This Week in Toronto (Feb. 3 – 9)

This Week in Toronto (Feb. 3 – 9)
– Joseph So
Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera, the second production of Canadian Opera Company‘s winter season, opened last Sunday (Feb. 2) and continues until Feb. 22. It stars Canada’s prima donna Adrianne Pieczonka in her first Amelia. Riccardo is American tenor Dimitri Pittas and British baritone Roland Wood is Renato. Former COC Ensemble Studio soprano Simone Osborne is Oscar. Stephen Lord, last in town for Lucia di Lammermoor, conducts the COC Orchestra and Chorus. 
COC’s Un ballo in maschera (Act 3) (Photo: Michael Cooper)
I attended the opener and found the musical values to be extremely high, with all principals in great voice and the orchestra in top form. The production has time-shifted to the American South during the Kennedy era, which in itself is not an issue.  After all, Verdi himself changed the location several times due to political considerations, and it is clear that he intended to set the opera roughly at the time of its composition. However, the limitations imposed on staging by the immovable single unit set used for all three acts proved problematic. My full review of the Ballo and Cosi fan tutte will appear in a future issue of the London, UK based Opera magazine. Performances of Ballo this week are on Feb. 5 and 8, while Cosi continues on Feb. 6 and 9, with a special performance featuring artists from the COC Ensemble Studio on Friday Feb. 7. This is a great opportunity to hear the fine voices in the Ensemble. All performances at the Four Seasons Centre.
Soprano Adrianne Pieczonka as Amelia (Photo: Michael Cooper)
Soprano Tracy Dahl, the deliciously droll maid Despina in the current run of Cosi fan tutte, is giving a noon hour recital, Songs from the Heart, at the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre on Feb. 4. Liz Upchurch is the collaborative pianist. The program features songs by Purcell, Debussy and Strauss, plus contemporary American composer Lee Hoiby and Canadian composer John Greer.  Program details can be viewed by clicking  Be sure to line up an hour ahead to ensure a seat.  Dahl is also giving a masterclass to voice students at the University of Toronto Faculty of Music on Friday Feb. 7 2 – 4:30 pm in the Geiger-Torel Room, Edward Johnson Building on campus. This is under the auspices of the Riki Turovsky Masterclass for Voice. For details, go to
Soprano Tracy Dahl (Photo: Richard Lautens/Toronto Star)
Given the large ethnic Chinese population (reputedly to be over one million) in the GTA, Toronto Symphony Orchestra has been gearing its programming, and customer service, to this community for some years now. On Monday Feb. 3 7 pm, it is putting on a Chinese New Year Celebration with works by Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff and Dvorak, as well as a slate of Chinese composers including Tan Dun. Conductor Long Yu leads the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and pianist Yuja Wang is among the soloists. This is sure to be an extremely well attended gala event. On Saturday Feb. 8 7:30 pm, the Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra under the baton of Shalom Bard is performing works by Brahms, Dvorak, and Jeffrey Ryan. 
Soprano Nathalie Paulin

Recitals at Rosedale, a new initiative in the presentation of art songs and arias, is presenting its third concert in its inaugural season, Love…Actually on Sunday Feb. 9 2:30 pm at the Rosedale Presbyterian Church. Soloists are soprano Nathalie Paulin, mezzo Lauren Segal, tenor Zachary Finklestein, and baritone Anthony Cleverton. This new concert series is the brainchild of pianist/coach Rachel Andrist and composer John Greer.  According to the information on the Rosedale Church website, the first half of the program consists of love songs from Beethoven, Bachelet and Quilter and the Schumann Spanisches Liederspiel opus 74. The second half takes a journey through the stages of grief with songs by Faure, Duparc, Liszt, Bolcom and Sondheim. This is a prelude to Valentines Day to come the following week.

About Author

Joseph K. So is Professor Emeritus at Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario, but his first love is music, which he studied as an undergraduate student at the State University of New York. Since seeing his first live opera – La Gioconda with Renata Tebaldi at the Met in 1967, the singing voice became his lifelong favourite instrument. In addition to his longtime contributions to La Scena Musicale and The Music Scene, he is Associate Editor of Opera Canada and a frequent contributor to Musical Toronto.

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