La Scena Musicale

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

This Week in Toronto (July 13 - 19)

After a brief hiatus in late June and early July, the classical music scene in Toronto and beyond has come alive again with a number of festivals that are well worth investigating. Now in its fourth season, the Toronto Summer Music Festival and Academy under music director Agnes Grossmann (July 21 to August 13) has proven singularly successful in offering high quality performances that Torontonians previously could only get by leaving the city. I remember fondly last year's production of Ariadne auf Naxos. The Festival opens on July 21, 8 pm at the Carlu with violinist James Ehnes and pianist Jon Kimura Parker, playing together for the first time in a program of Mozart, Ravel Prokofiev and Kernis. If you haven't been to the beautifully restored Carlu at the downtown College Park location, it is well worth experiencing. For information and tickets, visit or call (416) 597-7840.

Several other southern Ontario festivals are currently in full swing. The venerable Elora Festival (July 10 - August 2) opened with Berlioz Requiem, with tenor soloist Lawrence Wiliford, the Elora Festival Singers, the Mendelssohn Choir, andthe Elora Festival Orchestra under Noel Edison. Go to for more details and ticket information. Starting this week is the Festival of the Sound (July 17 - August 9) in its 30th anniversary season. Located in Parry Sound - a little farther afield from Toronto but well worth the effort. It opens on July 17 with Gold Medal Brass, a program of brass fanfares played by the Hannaford Street Silver Band under conductor Curtis Metcalf. On Saturday July 18, the Canadian Brass offers Swing that Music - A Tribute to Louis Armstrong. For more information, go to or call toll free at 1-866-364-0061 to purchase tickets.

Also of note is the Westben Concerts at the Barn in Campbellford, in the rolling countryside of eastern Ontario, a comfortable drive from Toronto. On Saturday, July 18 will be Schubertiad: Esterhazt 1809. It contains three separate segments - Segment 1 at 5 pm is Haydn Chamber Music, Segment 2 at 7 pm is Songs of Haydn, Schubert and Mendelssohn sung by soprano Virginia Hatfield, and Segment 3 at 9 pm is Mendelssohn Chamber Music. Go to for more information. Going in the other direction is the Brott Music Festival, under the artistic directorship of conductor Boris Brott. It has been under way since June 13 and will go until August 20. This week, pianist Sarah Davis Buechner plays Beethoven's Emperor Piano Concerto, with the National Aacademy Orchestra conducted by Brott. For light fare, on Saturday July 18 is Gilbert and Sullivan Go to the Proms featuring music from Priates of Penzance, plus such perennial Proms favourites as Jerusalem, Land of Hope and Glory, and Rule Britannia. For information and tickets, go to

Finally, I want to mention Digiscreen's Summer Cinema Series of productions from the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, to be shown in selected Empire Theatre locations across Canada. In Toronto, it will be at the Empire Theatres in North York. It opens on July 25 and 26, with BBC's Last Night of the Proms from the Royal Albert Hall in London. It is conducted by Sir Roger Norrington in his first Last Night at the Prom's appearance. This and other shows are pre-recorded, but the sense of occasion is still very much in evidence. Tickets are at $19.95 per adult, $16.95 senior and $9.95 per child, tax extra. For exact cinema locations and to purchase advance tickets, visit

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Monday, June 22, 2009

This Week in Toronto (June 22 - 28)

Well, the classical music scene in Toronto has definitely hit a lull! The opera companies (COC, OA, plus OIC, OH) are now in hiatus; the National Ballet of Canada has just concluded its spring season. Even the ubiquitous Toronto Symphony Orchestra is in its last week of performances. Summer festivals like Elora, Festival of the Sound, and Westben have not yet started for the most part, and unfortunately the Guelph Spring Festival is no more. The last COC event was the Ensemble Studio Cosi fan tutte that concluded yesterday. (Incidentally I attended the third performance and it was definitely worth seeing. The vocal standout was mezzo Lauren Segal as Dorabella - what a terrific voice she has!) The free concert series at the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre had its last how on June 18th. I think I'm suffering from opera withdrawal....

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra is offering a pops program of movie music the likes of Gone with the Wind, Lawrence of Arabia, Rocky etc., conducted by the "king of pop" Erich Kunzel. The shows are on Tuesday June 23 at 8 pm, and Wednesday June 24 (2 pm and 8 pm). If you happen to be a jazz fan, the Toronto Jazz Festival starts June 26 and extends to July 5. Go to for event listing and ticket details.

Further afield - a short drive down the QEW - is the Brott Music Festival. On July 27 is Beethoven and Brott in Burlington, featuring Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 1 and Symphony No. 7. The soloist is Shoshanna Telner. It takes place as the St. Christopher's Anglican Church, at 662 Guelph Line, Burlington. Call 905 525-7664 for details.

Also of note is a recital given by mezzo Krisztina Szabo on Sunday, June 28, at the Sharon Temple, a short drive up the 404 towards Newmarket. It is part of the Music at Sharon series. Szabo will sing Britten, Mahler, Kodaly, de Falla, Ravel, and Canadian composer Ridout. Sharon Temple is at 18974 Leslie Street, in Sharon, Ontario. Call 416 597-7840 for more information.

Finally, if you have missed some of the Met in HD shows from past seasons, Cineplex is having a summer "re-run" of six of the most popular operas, at a bargain price of $9.95. Children between 3 and 13 get in free - understandably they don't want any babies in the audience! All shows are on Saturdays at noon Toronto time. It begins this Saturday June 26 with I Puritani starring the incomparable Anna Netrebko, followed by Magic Flute (July 11), Eugene Onegin (July 25), Il Barbiere di Siviglia (Aug. 9), La fille du Regiment (Aug. 22), and La boheme (Sept. 5). Eight Ontario locations will carry these shows, with Scotiabank Theatres downtown, Cineplex Odeon Queensway and the Sheppard Grande in North York the three locations in the GTA. Other locations include Oakville, Newmarket and Peterborough. For advance ticket sales, go to

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