La Scena Musicale

Sunday, March 21, 2010

This Week in Toronto (March 22 - 28)

Soprano Karina Gauvin (Photo: Michael Slobodian)

There are a number of very interesting concerts on offer this week. For one thing, English Canada's favourite Quebec singer, soprano Karina Gauvin is in town. She is appearing with the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra in selections from Handel's Alcina. Gauvin has had a big success in this piece, so it is a great chance to hear her live singing these arias. It is part of a program called Enchantress - the character of Alcina is a sorceress afterall. In addition to Alcina, we also get to hear the Vivaldi Motet In furore justissimae irae. The dates are March 25, 27, and 28 at the Trinity St. Paul's Centre, and March 30 at the George Weston Hall. It is good to have Tafelmusik still playing at this woefully underused North York venue. I remember so fondly the wonderful music I heard there throughout the 1990's. For concert times and tickets, go to

The Royal Conservatory of Music's production of Massenet's Cendrillon continues this week, with performances on Tuesday March 23 at the very odd time of 11:00 am at Koerner Hall. The last of four performances is on Thursday, March 25 at 7:30 pm. It features students from the Glenn Gould School program.

Another high profile visitor to TO this week is welcome return of conductor Rafael Fruhbeck de Burgos, the music director of the Dresden Philharmonic. He conducts Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, together with Spanish music - a piece by Turina and the perennial audience favourite Concierto di Aranjuez by Rodriqo, with Pepe Romero as the guitar soloist. Pepe Romero is of course part of the legendary Romero Family of great guitar players. Throughout my undergraduate days, I went to all the concerts of Angel Romero whenever I could. If you like the guitar, this is not to be missed - two performances on March 24 and 25 at 8 pm at Roy Thomson Hall. On Saturday March 27, at 1:30 and 3:30 pm, the TSO presents Spanish Fire! a program for young audiences of Spanish music at popular prices, featuring Pepe Romeo and the Esmeralda Enrique Spanish Dance Company.

On March 23 8 pm at the St. Lawrence Centre, Music Toronto presents pianist Stephane Lamelin in a program of Schubert Sonatas. The innovative Tapestry New Opera Works under music director Wayne Strongman - who incidentally was recently award the Order of Canada - is presenting Opera To Go, a revival of five short operas it had previously presented. It takes place at the fermenting Cellar, 55 Mills Street in the Distillery District of downtown Toronto. Performances on March 24, 25, and 26 at 8 pm. On Sunday March 28 at 2:30 pm, Opera in Concert presents Bellini's I Puritani at the Jane Mallet Theatre of the St. Lawrence Centre. This is a concert performance and with piano, but it seems unlikely this opera will be staged by our opera companies in town, so this is a good opportunity to hear it live.

Finally, a company previously unfamiliar to me, Wish Opera, is presenting an opera concert on March 25 and 27 8 pm at the Sandra Faire and Ivan Fecan Theatre of York University. Soloists are tenor Ermanno Mauro, soprano Sinead Sugrue, baritone James Westman, with orchestra conducted by Sabatino Vacca. Globe and Mail's Deirdre Kelly is the emcee. Wish Opera's very intriguing mission is to "create a modern vision of opera by fusing the existing beauty of operatic sound with contemporary fashion and design" - a most intriguing idea! For more information, go to

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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.

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