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Flag_of_Ukraine.svgThis is not a political blog but these are not normal times.  We stand in solidarity with the people of Ukraine and condemn in the strongest terms the current aggression by the fascist regimes in Moscow and Minsk as well as their enablers and supporters in the United States and elsewhere.

Chicago Symphony

As part of music director Riccardo Muti’s final tour with the orchestra, the Chicago Symphony is coming to Toronto in February for the first time since 1914.  It’s at Koerner too, so it’s a chance to see one of the world’s great orchestras in a really good acoustic.  The dates are February 1st and 2nd 2023 and the programmes are:

  • February 1st:  Beethoven Symphony No. 7 and Prokofiev Symphony No. 5
  • February 2nd: Beethoven Coriolan Overture and Symphony No. 8, Liadov The Enhanted Lake and Mussorgsky Pictures at an Exhibition.

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Photo credit: Todd Rosenberg Photography

The Pilgrim’s Way

Saturday night saw the inaugural concert of the Toronto Mendelssohn Singers; the professional core of the much larger Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, at Trinity St. Paul’s with Jean-Sébastien Vallée conducting.  There were four pieces on the programme; one very substantial and three shorter works.  Things kicked off with a pleasant but essentially conventional arrangement by Dierdre Robinson of Steal Away. This was followed by an Arabic piece by composer-in-residence Shireen Abu-Khader called I Forgive where the choir was joined by soloist Raneem Barakat.  This dealt with the short life and death of Egyptian LGBTQ activist Sarah Hegazi and was rather beautiful with intriguing Arab influences especially in the solo part.  Then came Elgar’s Lux Aeterna arranged for choir by John Cameron.

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Truth and Reconciliation at Koerner Hall

Yesterday was the second National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.  The Royal Conservatory and Koerner Hall marked it with a free concert curated by Denise Bolduc, Mervon Mehta and Sarain Fox who doubled up as an extremely engaging host for the evening.

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Up next…

More shows to enjoy…

  • hr_BengalTigerWebBannerOctober 11th to November 6th at Crow’s Theatre it’s Rajiv Joseph’s Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo.  “During the chaos of the 2003 American occupation of Iraq the lives of two American marines intersect with an Iraqi gardener as they search through the rubble of war for friendship, redemption, and a toilet seat made of gold.”
  • Jarrousky1October 26th at 8pm at Koerner Hall Philippe Jaroussky is appearing with Ensemble Artaserse.  It’s a rare chance to hear somewhat controversial countertemor Jaroussky sing with orchestra in an ideal venue.  The concert includes works by a range of baroque composers.  Some of the material is relatively familiar; “Cara sposa” from Rinaldo for example, but much is by less well known composers such as Hasse and Ferrandini.  Artaserse Ensemble is a leading period instrument band that, besides Jaroussky, has appeared with such singers as Cecilia Bartoli and Andreas Scholl.
  • October 27th – 30th at Alliance Française it’s Tapestry’s Tapestry Briefs: Les Shorts qui chantent.  This will showcase scenes created at the very first bi-lingual LibLab.  Direction is by Tim Albery.
  • October 26th to November 12th at Hart House Theatre, Howland Company and Hart House Theatre have a modern adaptation by Paolo Santalucia of Chekhov’s Three Sisters.
  • November 3rd at 5.30pm it’s Centre Stage at the Four Season’s Centre, live for the first time in a while.  It’s the usual format; cocktails and snacks, a competition for aspiring voices and, for the well heeled, an on-stage dinner.

If you are buying tickets look out for deals.  There’s a fair bit of discounting going on.  Some shows have clearly sold very well but others not so much.  The post pandemic bounce back looks a bit anaemic right now.

Opera Sustenida’s Il Trovatore

Opera Sustenida was started during the pandemic and came to my attention because of a couple of well produced on-line shows.  Feeling very strongly that it’s time to move back to live performance, and not seeing much yet from the smaller opera companies, I could hardly overlook Opera Sustenida’s show, even if I might not have chosen Verdi’s Il Trovatore for my first go at a live production.

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The Drawing Room

Confluence Concerts opened their season yesterday at 918 Bathurst with a concert featuring a new work by Ian Cusson and André Alexis.  We’ll come to that because before it there was about 45 minutes of music doing what Confluence does; the relatively unexpected.  There were arrangements for various combinations of voices and instruments of songs by the likes of Kate Bush, Coldplay and Neil Young.  There was an instrumental version of Bruce Cockburn’s Pacing the Cage (Larry Beckwith – violin, Andrew Downing – bass) and a Mozart violin sonata (Beckwith and Cusson) plus an intriguing percussion solo by Bevis Ng and more.  It featured the usual suspects; Larry Beckwith, Andrew Downing, Suba Sankaran, Dylan Bell and Patricia O’Callaghan plus Messrs Cusson and Ng and it was fun.

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Choral Splendour

Soundstreams opened their season on Wednesday night at Koerner Hall with a concert of modern music for string orchestra, electronics, percussion and chorus.  The first, and most substantial work, was Paul Frehner’s LEX, being given its world premiere.  It sets diverse texts; quotes from Einstein, Newton’s laws of motion in the original Latin[1}, fragments of the Old testament in Hebrew, extensive passages from Michael Symmons Roberts’ Corpus etc.

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The Golden Cockerel

Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Golden Cockerel is a pretty weird opera.  It’s a satire on Nicholas II’s performance as tsar written just after the disastrous 1905 war with Japan and due to entirely unsurprising trouble with the censors it wasn’t performed in the composer’s life time.  As you may imagine, a production of it by Barrie Kosky doesn’t make it any less weird.  Kosky’s production was recorded at Opéra de Lyon in May 2021 and there are still some COVID artefacts.  The chorus, for instance, is masked.  But mostly it feels like a “normal” production.

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