This Week in Toronto (Oct. 28 – Nov. 3)

This Week in Toronto (Oct. 28 – Nov. 3)
– Joseph So
This week is rich in chamber music as well as opera. The Canadian Opera Company‘s fall season is in its final week. If you haven’t yet seen Peter Grimes – you are too late. But La boheme is still in business, with performances on Oct. 29 and 30 7:30 pm at the Four Season’s Centre. There are two different casts – Oct. 29 has Italian soprano Grazia Doronzio and American tenor Eric Margiore, and Oct. 30 it’s Canadian soprano Joyce El-Khoury and American tenor Michael Fabiano.  My advice is to see both! The excellent maestro Carlo Rizzi is at the helm. I haven’t seen a Boheme as well sung as this in quite a long time.  UPDATE (1 pm Oct. 29th 2013): Due to illness, Eric Margiore will not be singing Rodolfo this evening. Taking his place will be tenor Michael Fabiano, who will also perform the super human feat of singing his own performance a day later, on Oct. 30th.
Opera Atelier‘s fall production, a revival of Abduction from the Seraglio, opened last Saturday Oct. 26. It brings back the beautiful production first seen in 2008. This time around, it stars dramatic coloratura soprano Ambur Braid as Konstanze and Mozart tenor Lawrence Wiliford as Belmonte. Soprano Carla Huhtanen reprises her Blondchen; also returning are bass Gustav Andreassen as Osmin and Curtis Sullivan as Pasha Selim. Making his OA debut is tenor Adam Fisher as Pedrillo. David Fallis conducts the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Chorus. This revival continues for four more shows this week (Oct. 29, 30, Nov. 1 and 2) at the Elgin Theatre. If you like your Mozart opera broadly comic, this is for you. You can read my full review at The production premiered in 2008 and it was gorgeous, and it still is lovely.
OA’s Abduction from the Seraglio (l. ro r.) Adam Fisher, Lawrence Wiliford, Ambur Braid, Carla Huhtanen, Gustav Andreassen receiving audience applause (Photo: Joseph So)

Cover art work of the Carmina Burana score by Carl Orff 
The Toronto Symphony Orchestra is presenting Carl Orff’s best known work, Carmina Burana, for three performances.  On Oct. 31 and Nov. 2 at 8 pm, and Nov. 1 at 7:30 pm  at Roy Thomson Hall. TSO Music Director Peter Oundjian leads the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, Toronto Children’s Chorus, and three soloists – soprano Valentina Farcas, tenor Nicholas Phan and baritone James Westman.  Canadian Westman is of course very well known to local audiences, having just sung Ford in Opera Hamilton’s Falstaff to audience and critical acclaim. American Phan was last heard in recital at the Toronto Summer Music Festival in July of 2012. I have to confess Romanian soprano Farcas is a name new to me. A search on the web found this clip of Laudate Dominum from Maggio Musicale di Fiorentino conducted by Riccardo Muti < > The voice is gorgeous – warm, gentle, and caressing, exactly right for this piece.  I look forward to hearing her.  The program also includes Dances from the opera Powder Her Face by Thomas Ades, and Britten’s wonderful Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings.   
Romanian soprano Valentina Farcas (Photo: Bel Canto Global Artists LLC)
On Sunday Nov. 3 7 pm at the Metropolitan United Church, the Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra is presenting the challenging Shostakovich Symphony No. 10, paired with Dvorak’s very lively Carnival Overture, an interesting juxtaposition to say the least!  The TSYO is conducted by resident conductor Shalom Bard, whose official title is the RBC Resident Conductor.  
Pianist Andras Schiff 
Hungarian pianist Andras Schiff is making one of his welcome returns to Toronto, this time in recital at Koerner Hall on Sunday Nov. 3 at 2 pm.  I am sad to say it’s already announced as sold out on the Koerner website, but there’s always the possibility of returns so do give their box office a call, or better yet, go in person. I have to say that we Torontonians are spoiled – getting concert tickets here is so easy. All the other important venues that I’ve been to, be it Vienna, London, Munich, even New York, sometimes getting a ticket is like winning the lottery – I hope you are one of the lucky ones. Schiff is playing the Goldberg Variations and the Diabelli Variations on the same program!  Is there any wonder why it’s sold out?
Brentano String Quartet (Photo: Christian Steiner)
Have you seen the 2012 movie The Late Quartet?  I fell in love with it right away, not just with the story and the acting (how do you beat the likes of Philip Seymour Hoffman and Christopher Walken?) but also with the soundtrack. The music provided for the fictional quartet in the movie is the real life Brentano String Quartet ( violinists Mark Steinberg and Serena Canin, violist Misha Amory and cellist Nina Lee).  They are playing a recital at Walter Hall on Monday Oct. 28 at 7 pm. The program consists of Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 11 and 14.  More information about this excellent ensemble at  More concert information at
Speaking of chamber music, musicians of the COC Orchestra (violinists Aya Miyagawa and Ashley Vandiver, violist Joshua Greenlaw, cellist Alastair Eng, and oboist Mark Rogers) are presenting Britten @ 100, a celebratory noon hour concert on Wednesday Oct. 30, featuring two Benjamin Britten’s most notable chamber works, his Phantasy Quartet and his String Quartet No. 2 in C Major. We all know the COC Orchestra is a wonderful band, but the musicians are heard but not seen. So it’s great have at least a few of them front and center. Full program details at  These noon hour free concerts are always popular so be sure to show up an hour early to line up for a seat.
Yet another chamber event this week is Music Toronto‘s presentation of the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields Chamber Ensemble. In addition to the better known Shostakovich Prelude and Scherzo for String Octet, Op. 11 and the Mendelssohn Octet for Strings, Op. 20 is a work by Joachim Raff – Octet for Strings in C Major, Op. 176 (1872). I confess to not being familiar with Raff, but a visit to Youtube solved that! There’s a ton of stuff on this composer, including the gorgeous Octet –  Thursday Oct. 31 8 pm at the Jane Mallett Theatre. 

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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