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CRITIC'S PICKS | 2016 Fall Concert Season Preview

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It’s that time of year again. Now that autumn is almost here — even if the temperature isn’t exactly fall-like — we can’t wait for our local musical season to gear up!  Here are some of the upcoming events that have caught our eye. Not a comprehensive preview by any means, but we’re always ready to expand our horizons.

Toronto Symphony Orchestra

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra opens its season on Sept. 21 with American diva Renée Fleming, in a program that includes Ravel’s Shehérazade, Puccini, Leoncavallo and Rogers and Hammerstein’s The King and I. Fleming is phasing out her opera career while continuing to give concerts and recitals. If you want to hear her, don’t wait!  Mahler fans should be happy as the TSO is doing its monumental Symphony No. 3 (Sept. 28-9) with the young American mezzo Jamie Barton as soloist. Last in town for a terrific recital with the Toronto Summer Music Festival in July, we’re lucky to have her back so soon. The flamboyant Chinese pianist Yuja Wang is in town Oct. 13 & 15 for Bartok’s Piano Concerto No. 3, paired with Dvorak’s New World Symphony, under the baton of Krzysztof Urbanski. Italian conductor Gianandrea Noseda is back (Nov. 17 & 19) to conduct Saint-Saens’ Symphony No. 3 “Organ Symphony” paired with Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G. The great Itzhak Perlman plays film music (Nov. 22).  Chinese conductor Long Yu leads the TSO in Shostakovich Symphony No. 5 and Dvorak’s Cello Concerto (Nov. 26-27). And it’s always great to have Kent Nagano and the Montreal Symphony Orchestra back, this time with Till Fellner playing Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 4 (Dec. 8). All performances of TSO at Roy Thomson Hall.


Baroque fans are sure to like Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra’s opening concert of Handel’s Water Music (Sept. 22-25, 27), one of the most enduring of Handel’s works, to take place at Koerner Hall. And there will be a guest maestra, violinist Elisa Citterio. Cellist and director Christophe Coin leads the Tafelmusik forces in a cello-centric program of Dittersdorf, Boccherini, CPE Bach and Haydn at their home venue of Trinity St. Paul’s Centre (Oct. 5 – 9). Don’t miss the excellent Tafelmusik Chamber Choir celebrating their 35th year in a program of Handel, Steffani, Lully, Rameau and Zelenka (Nov. 2-6). A Grand Tour of Italy is an evening of Italian Baroque pieces, some well-known, others more obscure, scheduled for Dec. 1 – 4, under the guest direction of violinist Rodolfo Richter. Not to be missed is their unique Messiah (Dec. 14 – 17) with Ivars Taurins leading a great quartet of soloists – Amanda Forsythe, Krisztina Szabo, Colin Balzer and Tyler Duncan. Also great fun is their annual Sing-Along Messiah at Massey Hall, in its 30th season (!) on Dec. 18th.

Canadian Opera Company

The big news over at the Canadian Opera Company is the season-opening Norma (Oct. 6 – Nov. 5) with not one but two great sopranos. American-born and newly minted Canadian citizen Sondra Radvanovsky is currently the definitive Norma on the planet. But she’ll have competition from Elza van den Heever, a superb Leonora with the COC a few seasons back. I plan to go hear both ladies!  Paired with the Bellini is the epic-length Ariodante for Handel addicts (Oct. 16 – Nov. 4) starring Alice Coote and Jane Archibald, with Johannes Debus at the helm. The Free Noon Hour Concert Series kicks off with Meet the Young Artists, a showcase for the Ensemble Studio (Sept. 27). Russian bass Dmitry Ivashchenko sings Mussorgsky’s Songs and Dances of Death on Oct. 11. Soprano Miriam Khalil and stage director Joel Ivany of Against the Grain Theatre present Osvaldo Golijov’s song cycle Ayre (Nov. 10).

Opera Atelier

The COC isn’t the only game in town. There’s Opera Atelier, presenting Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, starring Canadian mezzo Wallis Giunta (Dido), tenor Christopher Enns (Aeneas), and Meghan Lindsay (Belinda). Oct. 20 – 29 at the Elgin Theatre.


If you can forgo sets, costumes, and orchestra, Voicebox (Opera in Concert) is presenting Bellini’s version of Romeo and Juliet, called I Capuleti e I Montecchi, Nov. 20 at the Jane Mallett Theatre, starring Caitlin Wood, Tonatiuh Abrego, and Anita Krause.

University of Toronto Faculty of Music

The University of Toronto Faculty of Music’s Opera Division is presenting Offenbach’s Orpheus in the Underworld, an amusing spoof of Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice. With the young, fresh voices at the U of T, it’ll be fun — Nov. 24 – 27 at the MacMillan Theatre.

And More:

Voice buffs can catch Issachah Savage singing Dichterliebe under the auspices of Women’s Musical Club of Toronto (Oct. 6), Nathalie Paulin and Krisztina Szabo at University of Toronto (Oct. 20), Nathalie Paulin and Monica Whicher at Mazzoleni Hall as part of the Songmasters Series (Oct. 23), Deborah Voigt in recital at Koerner Hall (Nov. 11).

Off Centre Music Salon’s Russian Salon with Joni Henson, Ilana Zarankin, Boris Zarankin and Inna Perkis at Trinity St. Paul’s Centre (Nov. 13), Suzi Leblanc under the auspices of Music Toronto (Dec. 1), and the annual New Year’s Eve Opera concert, Bravissimo (Dec. 31) at Roy Thomson Hall.

There’ll be many high profile instrumentalists in town, either in recital or as soloists with orchestra. Among them Yuja Wang with the TSO (Oct.13/15), Denis Matsuev at Koerner Hall (Oct. 15), a Lang Lang Gala at Koerner Hall (Oct. 18), Janina Fiakowska (Oct. 25), and Stewart Goodyear (Dec. 4). In town to conduct Norma, Stephen Lord is taking time off to give a masterclass at the Geiger-Torel Room, University of Toronto Faculty of Music (Oct. 19).  Celebrated Canadian harpist Judy Loman’s is having an 80th birthday celebration and CD launch at Mazzoleni Hall (Oct. 30). Finally, there are plenty of chamber music this fall, with the Juilliard Quartet (Oct. 13), Amici Chamber Ensemble (Oct. 16), New Orford String Quartet (Nov. 1), James Sommerville, Scott St. John and Peter Longworth (Nov. 24), and the Gryphon Trio (Dec. 15).


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Joseph So

Joseph So

Joseph So is Professor Emeritus at Trent University and Associate Editor of Opera Canada.He is also a long-time contributor to La Scena Musicale and Opera (London, UK). His interest in music journalism focuses on voice, opera as well as symphonic and piano repertoires. He appears regularly as a panel member of the Big COC Podcast.He has co-edited a book, Opera in a Multicultural World: Coloniality, Culture, Performance, published by Routledge (Taylor & Francis Group).
Joseph So
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