La Scena Musicale

Friday, November 6, 2009

Cette semaine à Montréal (8 à 15 novembre) / This Week in Montreal (November 8 to 15)

Musique, danse, théâtre, et arts plastiques à Montréal cette semaine Music, dance, theatre, and fine arts in Montreal this week

Théâtre : Tout est encore possible – Après l’amusant Les Exilés de la lumière, l’auteure Lise Vaillancourt revient avec une pièce dont la description intrigue. Se promenant entre l’Afrique et un cabinet de psychanalyste, elle présente quatre personnages qui racontent autant de récits « impossibles à croire ». La création bénéficiera de la touche du metteur en scène des Deux Mondes (Terre Promise), Daniel Meilleur. » Du 3 au 21 novembre, au Théâtre d’Aujourd’hui —Marie Labrecque

Theatre: Centaur’s second play, Death and the Maiden, by Ariel Dorfman, running November 3 to December 6, presents a complete change in tone. An emotional, edge-of-your-seat thriller, it tells the story of a woman, a former political prisoner, who is forced to confront demons from her past when she suspects her neighbour was part of the old fascist regime that had tortured her. When she kidnaps him to extract a confession, her husband, a lawyer, is torn between his love for his wife and the law. —Jessica Hill

Jazz : Dim. 8 » Pierre François Quartet ave invité Remi Bolduc (sax alto). Upstairs Jazz Bar. (20 h 30) —Marc Chenard

Musique de chambre :
Le concert de la série Émeraude du 9 novembre prochain s’annonce comme un pont entre l’Allemagne et Israël. En effet, la Société Pro Musica a convié sur une même scène les musiciens du quatuor allemand Vogler et Chen Halevi à la clarinette. Trois œuvres seront en vedette, dont le Quatuor à cordes en sol mineur, op. 74 nº 3 dit « Le cavalier » de Haydn, le Quatuor à cordes nº 1, op. 8, WV 72 de Schulhoff et la pièce pour cordes et clarinette Dreams and Prayers of Isaac the Blind de Golijov. Un concert exaltant que le Washington Post a qualifié de « parfaite harmonie, d’une façon rarement entendue en concert. » Au Théâtre Maisonneuve de la Place des Arts, à 19 h 30.

Contemporary Music: Prizewinning new music – Keep your finger on the pulse by attending the Ensemble contemporain de Montréal on November 9 as they premiere prizewinning contemporary compositions by Vincent Ho, Andrew Staniland and Analia Llugdar. Under the direction of Veronique Lacroix, the ensemble rounds off the programme with Solstices ou Les jours et les saisons tournent by the venerable Gilles Tremblay. 514-524-0173,

Jazz : Mar. 10 » Lancement du disque L’ascenceur du guitariste Carl Naud sur étiquette Effendi. Resto-bar Le dièse onze. (18 h) [Voir chronique de disque ci-contre dans la section jazz.] —Marc Chenard

Jazz : Mer. 11 » Lancement du disque de la chanteuse Elisabeth Sheppard. Upstairs Jazz Bar. (20 h 30) » De Chicago, la saxophoniste Matana Roberts et son projet Coin Coin + le trio du pîaniste Antoine Bustros. Sala Rossa de la Casa del Popolo. Infos : 284-0122. (21 h) » Pink Saliva [Gordon Allen : trompette; Alexandre St-Onge : basse; Michel F Côté : batterie] + Monstre (Musique actuelle) Casa del Popolo. (21 h) —Marc Chenard

Danse : À l’Agora, novembre sera entièrement placé sous le signe de Pierre-Paul Savoie qui fête les 25 ans de sa compagnie PPSDanse, avec son quatuor Diasporama autour de quatre créateurs québécois installés à l’étranger, en deux volets du 12 au 21. —Aline Apostolska

Jazz : Ven. 13 et sam. 14 » Le groupe du guitariste Stephane Carreau. Upstairs Jazz Bar. (20 h 30) —Marc Chenard

Jazz : Sam. 14 » Double lancement de disque : Klaxon Gueule + Jean Derome, Philippe Lauzier et Gordon Allen (Ambiances magnétiques) suivi du duo Sainct Laurens (Philippe Lauzier et Pierre-Yves Martel), parution sur &Records. [Musique actuelle] L’envers. Infos : (21 h) —Marc Chenard

Chamber Music: Le Ladies Morning Musical Club présente le Trio Pennetier-Pasquier-Pidoux en concert à la salle Pollack le 15 novembre, dans un programme de Mozart, Michel Merlet et Beethoven. Solistes français de premier plan, les musiciens ont formé leur trio alors qu’ils étaient étudiants au prestigieux Conservatoire de Paris, où ils enseignent maintenant. 514-932-6796,

Jazz : Dim. 15 » Joe Sullivan Big Band. Concert présenté dans le cadre de la série Power Jazz au Segal Center. Infos : 739-7944. (19 h 30) —Marc Chenard

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Thursday, November 5, 2009


Breaking News!

The COC announced this afternoon that Ben Heppner will give a special concert to all ticket holders of the COC Diamond Anniversary Gala, at a yet to be determined date.

Read the press release.

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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Simone Osborne in Recital (November 3)

Soprano Simone Osborne after her recital at the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre, November 3, 2009
Photo: Venita Lok

Marilyn Horne Foundation New York Recital Preview
Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre, Four Seasons Centre
November 3, 2009
Simone Osborne, soprano
Elizabeth Upchurch, piano

Cuatro Madrigales Amatorios by Rodrigo
Con que la lavare?
Vos me matasteis
De donde venis, amore?
De los alamos vengo, madre
Four Songs by Liszt
S'il est un charmant gazon
Enfant, si j'etais roi
Comment, disaient-ils
Oh! quand je dors
Three Songs by Richard Strauss
Lily and Monarch (from A Silent Awakening) by Iman Habibi
A Word on my Ear by Flanders and Swann

In March 2008, BC soprano Simone Osborne, at the tender age of 21, became one of five grand winners of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, the youngest singer to have won in the competition's history. I remember listening to the broadcast at the time, and was struck by the beauty of her voice, her innate musicality, and particularly the maturity and poise that belied her age. I interviewed her at the time for an article in the 2008 spring issue of The Music Scene. She was a journalist's dream - warm, engaging, smart, articulate, thoughtful, with a delightful sense of humour. I felt at the time that she'll have a very fine career in the years ahead. Since then, she had gone on to win more competitions, including the prestigious Marilyn Horne Foundation Vocal Competition. She is one of four new members of the Canadian Opera Company Ensemble Studio this season. She just made her COC mainstage debut in Stravinsky's short song cycle Pribaoutki as part of The Nightingale and Other Short Fables, singing these little satirical ditties with gleaming tone and excellent diction.

At yesterday's noon hour concert, Osborne gave a preview of the recital she will sing in New York, as a result of her win in the Marilyn Horne Foundation. She opened with four love songs by Rodrigo. Wearing a lovely concert gown (see photo), she looked every inch the diva, with stage presence to burn. The Rodrigo songs were delivered with rich, opulent tone and strong communicative power - this singer has something to say to the audience! Her facial expressions alone communicated the meaning of the text - this is an ability that only some singers are blessed with, and it is an important asset for a recitalist. The voice has gained in size, power and solidity, with a new warmth and solidity in the middle register. At the Met Auditions, I thought she sounded more like a soubrette, but in the interim year and a half, her sound has gotten fuller and more substantial - I think she is developing into a full lyric. The four Liszt songs were delivered with silvery tone and full attention to textual nuance. Given her big voice and powerful stage presence, she has a tendency to sing operatically, making a big sound. Some people might prefer a more understated delivery, but this is definitely not the Osborne style! In any case, the Liszt Petrarch Songs are quite operatic to begin with and a big voice and dramatic interpretation is entirely appropriate. Her 'Oh! quand je dors' was lovely. My favourite part of her program was the Strauss songs. 'Allerseelen' requires seamless legato and long breath line which Osborne delivered. For me, the highlight of the concert was 'Cacilie', with its ecstatic, ever-expansive musical lines, which Osborne sang with power and resplendent tone.

The penultimate piece, 'Lily and Monarch' was a work the singer had commissioned from composer Iman Habbibi, based on poetry Osborne's grandfather wrote to her grandmother. The poem of unrequited love was exquisitely sung and with genuine depth of feeling by Osborne. There are two short verses in the song sung in, I believe, Farsi. (Osborne is part Iranian by heritage) Throughout, pianist Liz Upchurch was a most sensitive and supportive recital partner. The last piece on the program was 'A Word on my Ear', a funny song about an opera diva by Flanders and Swann. This is a real showstopper and great fun. I last heard it sung - wonderfully - by the British soprano Elizabeth Connell about ten years ago, and I was so looking forward to Osborne's rendition. Alas it was not to be. A minute into the song, there was a commotion in the audience. Apparently someone had either had a seizure or a heart attack. Osborne handled the situation perfectly - stopping the concert was definitely the right thing to do. Sadly I won't get to hear her treatment of the Flanders and Swann, but I am sure there will be other occasions. All in all, it was a highly auspicious recital debut for Ms. Osborne. She will be singing Ilia in the COC Ensemble performance of Idomeneo next May - mark your calendar!


Monday, November 2, 2009

This Week in Toronto (November 2 - 8)

Opera Atelier Iphigenie en Tauride
Kresimir Spicer (Orestes) ready to sacrifice himself to save his friend Pylades (Thomas MacCleay), with Iphigenie (Peggy Kriha Dye) looking on. Photo: Bruce Zinger

The Canadian Opera Company's fall season draws to a close this week. It will be your last chance to catch the two excellent COC offerings. Tomorrow (Tuesday Nov. 3, 7:30 pm) is the last of fifteen performances of Madama Butterfly. There are still two more performances of Stravinsky's The Nightingale and Other Short Fables, on Nov. 4 and 5 at 7:30 pm. The Stravinsky shows are sold out but check the box office for returns. All shows are at the Four Seasons Centre.

Opera Atelier just opened its fall season with a revival of Gluck's Iphigenie en Tauride. I attended opening night last Saturday, and it was wonderfully sung and played by the excellent Tafelmusik Orchestra under Andrew Parrott. This is the typical OA style of historically informed, super-traditional productions. This show was last seen in 2003. It has lost none of its appeal. OA has assembled a strong cast headed by soprano Peggy Kriha Dye, who has become a Toronto audience favourite. Also returning is Croatian tenor Kresimir Spicer in the baritone role of Orestes, in an unusual bit of casting. He was an excellent Idomeneo two seasons ago. His burly voice is best described as a "baritenor", so the lower tessitura of Orestes does not pose any difficulty for him. As Pylade, OA presents a voice new to Toronto audiences - Montreal tenor Thomas Macleay whose lighter timbre made a perfect foil to that of Spicer's. Performances on Nov. 3, 4, 6, and 7, 7:30 pm at the Elgin Theatre.

Also of interest is the North American premiere of And The Rat Laughed, an opera sung in Hebrew, composed by Ella Milch-Sheriff with libretto by novelist Nava Semel, whose parents were Holocaust survivors. It is presented by Opera York, in partnership with the Sarah and Chaim Neuberger Holocause Education Centre and the United Jewish Appeal Federation of Greater Toronto. The cast includes Canadian baritone Andrew Tees and mezzo Adriana Albu. The conductor is Geoff Butler. You can read more about this production at There will be three performances (Nov. 5 and 7 at 8pm and Nov 8 at 2 pm) at the acoustically excellent Richmond Hill Centre for the Performing Arts, designed by Jack Diamond who also designed the much bigger Four Seasons Centre, home of the Canadian Opera Company.

A last piece of opera-related event is a free, noon-hour concert given by soprano Simone Osborne. A new member of the COC Ensemble Studio, the BC soprano Osborne has the distinction of having won the 2008 Metropolitan Opera Auditions. She is the complete package, combining a lovely lyric soprano voice with abundant musicality and strong stage presence. This concert is a sneak preview of her upcoming New York concert, as a result of her recent win at the Marilyn Horne Foundation Vocal Competition. On the program is works by Rodrigo, Liszt, Strauss, and a new work by Iman Habibi. Click on this link to download her recital program: The concert is at the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre of the Four Seasons Centre. Remember to show up at least 30 minutes earlier to get a seat.

Toronto Symphony Orchestra Conductor Laureate Andrew Davis leads a concert of Beethoven's Emperor Concerto with star Canadian pianist Andre Laplante. The program also includes the ever-popular Also sprach Zarathustra. Two performances (Nov. 4 and 5, 8 pm) at the Roy Thomson Hall.

Finally, a piece of sad news. The COC Diamond Anniversary Gala to take place at the Four Seasons Centre on Saturday Nov. 7 with Canadian tenor Ben Heppner, so looked forward to by opera lovers - me included - has received a big blow. It was announced late Saturday afternoon that Heppner has cancelled, due to a lingering infection he suffered with singing Tristan at Covent Garden in October. I am afraid Toronto audiences have had very bad luck when it comes to Heppner. Two of his recitals in Toronto the last ten years were aborted mid-concert, while other shows like the Millennium Gala found him in poor form. This was meant to be his triumphant return to the company, where he last sang in 1996, as Canio in Pagliacci - not counting a very brief appearance in the FSC opening concerts in June 2006. Alas this is not to be. Replacing him will be tenor Ramon Vargas and baritone Russell Braun, with more artists to be named very soon.

NOTE: Later Monday afternoon, I received news that internationally renowned heldentenor John Treleaven has been added onto the Gala Concert roster. He will sing arias from Die Meistersinger, Tannhauser and Goetterdammerung. The previously announced tenor Ramon Vargas will sing arias from La damnation de Faust and Romeo et Juliette.Canadian baritone Russell Braun will sing Wolfram's aria from Tannhauser, and Mercutio's aria from Romeo et Juliette. This arrangement has the benefit of as little disruption to the original programming as possible, since preparation by the conductor and orchestra had already started some time ago based on Heppner's original program.

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