LSM Newswire

Monday, April 28, 2008

The VSO presents the legendary Canadian mezzo-soprano Judith Forst

Yeah, baby! It’s Cool Britannia, with the VSO and legendary Canadian mezzo-soprano Judith Forst!

Vancouver BC – The VSO presents the last London Drugs VSO Pops concert of the season – Cool Britannia, featuring a sampling of the vast and varied repertoire made famous in concert halls and on movie screens worldwide. This cool concert includes music from the James Bond movies, the Austin Powers theme, music of the Beatles, Gilbert & Sullivan, Ivor Novello, and Noel Coward. Bramwell Tovey conducts and hosts with humour and panache. The VSO is also proud to welcome legendary mezzo-soprano Judith Forst, the Chor Leoni Men’s Choir and the Elektra Women’s Choir and will take place on Friday & Saturday, May 16th & 17th at the Orpheum Theatre.

It has been over a decade since Vancouver’s own mezzo-soprano star, Judith Forst, last collaborated with the VSO – she comes out of semi-retirement to sing for the final VSO Pops concert of the season, and audiences eagerly anticipate her return. Forst is truly a Canadian legend, having received the Order of Canada in 1991, the Order of British Columbia in 2001, the Freedom of the City of Port Moody in 1992, and named Canadian Woman of the Year in 1978. She won the Metropolitan Opera Auditions Award and has honourary Doctorates from both UBC and UVic. In 2004, Judith Forst received Canada’s most prestigious opera honour – a Ruby Award – marking her distinguished career in opera. Yet, despite all this reverence, Forst remains extremely down to earth. She regards leading a school concert in Port Moody as important as singing with the Metropolitan Opera in New York City. A staunch supporter of new composers, fellow performers, and conductors throughout her career, she generously gives her time for fundraisers and benefit concerts.

The Chor Leoni Men’s Choir is one of the leading male choir movements in Canada. Maestro Tovey affirmed “Chor Leoni has a polish, a sound, a spontaneity and a style that I feel is unequaled by any male voice choir that I have ever heard…” In addition to Chor Leoni’s many concerts, it mentors young singers and gives them an exceptional opportunity to sing with the choir.

Elektra Women’s Choir is regarded as an international leader in the classical women's choir movement. Its mandate is to inspire and lead in the choral art form through excellence in performance and through the creation, exploration and celebration of women's repertoire. Elektra is known for adventurous programming, seeking out music written specifically for women and commissioning new works. Singers are selected by audition and share an enthusiasm for challenging repertoire.

We’ll be seeing you, at the Orpheum!


London Drugs VSO Pops Series

Cool Britannia
Friday & Saturday, May 16 & 17, 8pm, Orpheum Theatre
Bramwell Tovey
Judith Forst mezzo-soprano
Chor Leoni Men’s Choir
Elektra Women’s Choir

Ticket prices: $25 - $78 (Student, Senior and Subscriber discounts available)

Tickets Available at VSO Customer Service, 604.876.3434; Ticketmaster Charge-by-Phone, 604.280.3311; online at

Series Generously Sponsored By: London Drugs

May 16th Concert Sponsored By: Holland America

Radio Sponsor: 600AM


Bramwell Tovey, conductor

A musician of striking versatility, Bramwell Tovey is acknowledged around the world for his artistic depth and warm, charismatic personality on the podium. Tovey’s career as a conductor is uniquely enhanced by his work as a composer and pianist, lending him a remarkable musical perspective.

His tenures as Music Director of the Vancouver Symphony, Luxembourg Philharmonic and Winnipeg Symphony Orchestras have been characterized by his expertise in the opera, choral, and British repertoire. Tovey recently garnered a 2007 Grammy Award for his recording with violinist James Ehnes and the Vancouver Symphony. Recently named Principal Guest Conductor for the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl, he works frequently with the Toronto Symphony, Montreal Symphony, Royal Philharmonic and the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestras, among many others. He has presided as host and conductor of the New York Philharmonic’s Summertime Classics series at Avery Fisher Hall since its founding in 2004.

A champion of contemporary music, Tovey developed the highly regarded New Music Festival in Winnipeg, during his tenure as Music Director. As a composer, he was honored with the Best Canadian Classical Composition Juno Award in 2003 for his Requiem for a Charred Skull. Upcoming new works include a co-commission for the New York and Los Angeles Philharmonics’ respective 2008 summer seasons as well as a full-length opera for the Calgary Opera, The Inventor, to premiere in January of 2011.

Tovey has been awarded honorary degrees, including a Fellowship from the Royal Academy of Music in London, honorary Doctorates of Law from the universities of Winnipeg and Manitoba, and Kwantlen University College, as well as a Royal Conservatory of Music Fellowship in Toronto. In 1999, he received the M. Joan Chalmers National Award for Artistic Direction, a Canadian prize awarded to artists for outstanding contributions in the performing arts.

Judith Forst, mezzo-soprano

Canadian born mezzo-soprano Judith Forst has been highly acclaimed for her operatic and concert performances throughout North America and in Europe in many of the worlds most prestigious theaters which have included the Metropolitan Opera, San Francisco Opera, Bavarian State Opera, Munich, Netherlands Opera, Dallas Opera, Washington Opera, Vancouver Opera, at the Santa Fe Opera Festival and many others. In 2006 she made her debut at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan as the Kabinicha in Janacek’s Katya Kabanova . Recognized as one of Canada's most distinguished artists, she has been honored with the Order of Canada.

Judith Forst is now most identified with roles such as the Kostelnicka in Janacek's Jenufa, Klytemnestra in Strauss's Elektra, Herodias in Salome and Mme de Croissy in Poulenc's Dialogues des Carmelites, the Countess in Tchaikovsky’s The Queen of Spades, Augusta Tabor in Moore’s The Ballad of Baby Doe, the Baroness in Barber’s Vanessa and the Witch in Hansel und Gretel. Prior to expanding into this repertoire, she had sung a repertoire of extraordinary versatility and one which encompassed virtually all styles and periods and which has extended into the soprano repertoire as well.

Judith Forst began her career at the Metropolitan Opera when, after her participation in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, General Manager Sir Rudolf Bing immediately offered her a contract with the company. Her first roles at the Metropolitan included Preziosilla in La Forza del Destino, Stephano in Romeo et Juliette and Siebel in Faust and. she has returned to the Metropolitan regularly all through her career for roles such as Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni under James Levine, Giulietta in Les Contes d'Hoffmann, Countess Adelaide in Arabella, and the Kabinicha in Katya Kabanova. After her firs seasons at the Metropolitan, Forst was soon heard at most of the operatic theaters in North America in roles such as Dorabella in Cosi Fan tutte, Rosina in Il Babiere di Siviglia, the title role in La Cenerentola, Adalgisa in Norma Charlotte in Werther, Octavian in Der Rosenkavalier and Bizet’s Carmen. She made her Seattle Opera debut as Giovanna Seymour in Anna Bolena and subsequently appeared in this role opposite Dame Joan Sutherland in San Francisco, Toronto, Detroit, Washington D.C and in New York where the concert was also televised as part of the "Live from Lincoln Center" series. Forst made her European debut in Paris in 1985 in a concert performance of Hoffmann and her Munich debut as Preziosilla in La Forza del Destino. She made her London debut in the spring of 1992 in the British premiere of Rossini's Ermione and starred as the Composer in a new production of Ariadne auf Naxos at the English National Opera in 1994.

In recent seasons Forst has participated in productions of many contemporary works and world premieres. She appeared in two such premieres at the San Francisco, singing in Sousa's Liaisons Dangereuses and Previn's Streetcar Named Desire. Both productions were telecast nationally. Forst appeared in Dallas in Argento's Valentino while in Toronto, she created the roles of Pamphilea and Antiope in of The Golden Ass with the Canadian Opera Company Among the many other 20th Century have been of Marie in Berg's Wozzeck, a role she debuted with the Canadian Opera Company and also sang at the San Francisco Opera, the Kostelnicka in Jenufa which she has sung in Vancouver, Toronto and for her debut in Prague, the Kabanicha in Katya Kabanova which entered her repertoire in Santa Fe and which she has also sung at the Metropolitan Opera and at La Scala.. Forst appeared as Countess Adelaide in Arabella in both San Francisco and at the Metropolitan Opera and sang her first Herodias in Salome in San Francisco, where she has recently returned for yet another new role, Augusta Tabor in Moore's The Ballad of Baby Doe. She made a sensationally received debut as Klytemnestra in Elektra at Santa Fe and was also highly praised for her Jocasta in Stravinsky's Oedipus Rex in Toronto. Forst has been heard in no less than three leading roles in Poulenc's Dialogues des Carmelites, Mere Marie and Mme Lidoine and in 2002 as Mme de Croissy.

Ms. Forst also keeps an active career on the concert and recital stage and has been heard with leading orchestras throughout North America. As one of Canada's most revered artists, Ms. Forst was the subject of a CBC Television Portrait in 1987. Judith Forst's most recent discography includes the live recorded opera album A Streetcar Named Desire with André Previn conducting and From the Diary of Anne Frank, an album of original pieces which two of them were expressly commissioned for Ms. Forst. Outstanding mention is the artist's solo Italian Aria album recorded with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Mario Bernardi released in 1988.

Chor Leoni Men's Choir

A rich full-bodied sound, innovative programming, technical precision, meticulous intonation, and versatility coupled with an ever-present musical curiosity and commitment to the creation of new Canadian choral works are qualities that have catapulted Chor Leoni to national and international fame since its founding by Diane Loomer C.M. in 1992. Whether it be a sombre moment of reflection during a Remembrance Day performance or a joyful turn of comedic phrasing at a Summer Solstice show, Chor Leoni is renowned for reaching across the footlights and transforming the performance from ‘concert' to 'conversation.' The lions live up to their name as they fearlessly move between musical genres, always aiming to communicate, engage, and entertain. Engendering tears of emotion, peals of laughter, and gasps of awe from their audiences, Chor Leoni prides itself on its ability to perform in many languages and styles, always sung with fresh energy and poise.

Building on a long history of success in the biennial CBC/Radio-Canada National Radio Competition for Amateur Choirs, Chor Leoni took first in their class of the 2006 competition. In 2002 Chor Leoni won the Male Voice and Contemporary Categories and received a special prize for the Best Performance of a Canadian Work, Chant to Bring Back the Light by R. Murray Schafer. They went on to represent Canada in the Let the Peoples Sing international choral contest. Here they competed against world-renowned choirs representing twenty-one countries. Despite being the only male choir and the only North American choir in the entire competition, Chor Leoni finished in the top four.

The choir is regarded as a leader in the Canadian male choir movement, acting as mentors and inspiration to choirs across the country. Chor Leoni’s Remembrance Day and Summer Solstice concerts are recognized as popular fixtures on the Vancouver choral calendar.

The choir has performed regularly with Vancouver ensembles and orchestras, toured nationally, and recorded several national broadcasts. In addition to their main concert series, Chor Leoni performs frequently at community events throughout the Lower Mainland and is heard "live-to-air" on CBC Radio each December, as part of the CBC Food Bank Day and on Shelagh Rogers' Christmas Eve broadcast of Sounds Like Canada. In 2005 the choir launched PROMYS (PROgram for Mentoring Young Singers), inviting talented singers from surrounding high schools to join with Chor Leoni in rehearsals and performance.

Chor Leoni has performed for the Association of Canadian Choral Conductors' PODIUM 2000, the International Society of Music Educators' 2000 convention, and for the 2002 regional conference of the American Choral Directors Association in Tacoma, WA. They were the Canadian choral representative for the 2002 AmericaFest World Festival of Singing for Boys and Men at Collegeville, MN, and were enthusiastically received at the Sixth World Symposium on Choral Music, held in Minneapolis, MN in August 2002.

In 2006 the choir was asked to record a CD for use in the hospice and palliative care field. Undertaken as a specific non-profit recording project, Healing Voices is a collection of contemplative works that engenders compassion, understanding, and affirmation of life's purpose. It is marketed through the Vancouver-based Callanish Society. Also, Chor Leoni has produced eight CDs which are commercially available, two on Skylark Records (Songs of War and Peace and Magnificat), and six on their own Cypress Choral Recordings label (Canadian Safari, Canadian Safari 2, Goin’ Home, Chor Leoni, Yuletide Fires and Circle of Compassion). Yuletide Fires was awarded the prestigious 2004 National Choral Award for Outstanding Choral Recording by the Association of Canadian Choral Conductors, and a 2004 Western Canadian Music Award in the category of Outstanding Classical Recording by the Western Canadian Music Alliance. Their latest recording, Circle of Compassion, features music the choir has performed in recent Remembrance Day concerts, much of it commissioned by or arranged for Chor Leoni.

Elektra Women's Choir

Elektra Women’s Choir, founded in 1987 by co-conductors Morna Edmundson and Diane Loomer, CM, is regarded as an international leader in the classical women's choir movement. Its mandate is to inspire and lead in the choral art form through excellence in performance and through the creation, exploration and celebration of women's repertoire. Elektra is known for adventurous programming, seeking out music written specifically for women and commissioning new works. Singers are selected by audition and share an enthusiasm for challenging repertoire.

In February 2003, Elektra appeared at the National Convention of the American Choral Directors Association in New York, performing at Carnegie Hall, Riverside Church and Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Centre. In July 2001, Elektra co-hosted AmericaFest 2001, a five-day festival which brought together hundreds of female singers from around the world to Seattle, Washington. In July 2000, the choir performed at both "Podium", the biennial convention of the Association of Canadian Choral Conductors and the ISME – International Society for Music Education's Edmonton conference. In August 1996, Elektra represented Canada at the Fourth World Symposium on Choral Music in Sydney, Australia.

Closer to home, Elektra has hosted two "Tapestry" weekends of women's choir music, welcoming local and guest choirs. In 2003, the choir welcomed its first guest conductor, Spanish composer and conductor, Javier Busto, whose direction of Elektra was an overwhelming success. In April 2004, Elektra captured first place in the Equal Voice Women's Category of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's (CBC) National Competition for Amateur Choirs, marking the fifth time this choir has taken first prize since 1988. In July 2007 the choir was a featured performer for Festival 500: Sharing the Voices in St Johns, NFLD.

Elektra collaborates with other local musical organizations such as CBC Radio, the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, and Chor Leoni Men's Choir. Elektra's first CD, Elektra Women's Choir (1992), was nominated for a JUNO award. An all-Rheinberger recording was released on the Carus label in 1999 and an all-Canadian disc, Legacy, recorded for the Canadian Music Centre's Centrediscs label, was released in the year 2000. Discs distributed on Canada's Skylark Music label include Elektra Women's Choir, Classic Elektra (1994), From the Heart (1996), A Ceremony of Carols (1997), Child of Grace (2003), and their latest disc, Sacred Spaces (2006). Elektra is heard on national public radio across Canada and the United States.

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