La Scena Musicale

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Canadian Art Song Project Announces Recital Series for 2015-16

CASP has exciting news!


We are happy to announce that in the 2015­-16 season CASP will begin a new series of concerts:
The Canadian Art Song Project Recital Series.

This, the first series of ticketed concerts presented by CASP, marks the next stage in our artistic development and mission of introducing Canadian audiences to their own art song repertoire. After four years of annual “Celebration of Canadian Art Song” concerts as a part of the Free Concert Series in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre, CASP will expand to offer two additional intimate recitals starring established and emerging Canadian artists proudly presenting Canadian works alongside European and American song.

The first recital will present a new cycle by Erik Ross (The Living Spectacle) along with works by Brian Harman (Sewing the Earthworm), Richard Strauss (Ophelia Lieder) and American Libby Larsen (Try Me, Good King). The second concert will feature song by Canadians Chester Duncan, Larysa Kuzmenko (In Search of Eldorado) and Imant Raminsh (The Pilgrim Soul)  as well as works by Gustav Mahler (Songs of a Wayfarer) and Dominick Argento (The Andrée Expedition). Tickets will be on sale in September 2015 at www.canadianartsongproject.ca.

The fifth annual “Celebration of Canadian Art Song” concert will be held on May 5, 2016 at 12 noon as part of the Free Concert Series in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre.

(l. to r.) Steven Philcox, Carla Huhtanen, David Brock, Brian Harman, Lawrence Wiliford (Photo: Joseph So)
Tenor Lawrence Wiliford (Photo: Joseph So)

Composer Brian Harman (Photo: Joseph So)

Soprano Carla Huhtanen (Photo: Joseph So)

Writer David James Brock (Photo: Joseph So)

At the announcement on April 17th at the Canadian Music Centre, soprano Carla Huhtanen and pianist Steven Philcox performed Sewing the Earthworm, a CASP commissioned song cycle by composer Brian Harman and Writer David James Brock. Combining elements of poetry, drama, opera and new music, the piece explores a woman's loss of physical control over her body and the effect this has on her mental stability. After the performance, the creative team was joined by moderator Lawrence Wiliford for an open Q&A.  ~  Photos by Joseph So

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Friday, 17 April 2015

Christianne Stotijn and Julius Drake Give Superb WMCT Recital

Christianne Stotijn Superb in WMCT Lieder Recital

~ Joseph So



Tchaikovsky / Six Songs
Amid the Noise of the Ball
My Genius, my Angel, my Friend
If I had only known
Cradle Song
The Lights were being dimmed
The Sun has set

Shostakovich
Six Poems by Marina Tsvetayeva, Op. 143a

Korngold
Four Shakespeare Songs, Op. 31

Strauss
Standchen
Traum durch die Dammerung
Freundliche Vision
Schlechtes Wetter
Nachtgang
Zueignung

Encore: Strauss / Morgen

Christianne Stotijn, mezzo soprano
Julius Drake, piano
Walter Hall, April 16th 2015 1:30 pm


Christianne Stotijn (Photo: Stephan van Fleteran)


Who says the song recital is a dying art form?  Judging by the marvelous Liederabend - albeit given in the afternoon - by Dutch mezzo-soprano Christianne Stotijn and her pianist Julius Drake, the reports of the death of the song recital have been greatly exaggerated, as Mark Twain would have said.  To be sure, in our age of instant gratification, the attraction for anything that requires time and effort on the part of the audience is going to hold limited appeal. But if one is willing to invest the energy into learning about the background of a song and having read the text beforehand, the rewards can be plentiful. This is so true when you have a serious artist like Christianne Stotijn who's keen to help her audience to delve beneath the surface of a work, to unlock the secrets of word and music.



Mezzo Christianne Stotijn and pianist Julius Drake (Photo: Joseph So)

One of the very few truly superb recitalists in front of the public today, mezzo Stotijn offers a beautiful voice with consummate musical intelligence and exemplary communicative power in her recitals. Having experienced her artistry on two previous occasions in Germany, I was looking forward to her first appearance here in Toronto, under the auspices of Women's Musical Club of Toronto.  And I was not disappointed. Walter Hall was nearly full, thanks to the very loyal followers of WMCT, and the knowledgeable audience was extremely well behaved, never interrupting a song with premature applause, and always quiet and attentive, a few inevitable coughs notwithstanding. She is currently on a recital tour with Julius Drake, one of the absolute top collaborative pianists in the world today. They played the same program in a very well received recital last weekend at Pollock Hall on the campus of McGill University.

Stotijn opened with a group of six quite familiar Tchaikovsky songs. Very well chosen songs, with a nice mix of soft versus dramatic selections. Her voice, a "true mezzo" to begin with, seems to have darkened the last few years, its soft-grained, warm colours with a built-in melancholic quality is ideal in these brooding Russian songs.  There's a plaintive quality to her vocal production, particularly in middle voice. In soft passages, she often attacks a phrase quietly, with caressing tone, and little vibrato which she adds on later in the sustained line. In the climactic phrases and sung in fortissimo, the lively vibrato kicks in and it makes a powerful dramatic statement, such as the last sung, The Sun has Set. 



This was followed by a group of unfamiliar songs by Dmitri Shostakovich, set to text by Marina Tsvetayeva, a woman who was Shostakovich's muse. Stotijn went into a detailed explanation of the background of their relationship, complete with the political backdrop that explains the genesis of these songs. To be honest, these are difficult songs for the audience (and I am sure for the singer as well) given the angularity of the musical idiom of a modernist like Shostakovich. Snippets of it remind me of Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk! I would have to re-listen and study the text in order to really get everything out of these works.    

Autographing CDs (Photo: Joseph So)

Following an intermission she sang a group of four songs by Erich Wolfgang Korngold. Well, I have to confess to being a Korngold junkie! His Die tote Stadt, Das Wunder der Heliane, his violin concerto, and the shorter cello concerto are my favourite pieces.  His songs are wonderful as well, although they are perhaps not quite so familiar. I love the marvelous Sony disc by Austrian mezzo Angelika Kirchschlager that came out maybe ten years ago. Since then, a few more have appeared, including one by Anne Sofie von Otter. Melodies just seem to pour out of this man!  Anyone not familiar with his songs - please, do yourself a favour and seek them out.  The four Shakespeare songs are sung in English. The first one, Desdemona's Song, the text really reminds me of Verdi's Salce, salce from Otello. Then three exquisite songs - Under the Greenwood Tree, Blow thou Winter Wind, and the absolutely brilliant When Birds do Sing. Stotijn delivered these with joy and abundant poetic imagination, the coordination between singer and pianist in the last song particularly impressive. Perhaps if I were to quibble, sometimes her top voice would go a little flat and/or not ideally focused, but these are minor issues.



The final group was the very familiar Strauss. Although Cacilie was cut - given the substantial amount of music already on the program, it's understandable - there's enough to satisfy Strauss lovers.  She sang these very beautifully, with smooth, caressing tone, only occasionally she could go a little under-pitched. But the expression and attention to the textual nuances are absolutely first-rate. Standchen, one of my favourite songs, was delivered with a lightness of touch, not the easiest thing to do for a low voice. I loved her sense of humour in Schlechtes Wetter - with that startled look at the end!  Zueignung, as expected, was a perfect song to end the formal part of the program. After much vociferous applause, she sang as an encore, Morgen, with great serenity and depth of feeling.  It was a moment to savour. Through it all, Julius Drake was a rock for the singer. He also gave a long explanation of Korngold to the audience. I am just so happy Drake comes to Toronto frequently - it's always a pleasure to hear him play. Bravi tutti!







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Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Cette semaine à Montréal : le 13 au 19 avril

Le Quatuor Modigliani se produit à la Salle Bourgie

De Paris : le Quatuor Modigliani

La série Hors les murs de la Fondation Arte Musica présente une formation qui a été révélée au public en remportant trois premiers prix dans des concours internationaux. Issu du Conservatoire national supérieur de musique et de danse de Paris, le Quatuor Modigliani a mis au programme Mozart, Saint-Saëns et Ravel. Salle Bourgie, 15 avril, 19 h 30. www.sallebourgie.ca- Renée Banville



Nézet-Séguin et Tétreault sur scène à Montréal

Le programme Jardins anglais du 17 avril à la Maison symphonique présente l'artiste en résidence à l'Orchestre Métropolitain, Stéphane Tétreault, qui interprète le Concerto pour violoncelle d'Elgar, sous la direction de Yannick Nézet-Séguin. Repris en tournée en avril : Rivière-des-Prairies (16), Mercier–Hochelaga-Maisonneuve (19), Verdun (21), Pierrefonds (23). www.orchestremetropolitain.com - Renée Banville



Fondation Arte Musica

Sous le thème « cordes et discorde », la compositrice canadienne Ana Sokolović présentera son opéra pour voix seule, Love Songs, qui sera par la suite interprété par la soprano Kristin Hoff. 17 avril, salle Bourgie. www.sallebourgie.ca
 - Claudie Provencher



Julie Boulianne avec l’Orchestre Lyrique de Montréal

L’Orchestre Lyrique de Montréal, dirigé par Ben Kepes et Simon Rivard, conclut sa saison inaugurale avec un programme français mettant en vedette la mezzo Julie Boulianne interprétant Shéhérazade de Ravel et le Poème de l’amour et de la mer, op. 19 de Chausson. La soirée se terminera avec la Symphonie en ut majeur de Paul Dukas afin de célébrer le 150e anniversaire de la naissance du compositeur. Le 18 avril à la salle Claude-Champagne. www.orchestrelyriquedemontreal.org - Wah Keung Chan



Piano en trio à Pro Musica

Reconnue pour ses prestations inspirées des grandes œuvres de notre temps, la pianiste Louise Bessette se joint au violoncelliste Yegor Dyachkov et au clarinettiste Simon Aldrich, sélectionné pour un prix Opus « Découverte de l'année ». Œuvres de Bruch, Muczynski et Brahms. Série Dominica, salle Bourgie, 19 avril, 15 h 30. www.promusica.qc.ca- Renée Banville



En route avec le Quatuor Molinari
Dans sa série En route, le Quatuor Molinari propose trois chefs-d'œuvre : le Quatuor no 12, écrit par Murray Schafer spécialement pour eux, le Quatuor no 4 de Chostakovitch et le célèbre Quatuor en sol de Debussy. Avec l'appui du Conseil des arts de Montréal, 10 concerts seront présentés dans les arrondissements. En avril : Maison de la culture Plateau-Mont-Royal (19) et Auditorium Le Prévost (24). En mai : Chapelle historique du Bon-Pasteur (14). quatuormolinari.qc.ca- Renée Banville

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This Week in Montreal: April 13 to 19



Cellist Stéphane Tétreault performs English Gardens with the Orchestre Métropolitain.


From Paris: The Modigliani Quartet

The Arte Musica Foundation’s “Beyond the Louvre” series presents a group that has taken audiences by storm, winning three international competitions. Coming out of the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique et de Danse de Paris, the Modigliani Quartet will perform a program of Mozart, Saint-Saëns and Ravel. Bourgie Hall, April 15, 7:30 pm. www.bourgiehall.ca 
- Renée Banville


Nézet-Séguin and Tétreault On Stage in Montreal

The program English Gardens on April 17 at the Maison Symphonique features Stéphane Tétreault, artist in residence at the Orchestre Métropolitain, performing the Elgar Cello Concerto under the direction of Yannick Nézet-Seguin. The program will be repeated on tour in April: Rivière-des-Prairies (16), Mercier-Hochelaga-Maisonneuve (19), Verdun (21), and Pierrefonds (23). www.orchestremetropolitain.com- Renée Banville


Love Songs at Fondation Arte Musica

Based around the theme “Consonance and Dissonance”, Canadian composer Ana Sokolović presents her opera for solo voice, Love Songs, performed by soprano Kristin Hoff. April 17, Bourgie Hall. www.bourgiehall.ca - Claudie Provencher

Julie Boulianne with Orchestre Lyrique de Montréal

The Orchestre lyrique de Montreal, directed by Ben Kepes and Simon Rivard, concludes its inaugural season with a French program featuring mezzo Julie Boulianne performing Ravel’s Shéhérazade and Chausson’s Poems de l’armour et de la mer, op. 19. The evening will end with Paul Dukas’s C major Symphony to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the composer’s birth. April 18, Salle Claude-Champagne. www.orchestrelyriquedemontreal.org - Wah Keung Chan

 
Piano Trio at Pro Musica

Known for her inspired performances of great contemporary works, pianist Louise Bessette joins cellist Yegor Dyachkov and clarinetist Simon Aldrich, who won an Opus Prize for “Discovery of the Year”. Works by Bruch, Muczynski and Brahms. Dominica Series, Bourgie Hall. April 19, 3:30 pm. www.promusica.qc.ca
- Renée Banville

En Route with the Molinari Quartet

As part of its En route series, the Molinari Quartet presents three masterworks: Murray Schafer’s Quartet no. 12, written especially for them; Shostakovich’s Quartet no. 4; and the famous Quartet in G minor by Debussy. With the support of the Montreal Arts Counsel, ten concerts will be presented throughout the Montreal area. In April: Maison de la culture Plateau-Mont-Royal (19) and Auditorium Le Prévost (24). In May: Chapelle historique du Bon-Pasteur (14). quatuormolinari.qc.ca- Renée Banville


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Tuesday, 14 April 2015

American Composer Philip Glass is Eleventh Glenn Gould Prize Laureate

Philip Glass Announced as
Eleventh Glenn Gould Prize Laureate

A fearlessly innovative, collaborative and prolific composer

Glass_Pyke_1705_Retouched
“I am very pleased to be the winner of the Eleventh Glenn Gould Prize.  It is for me a special honor as I am one of the many musicians who have been inspired by him. Glenn Gould’s name is associated with a lifetime of excellence in music interpretation and performance. Also I am aware that this award places me in the company of some of the most celebrated names in the broad spectrum of the music of our time. It is, therefore, with great pleasure that I accept this award.” – Philip Glass.

Toronto, ON (April 14, 2015) – American composer Philip Glass has been chosen as the Eleventh Glenn Gould Prize Laureate.  Through his operas, symphonies, film scores, compositions for ensembles, and wide-ranging collaborations with artists from many disciplines, Philip Glass has had an extraordinary impact on the musical, artistic and intellectual life of his times.
“Our jury has made a brilliant choice in selecting Philip Glass,” said Brian Levine, Executive Director of The Glenn Gould Foundation.  “At the start of his career his music was seen as radical and even derided for being contrary to the prevailing musical current, but his work advanced solidly until it permeated our cultural consciousness; it has exerted a profound influence on a whole generation of composers, filmmakers, dramatists and operatic directors.  In his work and life, he reveals himself to be a man of deep spirituality and conscience as reflected in the themes of his operatic creations and film scores. We are honoured to present the Prize to an artist of such originality, conviction and vision.”
“I am thrilled with our choice of Laureate,” said Bob Ezrin, chair of the Glenn Gould Prize Jury. “ Philip Glass is one of the towering figures of modern music. With an iconic career that has spanned fifty years, his body of work is unrivalled in its breadth and depth.  He not only helped to reclaim tonality as a vital force in serious music, he took minimalism and brought it from the fringes of the avant-garde to the mainstream where it has literally provided the subscore to most of our lives.  We hear his music and music he has influenced on stage and screen – virtually everywhere. Finally he is a man of principle and deep spirituality who has used his art to help elevate humanity. On behalf of the jury, I can say that we couldn’t be more proud of this decision.”
A prolific and respected composer, his early work is associated with the minimalist movement, although Glass preferred to speak of himself as a composer of “music with repetitive structures.”  He has written a large collection of new music for the Philip Glass Ensemble, which he founded in the late 1960s and with which he still performs on keyboards.  His operas, including one of his best known works, the landmark Einstein on The Beach, along with Satyagraha, Akhnaten, and The Voyage have played throughout the world’s major opera houses.  His repertoire includes music for dance, opera, chamber ensemble, orchestra, experimental theatre and film, including the Academy Award-winning The Hours for which he received a Best Score nomination, and the iconic Koyaanisqatsi.  Since the 1960s, Glass has collaborated with artists from pop, rock and world music plus the worlds of dance and film including Twyla Tharp, Woody Allen, David Bowie, Leonard Cohen, Paul Simon, Kronos Quartet and Yo-Yo Ma, to name a few, garnering him a wide, multi-generational audience.
Philip Glass was chosen from a distinguished list of international candidates nominated by the general public and will receive a cash award and the Glenn Gould Prize statue by Canadian artist Ruth Abernethy.  This year, The Glenn Gould Foundation has announced that it will double the award to $100,000 (CAD).  Mr. Glass will choose an outstanding young artist to receive The City of Toronto Glenn Gould Protégé Prize of $15,000 (CAD), an individual who embodies the qualities of creative promise, innovation and career potential demonstrated by Gould in his youth.   The recipient of the Protégé Prize will be announced later this year. Both Mr. Glass and his protégé will receive their awards at a gala ceremony and their work will be honoured through a series of public events presented within the next twelve months.

 Eleventh Glenn Gould Prize Jury

GGF FINAL 1 VERY END
back: Martin Katz, Wu Man, Michael Ondaatje OC, Brian Levine (Executive Director of The Glenn Gould Foundation), Bob Ezrin (Jury Chair), Deborah Voigt, Jay Hunter Morris
front: Petula Clark CBE, The Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, PC CC COM CMM CD, HRH Julie of Luxembourg, Sarah Polley OC
The Eleventh Glenn Gould Prize Jury included singer, actress and composer Petula Clark, CBE (UK); author and broadcasterThe Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, PC, CC, COM, CMM, CD (Canada); tenor Jay Hunter Morris (United States); arts philanthropist HRH Julie of Luxembourg (Switzerland/United States), Prospero Pictures president, and chairman of the Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television Martin Katz (Canada); pipa virtuoso and Grammy Award-nominee Wu Man(China/United States); Booker Prize-winning novelist and poet Michael Ondaatje, OC (Canada); renowned actor, director, and writer Sarah Polley, OC (Canada); and acclaimed soprano Deborah Voigt (United States).

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Anna Karenina: Dancing on the Grave of Love

Eifman Ballet performs Anna Karenina to music by Tchaikovsky
 in Montreal’s Place des Arts 15-18 April


By Robert Kilborn

Is Anna Karenina the greatest novel ever written?

Dostoyevsky and Nabokov declared it “flawless.” Faulkner described it as “the best ever written.” Hemingway, Woolf, Proust, Joyce, Mann, and countless others learned large parts of their craft from it. In 2007, Time magazine published a poll of 125 big-name authors—from Norman Mailer to David Foster Wallace—which placed Tolstoy’s epic tale of outlaw passion and self-destruction at Number One in a list of “The Top Ten Books of All Time.”

Numerous stage, film, television, radio, opera, dance, and other adaptions of Anna Karenina have swelled consciousness for more than 100 years; a 2012 film version starred Keira Knightley and Jude Law. And now over four nights and one afternoon in mid-April 2015, St. Petersburg's Eifman Ballet will perform their 2005 version of Anna Karenina in Montreal.

Choreographer Boris Eifman isn’t celebrated for his subtlety. Some see too much yang and not enough yin in his work, and compare him unfavourably to George Balanchine. But can't we just enjoy extreme emotions belted out with staggering energy and technical virtuosity? Every artist works differently. It is our duty to watch carefully. We mustn’t always reflexively and harshly judge every new work against the masterpieces of the past.

We hear the death train coming. 
It comes, and Anna throws
herself under its carriage, for love.
In Anna Karenina, Eifman eschews subplots and focuses on the trichotomy of Anna, her tedious bureaucrat husband Karenin, and her dashing cavalry officer lover Vronsky. He keeps most of Tolstoy’s key themes and obsessions intact. What is this thing called life, then? What is our duty to society, marriage, children, family? Can we be happy? Eifman hears the echoes of these questions, and creates rituals with their reverberations. For him, dance is not an imitation of reality. It penetrates the very core of reality. It seizes on the roiling sea that is the subconscious, incantatory, sometimes terrifying and magical world that lives inside us. We intuit that somewhere inside us lives the true, natural world, a world not subject to society’s artifice. But we also know that society’s artifice is crucial to our very survival.

Anna’s passion condemns her to the life of an outcast. She cannot find happiness in her travels, in her husband’s rich estate, or in the habitual amusements of the society in which she lives. In the rapture of love, she strives toward the selfhood and inner peace that love cannot by itself endow. Even in her exalted state, she cannot find an unwavering self or an untroubled peace. How can she then experience the flames of love, outside her disappointing 19th century icebox marriage, except by melting into a dangerous passion?

At a high society ball in Moscow (where Anna and Vronsky fall in love); at a racetrack in St. Petersburg (where a reckless Vronsky breaks his horse’s back); during a carnival assembly in Venice (where sinister masks glisten in the mist); we see hypocrisy, jealousy, faith, fidelity, and carnality sway, leap, twirl, dart, and pirouette. We eye bodies rivering in desire, longing, consummation, and torment. We observe Anna’s fluid thoughts and free associations tumble out in a stream of consciousness made of ardent signals, gestures of anxiety and, finally, a desperate lust for oblivion. We delight in the intricate patterns that all these bodies create; we delight, and we squirm. In inchoate rage, Karenin rapes his wife. In bitter betrayal, Vronsky destroys the Orthodox Church of Anna’s mind, like a bomb dropping on St. Petersburg’s exquisite Smolny Cathedral.

Eifman is a master at creating effective visual equivalents of emotional states: a serenity of swans now promises bliss; a murder of crows now menaces it. Below an ominous bridge, intermittently lit up by lightning obscured by fog, a turmoil of dancers pulses and churns like the contents of Anna’s psyche. We hear the deathtrain coming. It comes, and Anna throws herself under its carriage, for love.
The music is a mélange of 14 pieces by Tchaikovsky. The stylistic and emotional range of Russia’s greatest composer orbits and sweeps the dancers through the Mozartian charm of his Serenade for Strings, the foreboding of Roméo et Juliette, and the devastation of the Pathétique.

Boris Eifman founded his now nearly 60-dancer company in 1977. Though grounded in the 300-year-old tradition of Russian classical ballet, he achieved an early reputation as a “choreographic dissident.” In the teeth of the Soviet dance apparatchiks, he fused expressionist theatricality and a contemporary intellectual and psychological outlook into the received language of ballet. In his new dialect, emotion prisms through strikingly sharp and precise patterns and impulses that disrupt the fluid lines of tradition. His is an audacious individual reformation of classical rigour for our time. It marries modern showmanship with a traditional sophistication that traces back to the court of Peter the Great.

Eifman has created more than 40 dances in his St. Petersburg choreographic laboratory, a perpetual motion machine for one maestro's vision.

“Ballet is a very special art form that allows us to delve into the subconscious and the heart of psychological drama,” says Eifman. “Anna Karenina allows us not only to go deep into the heroine’s psyche, but also to fully understand her psychoerotic essence.

“What is more important: to preserve the widely accepted illusion of harmony between duty and emotion, or to allow true passion to take over? These questions beleaguered Tolstoy, and they are still inescapable today. Yet there are no answers. There is only the unquenchable thirst for understanding, either in life or in death.”

_______________________________________________________________

Eifman Ballet performs Anna Karenina
, April 15-17 at 8 pm and April 18 at 2 pm and 8 pm in Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier of Place des Arts, Montreal. Presented by Les Grands Ballets Canadiens. Tickets: $62-$124. 514-842-2112. www.pda.qc.ca

Robert Kilborn is a Montreal writer. Contact him at rkilborn@sympatico.ca

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Sunday, 12 April 2015

This Week in Toronto (April 13 - 19)

My Toronto Concert Picks for the Week of April 13 to 19

~ Joseph So

It's sometimes said that classical music is a dying art form, if for no other reason than the changing demographics - attendees are aging and as they passed on, they are not replaced by the younger generation. Presenters are trying hard to bring the young people into the concert halls. The Toronto Symphony Orchestra for example has its Soundcheck program, intended to attract young people by offering them very inexpensive tickets. Another way is to have more "crossover" programming. The hope is that these shows put bums into seats, and perhaps the concertgoers will be intrigued enough to explore the core classical repertoire in the future. The two shows at the TSO this week will do just that. The TSO pops conductor Steven Reineke conducts a program of TV music such as Monty Python's Flying Circus, Downton Abbey and Game of Thrones. Three performances, on Tuesday April 14 8 pm, and Wednesday April 15 2 pm and 8 pm at Roy Thomson Hall.  Then on April 18 and 19, it's an all-Russian program of the "greatest hits" variety, from Swan Lake to the Flight of the Bumblebee. The one rarity is the Double Bass Concerto played by TSO Principal Jeffrey Beecher, under the baton of guest maestro Bulgarian conductor Rossen Milanov. http://tso.ca/

Bulgarian conductor Rossen Milanov (Photo:www.rossenmilanov.com)

The big news for opera fans is the start of the Canadian Opera Company's spring season, with one of its two productions, The Barber of Seville, opening on Friday April 17th 7:30 pm at the Four Seasons Centre. This is a co-production with Houston Grand Opera, Opera Australia, and Opera National de Bordeaux. The concept and set design is by the Spanish team of Joan Font of the Els Comediants, the same team that did the very successful La cenerentola we saw here two years ago. I went to one of the rehearsals over the weekend. I find it visually striking and I think it will appeal to the Toronto audience. Given that there are twelve performances (plus the Ensemble show), a lot of the roles are double-cast. Canadian baritone Joshua Hopkins is singing all twelve shows in the title role. Italian mezzo Serena Malfi is Rosina, shared with American mezzo Cecelia Hall. American tenor Alek Shrader and Romanian Bogdan Mihai share Almaviva. Bartolo is shared by Renato Girolami and Nikolay Didenko. Rory MacDonald conducts. The second performance is on Sunday April 19th at 2 pm. http://www.coc.ca/PerformancesAndTickets/1415Season/BarberOfSeville.aspx

Italian mezzo Serena Malfi


Opera Atelier's Orpheus and Eurydice continues this week at the Elgin Theatre with performances on April 14 and 18.  It stars mezzo Mireille Lebel as Orfeo, soprano Peggy Kriha Dye as Eurydice, and soprano Meghan Lindsay as Amor. David Fallis conducts.  I caught the performance on Sunday and it was an excellent show, with standout performances by the three principals but particularly the Orfeo of Lebel, a virtual tour de force. Gluck's original Paris version in 1774 was for a castrato Orfeo. In Berlioz's version (chosen for the OA production) is for a contralto Orfeo, although Lebel is a high mezzo. The ballet originally cut by Berlioz is restored here. For details, go to http://operaatelier.com/


French pianist Helene Grimaud

A frequent visitor to Toronto is French pianist Helene Grimaud. She returns to Koerner Hall this week in an unusual program she calls Water Music. Not Handel, but works of Berio, Takemitsu, Faure, Ravel, Albeniz, Liz, Janacek, Debussy and Brahms - how's that for eclectic taste! Performance on Sunday April 19th 3 pm. Details at https://performance.rcmusic.ca/event/helene_grimaud


Dutch mezzo-soprano Christianne Stotijn (Photo: Stephan van Fleteren)

A musical highlight for me this week is the appearance of Dutch mezzo Christianne Stotijn in recital, under the auspices of Women's Musical Club of Toronto. The recital is at Walter Hall on Thursday April 16th at 1:30 pm. Ms. Stotijn is that rare breed, a singer whose major focus is the art song and the recital stage. While she does sing opera, it's less frequent than her many song recitals and orchestral concerts. I've heard her on several occasions in Germany and found her beautiful, warm, soft-grained mezzo, coupled with consummate musical intelligence an unalloyed pleasure. It's great that she's coming to Toronto. (She also is booked to sing in Montreal on April 12 at Pollock Hall - I assume it's the same program)  Partnering her is the great collaborative pianist Julius Drake. On the program are songs by Tchaikovsky, Shostakovich, Strauss and Korngold. As I write this, I am listening to one of her CDs on the Onyx label, Stimme der Sehnsucht (Voice of Longing), in which she sings Pfitzner, Strauss and Mahler.  The beauty of tone is there to be sure, but such expression and attention to textual nuance is rare among singers of today. It's one of the most enjoyable lieder discs I've heard in recent years. You can hear her sing the Strauss group in Toronto. http://www.wmct.on.ca/concert-series/christianne-stotijn/

Christianne Stotijn Sings Pfitzner, Strauss and Mahler (Onyx 4075)


Lafayette Quartet

Music Toronto is presenting the Lafayette Quartet at the Jane Mallett Theatre in the St. Lawrence Centre on Thursday April 16th 8 pm. This string quartet is made up of violinists Ann Elliott-Goldschmid and Sharon Stanis, violist Joanna Hood and cellist Pamela Highbaugh Aloni. They had previously appeared with Music Toronto three times, most recently in 2012.  They are artists in residence at the University of  Victoria. On the program are works by Haydn, Beethoven and Canadian composer Jean Coulthard. http://music-toronto.com/quartets/Lafayette.htm


A very interesting even this week is the announcement of the Eleventh Glenn Gould Prize by the Glenn Gould Foundation on Tuesday April 14th at 11 am at Koerner Hall. The star-studded jurypanel includes such luminaries as American soprano Deborah Voigt, American heldentenor Jay Hunter Morris, British singer Petula Clark, Canadian journalist Adrienne Clarkson, and novelist Michael Ondaatje. Past recipients included Robert Lepage, Leonard Cohen, Yehudi Menuhin, Yo Yo Ma and Oscar Peterson. I understand in the award ceremony this Tuesday, both Jay Hunter Morris and Petula Clark (at the grand age of 82) are going to sing!  http://www.glenngould.ca/eleventh-glenn-gould-prize-laureate-to-be-announced-april-14th/




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