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La Scena Musicale - Vol. 20, No. 3

Industry News

by Shira Gilbert / November 1, 2014

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Fans of superstar Canadian tenor Ben Heppner have reason to sing again. After announcing his retirement from the opera stage last April and taking up hosting duties for CBC’s Saturday Afternoon at the Opera, Heppner will make his musical theatre debut next year in the musical Titanic. Heppner takes on the role of Isidor Straus, a prominent U.S. politician and businessman who wanted to be the first to sail on the maiden voyage of the doomed ship. The Tony Award- winning Best Musical will run from May 20 to June 21 at Toronto’s Princess of Wales Theatre.

Jacques Lacombe will step down from his post as Music Director of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra when his contract is up at the end of the 2015-16 season. Lacombe, who has been the ensemble’s music director since 2010, said that he would be leaving the orchestra in August 2016 because his international engagements conducting operas and orchestras were demanding more of his time. Originally from Cap-de-la-Madeleine, Québec, and trained at the Conservatoire de Musique de Montréal, Lacombe is also Music Director of the Orchestre Symphonique de Trois-Rivières.

The 2014 Canadian International Organ Competition, held in Montreal in October, has declared David Baskeyfield its First Prize winner. The 30-year-old from the United Kingdom earned a cash award of $25,000, plus the $5,000 Polly Bales Memorial Prize and the $5,000 Royal Canadian College of Organists Prize for best interpretation of a Canadian composition, as well as a recording contract with ATMA Classique and management and career development support over the next three years. Andrew Dewar, also from the UK, was awarded the $15,000 second prize as well as the $5,000 Bach Prize, which includes an invitation to perform at the Montreal Bach Festival in 2015. The next edition of the Canadian International Organ Competition takes place in 2017.

Annemarie Petrov, Executive Director of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra (ESO) and Francis Winspear Centre for Music, is the recipient of this year’s Orchestras Canada Betty Webster Award. The award, established in 2002 to honour Orchestras Canada’s founding Executive Director, celebrates sustained contribution to Canadian orchestras, with a focus on leadership, volunteerism and education. The award includes a small cash prize, which is presented to the Canadian orchestra of the winner’s choice. Petrov has asked that the prize be directed to the ESO’s YONA-Sistema Program, an intensive after-school orchestra program for grades two and three students from that city’s Inner City Children’s Program. Petrov has held her role at the ESO since 2007.

After a week of being mocked for their bizarrely inequitable musical instrument baggage policy – which permitted violins and guitars as carry-ons, but not violas – Air Canada has recanted. News of the discriminatory policy inspired a creative video parody by Toronto’s Opera Five, inventive designs for viola cases (housed inside guitar cases), and the rehashing of numerous viola jokes. As of today, violas and similar stringed instruments may be carried on board as long as they fit in the overhead bin. 

The Calgary-based Honens International Piano Competition has launched the call for applications for its eighth edition. The competition finals will take place in Calgary from September 3 to 12, 2015, preceded by quarterfinals in Berlin, London and New York. The Honens Prize Laureate is awarded $100,000 CAN and an artistic and career development program valued at a half million dollars—the largest prize of its kind. Pianists of all nationalities aged 20 to 30 may apply before February 2. Canadian pianist Janina Fialkowska is among the finals jury members.

Canadian soprano Ellen Weiser was awarded the Fidapa (International Federation of Business and Professional Women) Prize in the “Città di Alcamo” International Singing Competition in Sicily, in October. The cash prize is intended to help finance further study and professional development. The Montreal-based singer will be heard at the 21st Annual Jeunes Ambassadeurs Lyriques Gala on November 16.

Marie-France Maheu, has been named the new Chair of the Board of the Conservatoire de musique et d’art dramatique du Québec. Ms. Maheu, a visiting professor at the Université du Québec à Rimouski as well as a former member of the Conservatoire Board and Assistant Deputy Minister in the Ministry of Culture and Communications, was appointed by Quebec Culture Minister Hélène David. The move follows a crisis in which former Board chair Jean-Pierre Bastien proposed the closing of five regional conservatoire centres in Rimouski, Saguenay, Trois-Rivières, Val-d’Or and Gatineau to cover a $14 million deficit. This proposal caused an uproar across Quebec, notably from several of its most famous Conservatoire-trained musicians, such as Yannick Nézet-Séguin and Marie-Nicole Lemieux. Bastien and the Conservatoire’s executive director, Nicolas Desjardins, resigned on October 7.

Two of Canada’s top classical music stars took top prizes when the Echo Klassik awards – Germany’s version of the Grammys – were awarded at Munich’s Philharmonic Hall on October 26. Yannick Nézet-Séguin was named Conductor of the Year for his 2013 Deutsche Grammophon recording of works by Stravinsky and Stokowski with the Philadelphia Orchestra, and pianist Marc-André Hamelin won the award for Instrumentalist of the Year for his album of late solo piano music by Ferruccio Busoni on Hyperion Records.

The Canadian Chopin Competition, held every five years, has awarded its $10,000 first prize to Alexander Seredenko. The 27-year-old from Richmond Hill, Ontario, a student of The Royal Conservatory’s Glenn Gould School in Toronto, will join the second and third place winners, 16-year-old Tony Yike Yang, and 17-year-old Victoria Wong, for the preliminary round of the 17th International F. Chopin Competition in Warsaw next October. George Hua, 14, from Saint-Laurent, Quebec, won first prize in the junior division and took home $3,000.

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