This Week in Toronto (May 4 – 10)

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My Toronto Concert Picks for the Week of May 4 to 10

~ Joseph So

Canadian bass-baritone John Relyea (
This week marks the opening of the second production of the Canadian Opera Company spring season, the double-bill of Bartok’s Bluebeard Castle and Schoenberg’s Erwartung.  This is the famous Lepage/Levine production way back in 1993 that broke new ground for the COC and put the Company on the international map. I certainly remember being blown away by it at the time.  My guess is that it is the most successful COC production when it comes to rentals by other companies, having traveled to the Edinburgh Festival and Hong Kong as well as to Montreal and Seattle. Toronto-born bass baritone John Relyea sang it in Seattle and he will be a vocally and dramatically imposing Bluebeard in the current revival for sure. Ekaterina Gubanova is making her belated COC debut as Judith. (She was originally announced as Dulcinee last season) Canadian mezzo Krisztina Szabo tackles the nearly impossible atonal part of The Woman in Erwartung. COC Music Director Johannes Debus is at the helm. There are several coup de theatre strokes but I won’t give it away. Bartok and Schoenberg are light years away from the frothy Rossini, so it’s an interesting juxtaposition and an extremely intense show! It opens on May 6th 7:30 pm at the Four Seasons Centre, with additional performances this week on May 8th and 10th.
In the meantime, The Barber of Seville continues its marathon 12-performance run, plus the special Ensemble Studio Performance on May 15. This week sees the premiere of the second cast on May 9th. American mezzo Cecelia Hall is Rosina (she actually debuts on May 7), and Argentinean tenor Francisco Brito is Almaviva. Others include Nikolay Didenko (Dr. Bartolo) and Turkish bass Burak Bilgili (Basilio). Of this group, Biligi is the only returning artist, having previously sung a very funny Basilio with the COC back in 2008. Canadian baritone Josh Hopkins continues as the only Figaro.

Soprano Aviva Fortunata

On Tuesday May 5 at the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre at noon is a recital featuring three members of the COC Ensemble Studio, sopranos Karine Boucher and Aviva Fortunata, and tenor Owen McCausland. They sing songs and arias by Beethoven, Donizetti, Liszt, Wolf, Wagner, Strauss, Frank Bridge and Respighi. All three singers will be participating in competitions this month – McCausland and Boucher at the Montreal International Musical Competition, and Fortunata represents Canada at the Cardiff Singer of the World. I am not certain of this, but my guess is that these pieces are on their competition repertoires, and this concert represents a “dry run.”  The pianists are Liz Upchurch, Jennifer Szeto and Timothy Cheung. It replaces the previously announced recital by Josh Hopkins who is not able to appear.

Violinist Augustin Hadelich

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra has a single show this week, with Italian-American violinist Augustin Hadelich in town to play the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto. Go to Youtube for a snippet of his playing the Mendelssohn –
Also on the program is Bruckner Symphony No. 7, and a new piece, Treeship by Chinese Canadian composer Kevin Lau. Peter Oundjian conducts. Wednesday May 6th 8 pm at Roy Thomson Hall.

Tafelmusik is presenting J.S. Bach: The Circle of Creation, under the direction of its long-time leader Jeanne Lamon. The show is conceived, programmed and scripted by Alison MacKay. Opera Atelier’s Marshall Pynkoski is stage director. Click on for program notes. Performances on May 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 at the Trinity St. Paul Centre, and May 12 at George Weston Hall.
Ensemble Made in Canada
On May 7 1:30 pm at Walter Hall, Edward Johnson Building on the campus of University of Toronto, the Women’s Musical Club of Toronto is presenting Ensemble Made in Canada, with violiinist Elissa Lee, violist Sharon Wei, cellist Rachel Mercer and pianist Angela Park, playing works by Beethoven, Brahms, and Mayo (a WMCT commissioned world premiere). For details go to
Alice in Wonderland Poster
The Canadian Children’s Opera Company, under the stewardship of Ann Cooper Gay, is presenting Alice in Wonderland, composed by Errol Gay and Michael Albano, based on the famous story by Lewis Carroll.  It features a chamber orchestra conducted by Ann Cooper Gay, and with special guest veteran Canadian tenor Benoit Boutet as the White Rabbit. Performances at the Harbourfront Centre Theatre on May 8, 9, and 10.
Pianist composer Adam Sherkin
Pianist-composer Adam Sherkin is presenting a recital with the intriguing title, Let Hands Speak, an evening of new music by Canadian composers Gougeon, Murphy, Eckhardt-Grammatte, Coulthard, Lau, and Sherkin himself. It takes place on Saturday May 9th 7:30 pm at the Jane Mallett Theatre. 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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