This Week in Toronto (Oct. 21 – 27)


This Week in Toronto (Oct. 21 – 27)

– Joseph So

Pianist Janina Fialkowska (Photo: Julien Faugere)

This is a particularly full week when it comes to classical music – four operas, vocal and instrumental recitals, symphonies – the cup runneth over, as they say!  Toronto Symphony Orchestra is presenting three concerts this week. The centerpiece is Brahms Symphony No. 2 with American conductor and frequent guest James Gaffigan on the podium.  The TSO is joined by the Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra for a performance of Dvorak’s ever popular Carnival Overture.  The Oct. 23 6:30 pm concert is featured as part of the TSO Afterworks series designed for music lovers – an abbreviated concert at the end of the workday before going home, thus avoiding the rush opera traffic. A great idea – there’s even free hors d’oeuvres before the show! The other two dates (Oct. 24 2 pm and Oct. 26 7:30 pm) are full programmed presentations with the addition of Canadian pianist Janina Fialkowska playing the Witold Lutolawski Piano Concerto, a challenging piece for the listener.  There’s a reception in the lobby after the Saturday Oct. 26th “Casual Concert” performance.

Dramatic coloratura Ambur Braid (Photo: Helen Cyr)

Opera Atelier‘s fall season presentation of a revival of Mozart’s Abduction from the Seraglio opens on Oct. 26 for six performances until Nov. 2. It stars former COC Ensemble Studio soprano Ambur Braid. A dramatic coloratura, Constanze should be a great role for her. She is partnered by tenor Lawrence Wiliford, a quintessential Mozart tenor whose plangent tone and elegant style makes him an ideal Belmonte – can’t wait to hear him sing my favourite Mozart tenor aria, “Ich baue ganz”! OA regulars Carla Huhtanen (Blonchen), Gustav Andreassen (Osmin) Curtis Sullivan (Pasha Selim) plus debuting tenor Adam Fisher (Pedrillo) complete the cast.  As usual, David Fallis conducts the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra.

Tenor Lawrence Wiliford (Photo: Malcolm Taylor)

The COC’s fall season continues with more La boheme (Oct. 22,25, 27) and Peter Grimes (Oct. 23, 26). The third Rodolfo, Eric Margiore, is scheduled to sing this week on Oct. 22 and 25. His Mimi is Italian soprano Grazia Doronzio, not Joyce El-Khoury as pictured below. El-Khoury will sing Musetta on these two dates, and switches to Mimi on Oct. 27, partnered by tenor Michael Fabiano. Simone Osborne is the Musetta on Oct. 27. If these musical chairs have you confused – not to worry, all the singers are terrific! The one constant is the excellent maestro Carlo Rizzi as conductor.

Eric Margiore and Joyce El-Khoury (Photo: Michael Cooper)

And don’t forget the two vocal noon hour recitals at the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre this week. On Tuesday Oct. 22 is An Afternoon of English Songs, featuring COC Ensemble Studio members (soprano Claire de Sevigne, mezzo Danielle MacMillan, baritones Clarence Frazer and Cameron McPhail). On the program are songs by Vaughan Williams, including my favourite cycle, Songs of Travel, truly a gift to the baritone voice. Click for full program details. On Wednesday Oct. 23, the University of Toronto Opera Division is presenting Fifty Operatic Years of the MacMillan Theatre.  I can’t tell you how many memorable opera and vocal events I’ve had the pleasure of attending in this theatre. I’ve always find this venue to be plain and functional based on looks, but the music is almost always wonderful. Full program details at  It’s a potpourri of pieces, including Albert Herring and selections from Nozze, Gianni Schicchi and L’etoile. Be sure to show up an hour ahead to ensure a seat.

Happy principals (l. to r.) Jon Paul Decosse, Lyne Fortin, John Fanning, James Westman, Theo Lebow receiving audience applause on opening night (Photo: Joseph So)

An hour down the QEW is Opera Hamilton‘s Falstaff at the Dofasco Centre for the Arts. I attended opening night last Saturday, and it was a terrific show starring veteran baritone John Fanning. The excellent ensemble cast also includes Lyne Fortin, James Westman, Theo Lebow, Sasha Djihanian, and Lynne McMurtry conducted by David Speers. (My full review is at ) A regional company that has had its financial challenges, it is amazing that they can come up with something so good. My advice is go – but beware of traffic issues so allow yourself plenty of time. Performances on Oct. 22, 24, 26, the last a matinee.

Soprano Miriam Khalil at Gallery 345

Gallery 345, one of several relatively new “alternative” venues for classical recitals have two gems this week.  Former COC Ensemble Studio soprano Miriam Khalil is giving a recital of Airs Chantes: a recital of French and Spanish Art Songs.  The program features works by Ravel, Debussy, Poulenc, Massenet, Delibes and others. Julien LeBlanc is the collaborative pianist. On Monday Oct. 21 is the chamber group, Trio Bowman, Zelenka, Bertoli in an evening of Brahms and Beethoven.

345 Sorauren Avenue.


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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