The Adventures of a Wunderkind. In it is the Violin Concerto, though not complete, played marvelously by Leonidas Kavakos.  This doc also introduced me to his cello concerto, played by Dutch cellist Quirine Viersen. Apparently it was composed as film music during Korngold's Hollywood years, and later extracted as a stand-alone concert piece. Hopefully someday the TSO will program this lovely work. In the meantime, we can look forward to the terrific Norwegian violinist Vilde Frang as soloist in the violin concerto.  For those interested in finding out more of the artistry of Ms. Frang, I can recommend this short documentary -  Performances on Wednesday April 1 8 pm and Thursday April 2 at 2 pm, Roy Thomson Hall.

Norwegian violinist Vilde Frang

The Canadian Children's Opera Company, under the direction of Ann Cooper Gay, is presenting Alice in Operaland, with music by composer Errol Gay and libretto by Michael Albano. This is given with piano accompaniment by Gergely Szokolay. Concert is on Wednesday April 1st at the unusual time of 5:30 pm at the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre, Four Seasons Centre. This is a preview of a staged production to be held at the Harbour Front Centre May 7 to 10. Program details can be found in this link -  For more information on the the CCOC, go to

Poster for the full staging at Harbourfront in May

On Thursday April 2nd noon at Walter Hall, Edward John Building of the University of Toronto campus, there's a winners concert featuring the recipients of two music prizes - Canadian soprano Jennifer Krabbe who is the winner of the Jim and Charlotte Norcop Prize in Song, and Australian pianist Lara Dodds-Eden, winner of the Gwendolyn Koldofsky Prize in Accompaniment.  Mr. James Norcop is a prominent figure in Toronto's musical life. A former singer and manager of the Vancouver Opera, this scholarship is in memory of his late wife, Charlotte Norcop. The piano prize is in memory of Canadian accompanist Gwendolyn Williams Koldofsky.

Pianist Gwendolyn Koldofsky accompanying soprano Lotte Lehmann (Photo: Palace Pianos)

On the program are works by Purcell, Schubert, Poulenc and Libby Larsen. You can find out more about the artists at and!about2/c1wbk Details of the concert at

Conductor Uri Mayer

The University of Toronto Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of conductor Uri Mayer, is giving a concert on April 2nd 7:30 pm at the MacMillan Theatre, Edward Johnson Building. The program consists of the rousing William Tell Overture, Mendelssohn's Symphony No. 5, and Elgar's Enigma Variations, Op. 36. Details at

Toronto Mendelssohn Choir and Festival Chorus

The Toronto Mendelssohn Choir is giving a concert of sacred music of Taverner, Tallis and Faure on April 3rd at the St. Paul's Basilica (80 Power Street at Queen St. E and Parliament). Noel Edison leads the TMC, with soloists baritone David Roth and organist Michael Bloss.

Labels: , , , , ,