La Scena Musicale

Friday, 25 September 2015

International Resource Centre for Performing Artists Presents "Encounters"

October 28-November 5, 2015

Newcomers to Canada/Arts Labour Unions: Oct. 28
Composers & Performers/Meet the Funders: Oct. 30
Who’s Who in the Industry: Nov. 1
Encounter for Singers with Measha Brueggergosman: Nov. 3-4
Encounter with Marco Guidarini: Nov. 5

For release September 25, 2015 – The International Resource Centre for Performing Artists ( – a service organization for Canada’s musicians – presents Encounters for  singers, and Hot Topics workshops requested by and for performers and others in the music business, in late October and early November.  Partners in these fall sessions include Lula Music and Arts Centre, the Canadian Music Centre, Performing Arts Lodge, Italian Cultural Institute, and Alliance Française.

The events are focused on artists in the classical, opera, jazz, contemporary and world music fields.  All people working in the industry or members of their support systems are welcome.

The first day, October 28, featuring two workshops, is presented free of charge to IRCPA members, while non-members are offered special subsidized fees.  (Free membership is available on the IRCPA website.)  Attendees are encouraged to register in advance on the website, or by calling 416-362-1422.

The following are the workshops presented this fall by the IRCPA and partners:

HOT TOPICS – Wednesday, October 28 at Lula Music and Arts Centre. 1585 Dundas St. W.  

9:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. $20; Free admission for IRCPA members; $10 lunch available:
ARTISTS NEW TO CANADA – Integrating Socially and Professionally in Canada
Citizenship Judge Wojciech Sniegowski moderates a panel comprising Toronto-based Canadians originally from other countries – among them Sonia Oduwa Aimy, jazz and world music singer from Nigeria via Italy; Natasha Roldan, singer/songwriter from Colombia; Younggun Kim, pianist, from Korea; and Yasmina Proveyer, artist manager from Cuba via China.

1:30 – 4 p.m. $20; Free admission for IRCPA members:
MEET THE LABOUR UNIONS FOR THE ARTS – Benefits, Membership, Costs, Rules, Exemptions
Understanding services available and how and why rules are made are topics explored by panelists who include Arden Ryshpan, executive director, Canadian Actors' Equity Association;
Dan Broome, manager, Toronto Musicians’ Association, AFM; and Dr. Réa Beaumont, pianist, board member, Toronto Musicians’ Association. 

ALL ABOUT COMPOSERS AND INTERPRETERS – Friday, October 30, at the Canadian Music Centre, 20 St. Joseph Street

9:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.  $20 IRCPA Members (or $30 for the day); non-members $25 (or $35 for the day)
ALL ABOUT COMPOSERS/INTERPRETERS: Commissions, Licensing, Collaborations, Copyright, Digital Distribution
Matthew Fava, Ontario director of the Canadian Music Centre, moderates a panel that includes Brian Harman, president, Canadian League of Composers; and 
Paul Hoffert, composer and recording artist. The panelists discuss essentials for composers and performers, in such areas as commissioning, licensing, royalties, copyright, collaborations, and digital distribution.

1:30 - 4:00 p.m. $20 IRCPA Members; non-members $25
MEET THE FUNDERS: What you don’t know CAN hurt you – Policies, Deadlines, Juries, Applications, Reports
Moderated by Glenn Hodgins, executive director of the Canadian Music Centre, the panel includes Christy DiFelice, music officer, Toronto Arts Council; David Parsons, classical music officer, Ontario Arts Council; Jeff Morton, music officer, Canada Council for the Arts; and Aurora Bangarth, Project Coordinator,  Factor.  They will provide information on recent changes in policies and paperwork.  

WHO’S WHO IN THE INDUSTRY – Sunday, November 1, 2:30-5:30 p.m. at the Performing Arts Lodge, 110 The Esplanade  
Cost: $20 IRCPA members; non-members $25 (Membership is free by signing up online or at the door.)

Artists and support personnel involved in opera, classical, jazz, world and other music fields are invited to interact with leaders in the business, at the IRCPA’sWho’s Who in the Industry panel.

Toronto Star music columnist William Littler moderates a high-voltage session that examines the challenges and advantages of the present day, through the perspectives of music presenters, managers, performers, journalists, publicists and more. To date, panelists include presenters Annette Sanger, president, Women’s Musical Club;  Anthony Sargent, CEO, Luminato Festival; and Stan Passfield, artistic director, Orillia Concert Society; artist managers Faye Perkins, Real World Management/Records; and Kathy Domoney,  Domoney Artists Management; and publicists Luisa Trisi, Big Picture Productions; andVictoria Lord , VLPR Inc. 
This is an opportunity to learn how and why decisions are made in programming, and when and how to approach presenters, managers or journalists.

ENCOUNTER FOR SINGERS WITH MEASHA BRUEGGERGOSMAN – Tuesday-Wednesday, November 3-4, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2-5 p.m.  at  Alliance Française, 24 Spadina Road

Internationally celebrated  soprano Measha Brueggergosman, one of Canada’s best known opera singers and recitalists, works with young professional singers  in opera, oratorio or recital, in a two-day Encounter.  From her own knowledge and wide-ranging experience, she will advise them on repertoire, performance, stagecraft, style and career essentials.

“Encounters” are in four sessions, each day from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2-5 p.m.  Singers sing twice over the two days.  Requests to participate must be received no later than October 20. Membership and request forms may be filled out online at, or obtained by calling 416-362-1422 or

Observers are welcome, at the IRCPA member rate of $20 per session, or $30 for each day; non-members $25, or $35 for the day.  (Free membership may be obtained by filling out the form at

ENCOUNTER WITH MAESTRO MARCO GUIDARINI – Thursday, November 5, 2-5 p.m. at Alliance Française, 24 Spadina Road

Italian maestro Marco Guidarini, who is visiting Toronto to conduct the Canadian Opera Company’s performances of La Traviata, has graciously accepted the IRCPA’s invitation to advise five Canadian singers on their Italian style and pronunciation in performance.  Observers are welcome, $20 for IRCPA members; non-members $25.

The above events are coordinated by the International Resource Centre for Performing Artists, a non-profit, charitable organization, in partnership with Alliance Française, Canadian Music Centre, Italian Cultural Institute, Lula Music and Arts Centre and Performing Arts Lodge.

The IRCPA acknowledges, with thanks, funding from the Ontario Arts Council, Toronto Arts Council, Canada Council and private donors, and the generous collaboration of all the moderators, panelists and participants.  

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Wednesday, 23 September 2015

2015-16 COC Ensemble Artists Start Season on a High Note (Review)

2015-16 COC Ensemble Artists Start Season on a High Note (Review)

Meet the Young Artists
Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre / 12 pm September 22nd 2015

Dies Bildnis  (Tamino) Die Zauberfloete  / Charles Sy, tenor / Hyejin Kwon, piano
Donne mie, la fate a tanti  (Alfonso) Cosi / Gordon Bintner, bs-baritone / Jennifer Szeto, piano
Dalla sua pace (Ottavio) Don Giovanni / Aaron Sheppard, tenor / Hyejin Kwon, piano
Giusto ciel, in tal periglio (Anna) Maometto II / Karine Boucher, soprano / Jennifer Szeto, piano
Where'er you walk (Jupiter) Semele / Jean-Philippe Fortier-Lazure, tenor / Hyejin Kwon, piano
Bella siccome un angelo (Malatesta) Don Pasquale / Iain MacNiel, bs-baritone / Hyejin Kwon, piano
En fermant les yeux (Des Grieux) Manon / Andrew Haji, tenor / Jennifer Szeto, piano
Toi qui sus le neant/Tu che le vanita (Elisabetta) Don Carlos / Aviva Fortunata, piano

(l. to r. Hyejin Kwon, Jennifer Szeto, Aviva Fortunata, Charles Sy, Gordon Bintner, Aaron Sheppard, Karine Boucher, Jean-Philippe Fortier-Lazure, Iain MacNeil, Andrew Haji) Photo: Chris Hutcheson

For followers of the Canadian Opera Company Ensemble Studio, September is an exciting time. That's when we get to renew acquaintances with returning artists, and to meet new ones joining the Ensemble. This year is a particularly interesting one.  As a long time follower of the Ensemble since its inception in the early 80's, I don't ever recall a season with four tenors!  And back in the 80's the ensemble was larger, with something like 18 artists.  We usually think of tenors as fairly rare in the music world, with the baritone voice being considered the more "natural" sound for men.  But COC has had the great good fortunate to be tenor-rich the past three or four seasons. This year we have four excellent tenors and two sopranos and no mezzos - good thing there are two bass-baritones to hold down the fort for the lower voices!  All eight singers this year are very fine singers with beautiful voices and solid training, and plenty of communicative power. And let's not forget the two collaborative pianists/coaches - they are the ones that make the singers look good! The Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre was packed, and they were not disappointed. 

Tenor Charles Sy, one of the two new members of the Ensemble, kicked off the proceedings with Tamino's "Dies Bildnis." A graduate of U of T Opera Program, Sy has really blossomed into a very fine tenor, with solid technique and the requisite musicality.  This afternoon, his voice rang out with a more robust timbre than I had remembered, large enough for the modern-day opera house, with plenty of warmth in his sound, evenly produced up and down the scale, totally secure and the aria executed with nice dynamic control, The Tamino aria is not an easy piece as so much of it sits in the passaggio, but he sang it beautifully. An excellent start to the concert! 

He was followed by bass-baritone Gordon Bintner, who has been a stellar member of the Ensemble the past two seasons. To me, Bintner is the complete package - wonderful voice used with elegance and taste, abundant musicality, cutting a handsome figure and commanding stage presence, with charisma to burn. I recall his excellent Alfonso two seasons ago. Once again he sang the Alfonso aria with rich tone and vivid acting. He mentioned to the audience he's going to sing the Count in the Ensemble Nozze di Figaro,  The tessitura for the Count is high for a bass-baritone - it tells me the Bintner voice is moving up. The second new member of the Ensemble, St. John's Newfoundland tenor Aaron Sheppard offered Ottavio's Act One aria from Don Giovanni. The Sheppard voice is that of a fairly light tenor, with an attractive timbre. I believe he is only 23, still very early in his operatic journey despite having amassed an impressive CV.  His "Dalla sua pace" showed off his nice mezza voce, important in this aria. If I were to quibble, his fortissimo notes, especially in the upper middle could occasionally sound flat, which I'm sure will be corrected during his time in the Ensemble under the capable guidance of voice teacher/former soprano Wendy Nielsen. 

(l. to r.) Andrew Haji, Iain MacNeil, Gordon Bintner, Jennifer Szeto, Karine Boucher, Aaron Sheppard, Charles Sy, Aviva Fortunata, Jean-Philippe Fortier-Lazure, Hyejin Kwon (Photo: Chris Hutcheson)

Quebec soprano Karine Boucher offered Anna's lament, "Giusto ciel, in tal periglio" from a rare Rossini opera, Maometto secondo. I was lucky to have seen Joyce DiDonato sing this in Santa Fe Opera a few summers ago. This piece, though written for soprano, requires a strong middle, thus high mezzos like Bartoli and DiDonato have had great success with it. Boucher's warm lyric with its strong middle is lovely in this Bellini-like cantilena, sung here without the recitative. She delivered it with poise and pathos, the only thing one wished for was a bit more dynamic variation. French Canadian tenor Jean-Philippe Fortier-Lazure, who sang his calling card aria from Le Roi d'Ys so beautifully last year, showed off his versatility with a surprise - the quintessential English aria 'Where'er you Walk" from Semele. This aria requires good legato, long breath line and plangent tone. Fortier-Lazure's warm, soft-grained tenor aced this piece.

Bass-baritone Iain MacNeil followed with Dr. Malatesta's "Bella siccome un angelo" from Don Pasquale.  MacNeil was a fine Bartolo in the Ensemble performance of Barber last spring. His sturdy sound and lively stage presence was ideal in this aria - I can see him as a very fine buffo baritone in future seasons. Of the four tenors, Andrew Haji has the highest profile and the most significant accomplishment - as the "triple crown winner" a year ago in 's-Hertogenbosch International Vocal Competition in Holland. More recently he was chosen to sing in a Teresa Stratas tribute in Athens. This fall, he is Alfredo in the alternate, all Canadian cast of La traviata currently in rehearsal. His gorgeous lyric tenor, ideal in Mozart and the lighter French and Italian repertoires, is sounding great. He sang Des Grieux's technically tricky "En fermant les yeux" with rich, refulgent tone, complete technical security, and convincing acting. I would say he's earmarked for a fine career.   

The final singer was soprano Aviva Fortunata, who has one of those comparatively rare soprano voices, a large, full lyric with spinto aspirations. She chose Elisabetta's "Tu che le vanita" - here sung in French as "Toi qui sus le neant" from Don Carlos. Fortunata's voice reminds me a bit of the former Ensemble soprano Joni Henson, who also sang Elisabetta on the mainstage in one performance replacing an indisposed Adrianne Pieczonka. Fortunata has a hall-filling, ringing soprano with plenty of squillo, but it's capable of nuance as well. This is a daunting aria that lasts almost eight minutes, and she gave a fine rendition. Fortunata for sure is a singer to watch.

There you have it, eight singers, beautifully supported by the two Ensemble pianists - the excellent Jennifer Szeto and the very promising new addition Hyejin Kwon.  With six of the eight singers with "high voices," they truly start the new season on a "high note"! I look forward to hearing more from them this season.

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Sunday, 20 September 2015

This Week in Toronto (Sept. 21 - 27)

My Toronto concert picks for the week of September 21 to 27

Joseph So

Now that we are in the third week of September, I am starting my weekly Toronto concert preview once again.  Top on my list this week the Toronto Symphony Orchestra's season opener, with the great violinist Itzhak Perlman playing the Bruch violin concerto, under the baton of the TSO music director Peter Oundjian. Also on the program are Grieg's Peer Gynt Suite No. 1 and The Sorcerer's Apprentice by Paul Dukas. This is a very popular program, plus Perlman is a perennial favourite in Toronto. I've heard that opening night is close to - if not already - sold out but there are always returns. Check with the box office. Thursday Sept. 24 7 pm at Roy Thomson Hall.

This just in:  Itzhak Perlman has cancelled his appearance in the opening night of the TSO due to emergency gall bladder surgery. Replacing him is violinist and TSO frequent guest violinist Pinchas Zukerman. The program remains unchanged. 

Violinist Pinchas Zukerman 

Violinist Itzhak Perlman (Photo: Lisa Marie Mazzucco)

Following the opening night gala, the TSO is presenting three performances of its "Three Bs" program of Beethoven Symphony No. 5, Brahms Double Concerto featuring TSO concertmaster Jonathan Crow and Principal Cello Joseph Johnson, and Bach Toccata and Fugue in D Minor. This is a truly "heart of the repertoire" type of program that every music lover should not miss. Friday Sept. 25 and Saturday Sept. 26 at Roy Thomson Hall, followed by a matinee on Sunday Sept. 27 at George Weston Recital hall in North York.  Once again, Peter Oundjian is at the helm.

TSO Concertmaster Jonathan Crow (Photo: Sian Richards)

The Canadian Opera Company is currently in rehearsal for its fall season of La traviata and Pyramus and Thisbe, but its free noon hour series starts this Tuesday Sept. 22 at the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre with a recital given by the COC Ensemble Studio artists. Members this year are sopranos Aviva Fortunata and Karine Boucher, tenors Andrew Haji, Jean-Philippe Fortier-Lazure, Aaron Sheppard and Charles Sy, bass baritones Iain MacNeil and Gordon Bintner, and pianists/coach Jennifer Szeto and HyeJin Kwon. I have not done any research, but I'm willing to bet this is a first for the Ensemble to have four tenors in one year!  Perhaps it might have happened way back in the 1980's when the Ensemble was larger, up to something like 18 artists.  But to have four tenors out of eight singers is very unusual! They will be on hand to sing an aria each. Here's the program   This is an extremely popular event, so be sure to show up an hour ahead to ensure a spot.

The Arc Ensemble

The "Arc" in the Arc Ensemble stands for "Artists of the Royal Conservatory." It is made up of eight wonderful musicians and they will be giving a concert at Koerner Hall on Saturday Sept. 26th 3 pm. On the program are works by Mozart, Shostakovich and Mieczyslaw Weinberg. Details at   The concert is free - part of the Culture Days events in Toronto, but you do need a ticket to get in.  Here is the link to reserve a ticket online -

Soprano Nathalie Paulin

The Off Centre Music Salon has been a staple of Sunday afternoon concert-going under  the stewardship of pianists Inna Perkis and Boris Zarankin for the last 20 years. It opens its 21st season in a new venue, the Trinity St. Paul's Centre, 427 Bloor Street West, Toronto. This is the same venue for Tafelmusik. The program is called Russia Cast Adrift, with a quartet of very fine singers, soprano Nathalie Paulin, mezzo Emilia Boteva, tenor Ernesto Ramirez and baritone Geoffrey Sirett. They sing the song cycle Russia Cast Adrift by Sviridov. I recall hearing part of this song cycle sung by the great Dmitri Hvorostovsky many years ago in Toronto.  Also on the program are works by Rachmaninoff, Gavrillin and Scriabin.

Pianist Stewart Goodyear

Canadian pianist Stewart Goodyear is playing a recital under the auspices of Mooredale Concerts. He plays Bach's Goldberg Variations and Beethoven's Diabelli Variations. The recital is on Sunday September 27th 3 pm at Walter Hall, Edward Johnson Building, University of Toronto. You can purchase tickets in advance at

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