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La Scena Musicale - Vol. 18, No. 7

Western Canada

by Bill Rankin / June 1, 2013

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Summer festival season in western Canada can mean a single day of lighter classics played on a barge in Victoria harbour for 40,000 listeners on the August long weekend, or an almost month-long exploration of challenging repertoire that would never make it onto a symphony-in-the park program like Edmontonís long-running Symphony Under the Sky on Labour Day Weekend.

In June, the weeklong Agassiz Chamber Music Festival (www.agassizfestival.com) in Winnipeg celebrates the anniversary of composer Benjamin Britten.

Several cities are celebrating the vocal arts.

Edmontonís Opera Nuova (www.operanuova.ca) celebrates its 15th anniversary this year. Over the past several years, the acclaimed opera boot camp has transformed itself into a six-week feast of art song, Broadway and classical opera. This season recruits from all over Canada and abroad are performing Dialogue of the Carmelites, Don Giovani, The Elixir of Love and Fiddler on the Roof.

And in Vancouver, from May 30 to June 26, Vancouver International Song Instituteís Songfire Festival offers an immersion into the world of the art song through master classes, lectures and performances. www.songinstitute.ca

Calgary Opera is dipping into the summer festival spirit with its inaugural Opera in the Village (www.calgaryopera.com/arghh), set in Calgaryís East Village. After a season of Verdi, Verdi, and Verdi to celebrate that composerís 200th birthday, the innovative company is mounting a G & S romp on the high seas with The Pirates of Penzance Aug. 22-25. And down the road from Calgary in the Canadian Rockies, ten string quartets will compete in the 11th Banff International String Quartet Competition (www.banffcentre.ca/bisqc) Aug. 26 to Sept. 1. Winning this prestigious competition has launched the careers of several well-known ensembles, including the St. Lawrence String Quartet.

In late June, the Edmonton Chamber Music Society continues to celebrate Edmontonís rich contribution to the talent pool of classical music with the 6th Summer Solstice Festival June 21-23 (www.edmontonchambermusic.org). The festival brings home esteemed Edmonton-area players such as Andrew Wan †,co-concertmaster of the OSM, Juliet Kang, first associate concertmaster with the Philadelphia Symphony, and cellist Marina Hoover, a founding member of the St. Lawrence String Quartet. Clarinetist James Campbell, a son of Leduc, is also part of the musical mix this year, which is always broad and deep.

One of the highlights of the Vancouver Early Music Festival (www.earlymusic.bc.ca) July 28 to Aug. 10 should be a performance of Handelís Israel in Egypt at the Chan Centre on Aug. 7. The soloists are Suzie LeBlanc, Shannon Mercer, Reginald L. Mobley, Laura Pudwell, Colin Balzer and Charles Daniels.

And Aug. 9-24, the Orca Island Chamber Music Festival (oicmf.org) brings together an array of musicians that includes the concertmasters of Cleveland Orchestra, the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra for a diverse serious classical music experience. The festival director is pianist Jon Kimura Parker, piano, one of Vancouverís finest musical exports.

The lineup at the Pender Harbour Chamber Music Festival (penderharbourmusic.ca/chamber-music), Aug. 15-18, features an outstanding group of adventurous musicians, including Lara St. John and Rachel Mercer.

The Hornby Festival (www.hornbyfestival.bc.ca), Aug. 1-10†has invited Anton Kuerti to play Beethovenís first piano sonata on Aug. 8. and Marie-Josee Lord sings Villa-Lobosís Bachianas brasileiras No. 5 on Aug. 7. The climax of the festival is a performance of Bachís cello suites by Colin Carr.

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