This Week in Toronto (Jan. 18 – 24)

German tenor Stefan Vinke

As an admittedly opera-centric music lover, top on my list this week is the opening of Canadian Opera Company‘s winter season production of Siegfried. It marks the return of American dramatic soprano Christine Goerke in her first-ever Siegfried Brunnhilde. If her Walkure Brunnhilde from last season was any indication, we are in for a treat! Toronto opera fans are lucky to have her singing her three Brunnhildes here before anywhere else. Partnering her is the COC debut of Stefan Vinke in the title role. The lion’s share of the singing in this five-hour marathon falls to the tenor. Judging by the working rehearsal of Act Two I attended the other day, Mr. Vinke is certainly up to the task. American baritone Alan Held is the Wanderer, British bass-baritone Christopher Purves sings Alberich, and Wolfgang Ablinger-Sperrhacke is Mime.  Canadian bass Phillip Ens is Fafner, one of the shortest solo roles, almost a cameo. Actually we only hear his voice in this production. I heard these gents at the rehearsal and they were uniformly terrific. A tragic plane crash took the life of German contralto Maria Radner, the originally scheduled Erda. Replacing her is the young American Meredith Arwady. Former COC Ensemble Studio soprano Jacqueline Woodley sings her first Forest Bird. This Francois Girard-directed segment of the COC Ring was the only part that was rented by another opera house, Lyon Opera, if memory serves. Johannes Debus continues his Ring odyssey at the helm. The show opens on Jan. 23rd at the early start of 6:30 pm, Four Seasons Centre

Soprano Christine Goerke (Photo: Arielle Doneson)

Two free noon hour concerts this week well worth attending at the opera house. On Tuesday Jan. 19 noon at the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre, two COC Ensemble Studio artists, bass-baritone Gordon  Bintner and tenor Charles Sy will give a duo recital. Bintner sings Schumann’s Liederkreis with Liz Upchurch at the piano, and Sy sings Britten’s Les Illuminations, with pianist Hyejin Kwon. On Thursday Jan. 21, another Ensemble Studio tenor, Jean-Philippe Fortier-Lazure, sings Faure’s La bonne chanson, accompanied by former COC Ensemble pianist and now Berlin-based Anne Larlee. Members of the COC Orchestra Academy join the regular members of the COC Orchestra for Mendelssohn’s Octet. These free noon hour concerts are always full, so be sure to show up an hour ahead!

German soprano Lydia Teuscher (Photo: Askonas Holt)

The [email protected] celebration at the Toronto Symphony Orchestra continues this week with his sublime Requiem, for three performances Jan 21, 22, 23 at Roy Thomson Hall.  This is a Mozart Requiem with a twist – it’s staged!  The director is none other than Canadian Joel Ivany of Against the Grain Theatre. I am curious to see what he can do with this piece. Quebec conductor Bernard Labadie conducts a reduced TSO, with soloists soprano Lydia Teuscher, mezzo Allyson McHardy, tenor Frederic Antoun and bass-baritone Philippe Sly. Joining them is the Amadeus Choir and Elmer Iseler Singers

Bass-baritone Philippe Sly

Romanian violinist Mira Glodeanu is the guest soloist and maestra with the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra for Vivaldi’s L’Estro armonico on Jan. 20 7 pm at Trinity St. Paul’s Centre. This concert is repeated Jan.  21-23 8 pm and Jan. 24 at 3:30 pm. On the program are works by Vivaldi, Guido, Venturini, Tartini, and Locatelli.

Soprano Andriana Chuchman

Canadian lyric-coloratura soprano Andriana Chuchman is giving a recital under the auspices of Music Toronto, as part of the Discovery series. The soprano from Winnipeg made her COC debut as Olympia in Tales of Hoffmann three seasons ago, and since then she has sung Gretel at the Met in Hansel und Gretel. Her Music Toronto recital of chestnuts includes Mozart’s Exsultate jubilate, Samuel Barber’s Hermit Songs, Rachmaninoff’s Vocalise, Dvorak’s Songs My Mother Taught Me,and a group of Ukrainian folk songs by Vilinsky, plus other pieces. Her pianist is Craig Terry. Thursday Jan. 21 8 pm at Jane Mallett Theatre.

Soprano Barbara Hannigan (Photo: Raphael Brand)

Canadian soprano Barbara Hannigan is one of the foremost interpreters of new music of our time, with many composers writing specifically for her voice. She is the John R. Stratton Visitor in Music this week at the University of Toronto, with a large array of events open to the public, and all free! It begins with a ‘show and tell’ on Tuesday Jan. 19th 10:30 am at Walter Hall, U of T – “Living and Surviving as a Singing Artist.’ Then she’s meeting with composers, singers, pianists and instrumentalists for an interactive session on new music, on Wednesday Jan. 20th 3:10 pm at Room 330 in the Edward Johnson Building. She gives a masterclass on Thursday Jan. 21st at Walter Hall at noon.  Finally, on Friday Jan. 22nd at 5 pm, she and students from her masterclass are giving a concert at Walter Hall, with pianist Steven Philcox. Hannigan is an exceptional artist and I for one am curious about her as a teacher.

The Amici Chamber Ensemble is presenting Ludwig, of course short for Ludwig van Beethoven, On the program are Sonata in A major, Op. 69; Sextet in E flat major, Op. 71; Rondino in E flat major, Op. post. and Quintet in E flat major, Op. 16. Guest soloists are Sarah Jeffrey, oboe; Sarah Lewis, oboe; Joseph Orlowski, clarinet; Michael Sweeney, bassoon; Samuel Banks, bassoon; Neil Deland, horn; and Gabriel Radford, horn. Performance on Jan. 24th 3 pm at the Mazzoleni Hall, Royal Conservatory of Music, 273 Bloor Street West.

Esprit Orchestra specializes in contemporary works. On Sunday Jan. 24th 8 pm at Koerner Hall, conductor Alex Pauk is leading the Esprit forces in  Bow To String, Air To Breath, a program of works by Daniel Bjarnason, Alexina Louie, Samuel Andreyev (world premiere), and R. Murray Schafer. Canadian composer Alexina Louie composed her piece, Imaginary Opera, shortly after her COC comissioned opera, The Scarlet Princess, and she channeled some of the 17th Century Kabuki play aesthetics into this later work.  Soloists are cellist Bryan Cheng playing the concerto by Icelandic composer Bjarnason. The other soloist is trumpeter Robert Venables.  Details at


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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