For Toronto art song lovers, the summer of 2017 is particularly bountiful. Last month, we had the good fortune of hearing Finnish soprano Soile Isokoski in recital, who was here to mentor young artists in the Toronto Summer Music Festival Art of Song program. Now we welcome back British-Ukrainian bass-baritone Pavlo Hunka, who is in town to spearhead the inaugural Ukrainian Art Song Summer Institute (Aug. 7—13) at the Royal Conservatory’s Telus Centre For Performance and Learning.
Pavlo Hunka is, of course, a familiar figure to Toronto opera lovers. He has sung with distinction as guest artist with the Canadian Opera Company: as Falstaff, Hunding, Alberich, Wozzeck, Golaud, and Siskov in Janacek’s From the House of the Dead. A frequent visitor to Toronto, he is the founder of the Ukrainian Art Song Project, established in 2004. The goal of the UASP is to introduce to the music world the vast treasures of Ukrainian art song. Under the stewardship of Hunka, UASP will record and publish over 1,000 art songs by more than 26 Ukrainian composers.
Hunka was in Toronto last March to give a recital of Ukrainian art songs based on texts by William Shakespeare and Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko—I interviewed him at the time about his plans for the Summer Institute. The Institute offers an intensive immersion into the Ukrainian art song repertoire: nine young emerging artists are participating—Natalya Gennadi, Laura McAlpine, Viktoriia Melnyk, Tasha Meisami-Farivar, Andrew Skitko, Oleksandra Verzole, David McCune, Ariane Meredith, and Taras Chmil. The faculty includes Hunka, pianist Albert Krywolt, ensemble conductor Melanie Turgeon, and pianist Robert Kortgaard.
Each participant will be given a collection of 32 art songs to be rehearsed during the week, culminating in a public concert on August 13. The concert program includes works by Lysenko, Stetsenko, Stepovyi, Sichynsky, Turkewich, Liudekvich, and Nyzhankivsky. Masterclasses are open to the public and free of charge, with registration; tickets to the concert on August 13 can purchased at the RCM box office. This is an exciting opportunity for fans of art songs to hear up-and-coming artists. Further details on the Ukrainian Art Song Project’s activities can be found here.
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