La Scena Musicale

Sunday, November 22, 2009

This Week in Toronto (November 23 - 29)

Photo: An early portrait of the soprano Elizabeth Soderstrom in 1957

I begin this week's post with a piece of sad news for opera fans. The beloved Swedish soprano Elizabeth Soderstrom passed away from complications of a stroke at the age of 82. She made her debut in 1947, singing mainly light lyric and soubrette roles - she was a marvelous Susanna in her early days. She sang at the Met in the early 60's, but later restricted her appearances closer to her home in Sweden to raise a family. She reappeared on the international scene in the 1970's until her retirement in the late 1980's. A frequent visitor to Toronto, I have many fond memories of her performing here - a concert Tatiana that also featured Nicolai Gedda as Lensky in Massey Hall; Hanna Glawari for the COC; several Rachmaninoff songs recitals. But my most memorable experience of her was as the Marschallin, opposite the Octavian of Frederica von Stade and the Sophie of Kathleen Battle with the Met on tour in Cleveland. She remains my favourite Marschallin to this day. I also remember a late-career Nozze di Figaro Contessa at the Met around 1987. By that time she was past her best vocally but remained a supreme artist.

Now to happier news. The Toronto Symphony Orchestra presents Shostakovich's monumental Symphony No. 5 on Nov. 25 at a rather odd time of 6:30 pm at Roy Thomson Hall. Stephane Deneve leads the TSO forces. On Nov. 26 2 pm, 28 at 8 pm and 29 at 3 pm, the great Canadian violinist James Ehnes plays the Prokofiev violin concerto No. 2, in addition to the Shostakovich symphony and the Prokofiev Suite to Love For Three Oranges, with Deneve on the podium.

The Aradia Ensemble under Irish conductor kevin Mallon presents a interesting concert to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the death of Haydn, on Nov. 27, 8 pm at the Glenn Gould Studio. On the program is Mallon's reconstruction of mass fragment Missa Sunt Bona Mixta Malis. It is billed as a world premiere. The centerpiece is Haydn's Lord Nelson Mass, with a quartet of soloists led by soprano Charlotte Corwin.

The RCM's Glenn Gould School is presenting an English-language version of Bohuslav Martinu's rarely performed comic opera, Comedy on the Bridge. This opera, staged at the RCM for the first time, is part of an all-Martinu program commemorating the 50th anniversary of the composer's death. The opera represents the first
conducting assignment for Uri Mayer since he was appointed as Director of The Glenn Gould School Orchestral Programme and Resident Conductor. Also on the program is Anagnoson & Kinton, who will perform Martinu's
Three Czech Dances for Two Pianos. It takes place on Wednesday, November 25, 2009, 12:00 pm and > Thursday, November 26, 2009 at 8:00 pm, at the venerable Mazzoleni Hall of the RCM.

The National Ballet of Canada follows an ultra-traditional Sleeping Beauty with a cutting-edge contemporary mixed program, Nov. 25 - 29 at the Four Seasons Centre. On the program is choreographer Aszure Barton's world premiere, Watch Her. This is paired with George Ballanchine's scintillating The Four Temperaments, set to a score by Paul Hindemith.

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