La Scena Musicale

Saturday, 16 January 2016

This Week in Toronto (Jan. 18 - 24)

My Toronto Musical Picks for the Week of January 18 to 24

~ Joseph So

German tenor Stefan Vinke

As an admittedly opera-centric music lover, top on my list this week is the opening of Canadian Opera Company's winter season production of Siegfried. It marks the return of American dramatic soprano Christine Goerke in her first-ever Siegfried Brunnhilde. If her Walkure Brunnhilde from last season was any indication, we are in for a treat! Toronto opera fans are lucky to have her singing her three Brunnhildes here before anywhere else. Partnering her is the COC debut of Stefan Vinke in the title role. The lion's share of the singing in this five-hour marathon falls to the tenor. Judging by the working rehearsal of Act Two I attended the other day, Mr. Vinke is certainly up to the task. American baritone Alan Held is the Wanderer, British bass-baritone Christopher Purves sings Alberich, and Wolfgang Ablinger-Sperrhacke is Mime.  Canadian bass Phillip Ens is Fafner, one of the shortest solo roles, almost a cameo. Actually we only hear his voice in this production. I heard these gents at the rehearsal and they were uniformly terrific. A tragic plane crash took the life of German contralto Maria Radner, the originally scheduled Erda. Replacing her is the young American Meredith Arwady. Former COC Ensemble Studio soprano Jacqueline Woodley sings her first Forest Bird. This Francois Girard-directed segment of the COC Ring was the only part that was rented by another opera house, Lyon Opera, if memory serves. Johannes Debus continues his Ring odyssey at the helm. The show opens on Jan. 23rd at the early start of 6:30 pm, Four Seasons Centre.

Soprano Christine Goerke (Photo: Arielle Doneson)

Two free noon hour concerts this week well worth attending at the opera house. On Tuesday Jan. 19 noon at the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre, two COC Ensemble Studio artists, bass-baritone Gordon  Bintner and tenor Charles Sy will give a duo recital. Bintner sings Schumann's Liederkreis with Liz Upchurch at the piano, and Sy sings Britten's Les Illuminations, with pianist Hyejin Kwon. On Thursday Jan. 21, another Ensemble Studio tenor, Jean-Philippe Fortier-Lazure, sings Faure's La bonne chanson, accompanied by former COC Ensemble pianist and now Berlin-based Anne Larlee. Members of the COC Orchestra Academy join the regular members of the COC Orchestra for Mendelssohn's Octet. These free noon hour concerts are always full, so be sure to show up an hour ahead!

German soprano Lydia Teuscher (Photo: Askonas Holt)

The Mozart@260 celebration at the Toronto Symphony Orchestra continues this week with his sublime Requiem, for three performances Jan 21, 22, 23 at Roy Thomson Hall.  This is a Mozart Requiem with a twist - it's staged!  The director is none other than Canadian Joel Ivany of Against the Grain Theatre. I am curious to see what he can do with this piece. Quebec conductor Bernard Labadie conducts a reduced TSO, with soloists soprano Lydia Teuscher, mezzo Allyson McHardy, tenor Frederic Antoun and bass-baritone Philippe Sly. Joining them is the Amadeus Choir and Elmer Iseler Singers.

Bass-baritone Philippe Sly

Romanian violinist Mira Glodeanu is the guest soloist and maestra with the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra for Vivaldi's L'Estro armonico on Jan. 20 7 pm at Trinity St. Paul's Centre. This concert is repeated Jan.  21-23 8 pm and Jan. 24 at 3:30 pm. On the program are works by Vivaldi, Guido, Venturini, Tartini, and Locatelli.

Soprano Andriana Chuchman

Canadian lyric-coloratura soprano Andriana Chuchman is giving a recital under the auspices of Music Toronto, as part of the Discovery series. The soprano from Winnipeg made her COC debut as Olympia in Tales of Hoffmann three seasons ago, and since then she has sung Gretel at the Met in Hansel und Gretel. Her Music Toronto recital of chestnuts includes Mozart's Exsultate jubilate, Samuel Barber's Hermit Songs, Rachmaninoff's Vocalise, Dvorak's Songs My Mother Taught Me,and a group of Ukrainian folk songs by Vilinsky, plus other pieces. Her pianist is Craig Terry. Thursday Jan. 21 8 pm at Jane Mallett Theatre.

Soprano Barbara Hannigan (Photo: Raphael Brand)
Canadian soprano Barbara Hannigan is one of the foremost interpreters of new music of our time, with many composers writing specifically for her voice. She is the John R. Stratton Visitor in Music this week at the University of Toronto, with a large array of events open to the public, and all free! It begins with a 'show and tell' on Tuesday Jan. 19th 10:30 am at Walter Hall, U of T - "Living and Surviving as a Singing Artist.' Then she's meeting with composers, singers, pianists and instrumentalists for an interactive session on new music, on Wednesday Jan. 20th 3:10 pm at Room 330 in the Edward Johnson Building. She gives a masterclass on Thursday Jan. 21st at Walter Hall at noon.  Finally, on Friday Jan. 22nd at 5 pm, she and students from her masterclass are giving a concert at Walter Hall, with pianist Steven Philcox. Hannigan is an exceptional artist and I for one am curious about her as a teacher.

The Amici Chamber Ensemble is presenting Ludwig, of course short for Ludwig van Beethoven, On the program are Sonata in A major, Op. 69; Sextet in E flat major, Op. 71; Rondino in E flat major, Op. post. and Quintet in E flat major, Op. 16. Guest soloists are Sarah Jeffrey, oboe; Sarah Lewis, oboe; Joseph Orlowski, clarinet; Michael Sweeney, bassoon; Samuel Banks, bassoon; Neil Deland, horn; and Gabriel Radford, horn. Performance on Jan. 24th 3 pm at the Mazzoleni Hall, Royal Conservatory of Music, 273 Bloor Street West.

Esprit Orchestra specializes in contemporary works. On Sunday Jan. 24th 8 pm at Koerner Hall, conductor Alex Pauk is leading the Esprit forces in  Bow To String, Air To Breath, a program of works by Daniel Bjarnason, Alexina Louie, Samuel Andreyev (world premiere), and R. Murray Schafer. Canadian composer Alexina Louie composed her piece, Imaginary Opera, shortly after her COC comissioned opera, The Scarlet Princess, and she channeled some of the 17th Century Kabuki play aesthetics into this later work.  Soloists are cellist Bryan Cheng playing the concerto by Icelandic composer Bjarnason. The other soloist is trumpeter Robert Venables.  Details at

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Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Cette semaine à Montréal (11 à 17 janvier) / This Week in Montreal (January 11–17)

Voix et Percussions chez VivaVoce

Sonorités audacieuses et pulsations aux timbres magiques des ­percussions. C’est ce que nous promet VivaVoce qui joint ses forces au nouveau quatuor de percussions Architek pour ce concert haut en couleur. Sous la direction de Peter Schubert, À Chœur battant ! propose des œuvres de Nico Muhly et Eliot Cole ainsi que des créations composées pour les deux ensembles par Luke Nickel et Brian Cherney. Salle Bourgie, 17 janvier, 15 h.
Serge Fiori, GSI Musique

Cet hiver au Théâtre Outremont

Le Théâtre Outremont, devenu en 2015 le premier théâtre municipal de l’histoire de Montréal, a maintenant une vocation artistique variée incluant cinéma, danse, musique et théâtre. Il vise à favoriser la ­participation du public montréalais à la vie culturelle, incluant le public jeunesse. Plusieurs spectacles seront à l’affiche en décembre et janvier. Le 15 janvier, le spectacle Fioritudes fera place aux chansons de Serge Fiori avec des artistes variés.

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Sunday, 10 January 2016

This Week in Toronto (Jan. 11 - 17)

My Toronto Concert Picks for the Week of January 11 to 17

~ Joseph So

Mozart@260 celebrations in January is now an annual event at the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. Kicking off this year's offering is Mozart's Symphony No. 41 K. 551, the "Jupiter."  The return of Quebec conductor Bernard Labadie after his long battle with T-cell lymphoma is a cause for celebration in itself.  His life-threatening illness was reported in Norman Lebrecht's Slipped Disc (blog)
The program opens with the Overture to Don Giovanni, K. 527. Pianist Alexandre Tharaud is the soloist in Piano Concerto No. 9 K. 271.

Conductor Bernard Labadie

Two marvelous Canadian singers, tenor Frederic Antoun and bass-baritone Philippe Sly are singing one Mozart aria each - Sly sings Leporello's "Catalogue Aria" and Antoun sings Don Ottavio's "Dalla sua pace." Not very much, so hopefully there might be an encore?  Performance on Saturday Jan. 16 8 pm at Roy Thomson Hall is repeated the following day at 3 pm, at the George Weston Recital Hall in North York.

Bass-baritone Philippe Sly (Photo: Adam Scotti)

The TSO's What Makes It Great? series is presenting a performance of one of Mozart's most familiar works, his Symphony No. 40.  Conductor Rob Kapilow speaks about this piece, followed by a performance. It is on Friday Jan. 15 7:30 pm at Roy Thomson Hall. This series is designed for newcomers to classical music who wants to learn more about the pillars of the standard repertoire, or for experienced concert goers who want a refresher.

Poster for Tafelmusik Vocal Competition

An interesting event this week is the first Tafelmusik Vocal Competition to take place on Saturday Jan. 16th at 1 pm. Nine singers - alto, tenor and bass, and curiously no sopranos! - are the finalists chosen from over 65 contestants. They will sing baroque arias accompanied by Christopher Bagan on harpsichord and organ. Finalists are mezzo-sopranos Johanna Bronk and Kim Leeds; countertenor Andrew Rader; tenors Jacques-Olivier Chartier, Zach Finkelstein and Brian Giebler; and baritones Jonathan Woody, Jeremy Ludwig and David Rugger.  Members of the jury are Mary Morrison, Catherine Robbin, Jeanne Lamon and Ivars Taurins. Three winners will be chosen plus the Audience Choice. The winners will be soloists in the final concert of the Tafelmusik season, performing Zelenka's Missa omnium sanctorum.

London Haydn Quartet

Mooredale Concerts is presenting the London Haydn Quartet on Jan. 17 3:15 pm at Walter Hall, Edward Johnson Building, Univrsity of Toronto.  On the program are works by Haydn, Beethoven and Mozart. This formal concert is preceded by Music and Truffles, an interactive program for children ages 5 to 11. For more details, go to  For those unfamiliar with this chamber group, here's a short video clip on Youtube - 

Finally, it's not a public event as such, unless you are a subscriber to the Canadian Opera Company and/or a member of the media.  I am talking about the COC's 2016-17 Season Launch, to take place on Wednesday Jan. 13 at the Four Seasons Centre.  Like any opera fan, I am looking forward to attending this annual event.  It used to be a much more modest affair, taking place at the Tannenbaum Centre on Front Street, where the headquarters of the COC is located.  But the last couple of years, it has turned into a large scale production, with slick video presentation and even a performance or two, to take place at the opera house. Details of next season is always a guarded secret, but occasionally one does hear a leak here and there. I am not going to give any spoilers here, but I will report in this space as soon as it becomes available! 

Canadian pianist Charles Richard-Hamelin

Note: In my original post, I left out a joint recital of Canadian pianists Charles Richard-Hamelin and Tony Yike Yang, both winners of the recent International Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw. Richard-Hamelin won Second Prize and Yang won Fifth Prize. In addition, Richard-Hamelin was the winner of the Women's Musical Club of Toronto's Career Development Grant last Spring. I left out this concert because it was already announced as completely sold out, in the tiny venue of Mazzonleni Hall of the Royal Conservatory of Music. I have decided to add it now, in case some of you might want to try for returns at the box office. The recital is on Friday Jan. 15th 7:30 pm. Click on this link for program details -

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