La Scena Musicale

Sunday, March 7, 2010

This Week in Toronto (March 8 - 14)

Baritone Nathan Gunn (Photo: Dario Acosta)

The big news for voice fans this week is the first Toronto appearance of American baritone Nathan Gunn, in town on Wednesday, March 10 8 pm at Roy Thomson Hall as part of its Vocal Series. Mr. Gunn is the archetypal "bari-hunk", a term invented some years ago by person unknown to describe baritones who are as pleasing to the eye as to the ear. There is a long tradition of singers of this ilk, from Lawrence Tibbett in the 1930's to Sherrill Milnes in the 1970's - hunky baritones with great voices. But there seems to be many more of them today, undoubtedly a reflection of the public favoring singers who look good on stage. In addition to Nathan Gunn, baritone poster boys today include the New Zealander Teddy Tahu Rhodes, Italian Luca Pisaroni, Uruguayan Erwin Schrott, American Jason Hardy, and Canada's own Dan Okulitch. There are many more, but these ones come to mind readily. They all have beautiful voices and are convincing actors onstage. With Mr. Gunn in town for a recital at Roy Thomson Hall, we'll get to judge for ourselves. I first heard him thirteen years ago, as Orestes in the famous Francesca Zambello production of Iphigenie en Tauride in Glimmerglass, arguably the show that propelled him to fame. He is singing better than ever. On the program are songs by Schubert, Charles Ives and American spirituals, accompanied by his wife Julie Gunn.

On the subject of voice, a worthwhile concert to attend is one given by Canadian soprano Yannick Muriel Noah. Several years ago, she was plucked out of the COC Ensemble to fill in for an indisposed soprano as Tosca. Critics and audience were impressed with her huge, gleaming lirico-spinto. She has since sung La Wally at Klagenfurt in Austria, and was Cio-Cio-San in COC's Madama Butterfly last fall. This spring, she returns to Klagenfurt as Aida. Noah will be giving a recital of songs and arias by Weill, Strauss, Verdi, and Puccini, with Liz Upchurch at the piano. It takes place on Saturday March 13, 8 pm at the Runnymede United Church, 432 Runnymede Road. Tickets are $25 ($20 for students and arts workers) and can be purchased as her website

On Sunday March 14 2:30 pm at Walter Hall, Edward Johnson Building at the U of Toronto Faculty of Music, the Aldeburgh Connection presents Hugo Wolf: Mighty Miniaturist. Soloists are soprano Monica Whicher, tenor Michael Colvin, and baritone Brett Polegato, with Stephen Ralls and Bruce Ubukata at the piano. As usual, there will be tea at intermission! I have attended a few of their concerts in the past and they are never less than delightful.

Elsewhere, the Canadian Opera Company free noon hour concert series presents The Composer and His Music, on Thursday March 11, at the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre, with student soloists from the University of Toronto Opera Division under the music directorship of Sandra Horst. It is an eclectic - and highly interesting - program with arias and ensembles from Nixon in China, Hamlet, Leoncavallo's Boheme, Rigoletto, Gloriana, Ghosts of Versailles, Don Pasquale, Madama Butterfly, and Candide. Remember to show up a good 45 minutes early to ensure a seat. On Tuesday, March 9 is another noon hour concert - 18 year old pianist Suren Barry plays music by Bach, Beethoven, and Debussy.

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra presents Enigma Variations on March 11 at 3 pm and March 13 at 8 pm, with soloist Lars Vogt playing the Grieg Piano Concerto in A minor. Also on the program are Elgar's Enigma Variations, Sibelius Suite from King Kristian II and Magnus Lindberg's Chorale. Robin Ticciati conducts.

Tafelmusik, Canada's premiere baroque orchestra, presents Bach in Leipzig, with Jeanne Lamon directing the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Chorus in a program of Bach and Telemann. Performances on March 10, 7:30 pm, March 11, 12, and 13 at 8 pm, at the Trinity-St. Paul's Centre.

Finally, a bit of very sad news. The great British tenor Philip Langridge passed away from cancer this week at the age of 70. He carried on the tradition of English tenors in the mode of Peter Pears, championing the music of Benjamin Britten - he was a supremely moving Peter Grimes - as well as a wide ranging repertoire from Mozart to Janacek to Stravinsky. When I first heard the news two days ago, it just didn't seem possible - after all, he was singing as recently as December and January as the Witch in the Met's revival of Hansel und Gretel! He is survived by his widow, mezzo-soprano Ann Murray and four children. As a remembrance, here is a link to his most moving rendition of Comfort Ye from Handel's Messiah on Youtube -

Labels: , , , , , ,

Monday, February 8, 2010

This Week in Toronto (Feb. 8 - 14)

COC Music Director Johannes Debus conducts RCM Orchestra on Feb. 12.
Photo: courtesy of Michael Cooper Canadian Opera Company

With practically all the major music organizations going full steam this week, one can choose from a delectable selection of events. Conductor Johannes Debus, appointed last year as the COC's music director starting this current season, comes to town to conduct the RCM Orchestra in the RCO In Concert Series at Koerner Hall on Feb. 12 8 pm. The program features Prokofiev's Symphony Classique, Poulenc's Concerto for Two Pianos, Ravel's Sheherazade, and Stravinsky's Firebird. Soloists are mezzo Wallis Giunta, a RCM alumna and now with the COC Ensemble Studio, as well as pianists Nicholas King and Lucas Porter. Debus conducts the upcoming COC production of The Flying Dutchman. Concert is at the RCM Koerner Hall at 273 Bloor Street West. Tickets are a bargain at $20.

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra presents Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, Op. 67 with guest conductor Douglas Boyd on Feb. 10 and 11, 8 pm at Roy Thomson Hall. Also on the program is the Beethoven's Overture to Fidelio, plus the North American premiere of a percussion concerto, A table of noises, by Simon Holt.

On Friday Feb. 12th 8 pm, Canada's Angela Hewitt, one of the foremost Bach interpretors of the world, celebrates the 25th anniversary of her win at the International Bach Piano Competition, with a concert at Roy Thomson Hall, the very venue of her triumph in 1985. On the program is Bach's Italian Concerto, Beethoven's Sonata in D Major, Op. 10, no.3, and Brahm's Sonata in F Minor. I understand this program is a reprise of her winning concert.

There are several interesting offerings on the vocal scene. First of all, the great Karina Gauvin is coming to Roy Thomson Hall in a recital as part of the RTH Vocal Series on Sunday Feb. 14, 2pm. In keeping with Valentine's Day, she will have a program of love songs by Scarlatti, Chausson, Bizet, Ravel, and Kurt Weill. She will be accompanied by collaborative pianist Michael McMahon. On Wednesday Feb. 10 at 7:30pm, the Aldeburgh Connection presents A Night in Spain, as part of it Discovery Series featuring up and coming singers. It is a program of love songs by Schumann. Soloists are soprano Johane Ansell, mezzo Erica Huang, tenor Christopher Enns, and baritone James Baldwin. As usual, with Stephen Ralls and Bruce Ubukata at the piano.

The Talisker Players presents a program called To the Sea in Ships: Songs of Swashbucklers. The soloists are Vicki St. Pierre, Keith Klassen, and Alexander Dobson. It takes place on Feb. 9 and 10 at 8 pm at the Trinity St. Paul's Centre. For a free preview, you can line up at the COC Noon Hour Chamber series on Feb. 9 at the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre, Four Seasons Centre, when the artists will present selections from the program. Be sure to line up at least 45 minutes early for a seat.

The Canadian Opera Company continues its winter season with Carmen (Feb. 9 and 11 at 7:30 pm and Feb. 14 at 2 pm) and Otello (Feb. 10 at 7:30 pm). Both shows have received excellent reviews and are not to be missed. All performances at the Four Seasons Centre. For something much more modest in scale but presented with enthusiasm, try the Toronto Opera Repertoire, which is in its 43rd year of existence. It is a community-based organization supported by local opera enthusiasts and volunteers. Its program of typically two staged operas with piano accompaniment per season constitute a course with the Continuing Education Program of the Toronto District School Board. It is the brainchild of former tenor Giuseppe Macina, who has run it since its inception in 1967. The singers are non-professionals. This year, the TOR is presenting Marriage of Figaro (Feb. 10, 13, 19, 21, 24, 27) and the double-bill of Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci (Feb. 12, 13, 17, 20, 26, 28) . All performances are at the Bickford Centre 777 Bloor Street West in downtown Toronto. Go to for additional information.

Finally, the retired National Ballet of Canada's ballerina Veronica Tenant will be appearing this evening (Monday Feb. 8 at 7:30 pm) as part of the Roy Thomson Hall Unique Lives and Experiences Series. I have great memories of Tenant - she was my first Aurora and Giselle. This series has presented some of the highest profile women in the past and is always interesting, entertaining, and often thought-provoking and moving.

Labels: , , , , , ,