Art_Song_-_Renee_Flemming.pngReviewers and publicists have long searched for the right adjective to describe Renée Fleming’s voice: “sublime,” “creamy,” “sumptuous,” “luxurious,” “ravishing.” None of these seem adequate to give a real sense of the beauty of her singing. She is a lyric soprano with a full voice.

In 1981, when she was still a student at the Eastman School of Music, she sang the role of Zerlina in Mozart’s Don Giovanni, a light soprano role. She soon moved to the fuller lyric soprano roles in Mozart’s operas: the Countess in The Marriage of Figaro (Aspen Music Festival, 1983), Konstanze in The Abduction from the Seraglio (Salzburg Landestheater, 1986), Pamina in The Magic Flute (Virginia Opera, 1988), Fiordiligi in Così fan tutte (Geneva, 1992) and Donna Anna in Don Giovanni (Paris, 1996).

While Mozart constitutes a centre for her operatic performances, there is now a second centre in the operas of Richard Strauss. She has sung the Marschallin in Rosenkavalier (Houston, 1995), the title role in Arabella (Houston, 1998), the Countess in Capriccio (Paris, 2004) and the title roles in Daphne (University of Michigan, 2005) and Ariadne auf Naxos (Baden-Baden, 2012). She is a noted performer of a number of other parts. They include the soprano roles in three Verdi operas: Violetta in La Traviata, Amelia in Simone Boccanegra and Desdemona in Otello. She has also sung Tatyana in Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin, the soprano parts in three of Massenet’s operas (Manon, Thaïs, Hérodiade), the title role in Dvorak’s Rusalka and both Mimì and Musetta in Puccini’s La Bohème. It may seem surprising that her repertoire also includes two operas by Handel (Alcina and Rodelinda), both of which she has also recorded. In both she has demonstrated that early music is not the preserve of early music specialists.

Fleming is now in her mid-50s, an age at which many singers start thinking about retirement. I don’t think Fleming is. One of the reasons must be that, although her repertoire is extensive, she has always been careful not to tackle roles for which she did not feel ready or which she did not consider right for her voice. Thus she has sung Eva in Wagner’s Die Meistersinger (Bayreuth, 1996) but not Isolde or Brünnhilde, several Verdi roles but not Aida or either of the Leonores, a great deal of Strauss but not Electra or Salome or either of the soprano parts in Die Frau ohne Schatten.

Her work in the concert hall and in recitals has been equally extensive. One thinks first of all of the Four Last Songs by Richard Strauss but she has also performed and recorded the soprano part in Mahler’s Fourth Symphony as well as songs by Schubert, Wolf, Berlioz, Duparc, Strauss, Rachmaninoff, Berg and many others. Fleming will sing at Roy Thomson Hall on October 30. The program will include three songs by Rachmaninoff as well as three of the Songs from the Auvergne by Canteloube.

Concerts at Koerner Hall: The Royal Conservatory Orchestra will perform a concert that includes Mahler’s Fourth Symphony on October 2. Mireille Asselin will be the soprano soloist. (The concert will be repeated on October 3 at the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts in Kingston.) The singer-songwriters Joan Armatrading and Liam Titcomb will perform on October 3. The all-Bach concert by Masaaki Susuki’s Bach Collegium Japan on October 28 will include the cantata Mein Herze schwimmt im Blut. Anne Carrère is the singer in a program about Edith Piaf on October 30.

Move to Mazzoleni: The Recitals at Rosedale series has been moved to Mazzoleni Hall and now has a new name: Mazzoleni Masters Songmasters. Its first concert, November 1, “Songs of Remembrance,” will feature the soprano Monica Whicher and the pianist Rachel Andrist.

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra: On October 7 and 8 Barbara Hannigan will sing and conduct. The vocal works are Nono’s Djamila Boupacha and three arias by Mozart. On October 21 and 24 Erin Wall, soprano, and Russell Braun, baritone, are the soloists in Vaughan Williams’ Sea Symphony.

COC Ensemble Competition: The Canadian Opera Company announces its annual competition for positions in the COC’s Ensemble Studio at the Four Seasons Centre, November 3. The free lunch-time concerts in the Richard Bradshaw Auditorium resume on October 6, when the Ensemble Les Songes will perform music about love by Handel, Corelli and Scarlatti. It will be followed by “The Art of the Prima Donna,” October 15, in which arias by Bellini, Donizetti, Verdi and others will be sung by students from the University of Toronto Opera Division, and by a recital by the baritone Quinn Kelsey on October 27, in which he will sing Vaughan Williams’ Songs of Travel, Finzi’s Let Us Garlands Bring and other works.

The Talisker Players: Many years ago I sang with the Toronto Classical Singers. One of the pleasures of singing with that choir was that one ended up performing with a real orchestra, something quite unusual in those days. The orchestra was called the Talisker Players. They made themselves available to any choral group that wanted to perform with an orchestra. Now the focus of the Talisker Players has shifted and they are largely concerned with the relationship between words and music. Their concerts on October 27 and 28 at Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre will include works by Raum, Seiber, Forsyth, Uyeda and Jordahl as well as readings from James Thurber. The singers are James McLennan, tenor, and Doug MacNaughton, baritone.

The Canadian Art Project this year launches a three-concert recital series, with concerts in November, February and May, But before that, their opening concert October 15, co-presented with the Canadian Music Centre sees soprano Allison Angelo and the pianist Simon Docking launching the CD, Moon Loves Its Light, at the CMC. Next, on November 7 at the Extension Room, 30 Eastern Ave., there will be a recital with the sopranos Ambur Braid and Carla Huhtanen. The concert will include works by Eric Ross, Brian Harman, Richard Strauss and Libby Larsen.

Other Events: The mezzo Maria Soulis will sing the Bach cantata Ein Ungefärbt Gemüte as well as settings of poems by Frederico García Lorca at the Heliconian Club on October 16. The Capella Intima will (twice) perform a short recital of English madrigals and part songs October 17 at Fort York National Historic Site. The singers are Sheila Dietrich, soprano, Jennifer Enns Modolo, alto, Bud Roach, tenor, and David Roth, baritone. The Toronto Masque Theatre will open its new season with a salon, “Ben Jonson and the Masque,” in which the singers will be Katherine Hill, soprano, and Larry Beckwith, tenor on October 20 at the Atrium, 21 Shaftesbury Ave.

And beyond the GTA: October 25 the Spiritus Ensemble will perform Bach’s Cantata, Ich Ruf zu Dir, Herr Jesu Christ, and Purcell’s Hear my Prayer, O Lord. The singers are Stephanie Kramer, soprano, Jennifer Enns Modolo, mezzo, and Steve Surian, tenor at St. John the Evangelist Anglican Church, Kitchener; free. Adi Braun sings at the Visual and Performing Arts Newmarket Theatre on November 1

Hans de Groot is a concertgoer and active listener who also sings and plays the recorder. He can be contacted at artofsong@the

Art_Song_1_-_Pieczonka.jpgIn 1963 Lawrence Cherney was still in his teens learning to play the oboe. One day his teacher, Perry Bauman, who was the first oboe in the CBC Symphony Orchestra, asked Cherney to join him in the orchestra as a third oboe was needed. The work to be played was something called Symphony of Psalms. It was only after Cherney arrived for a rehearsal in Massey Hall that he realized that the Symphony was by Igor Stravinsky and that Stravinsky himself would conduct. Stravinsky remained important to Cherney. In 1982 he was concerned that the centenary of Stravinsky’s birth was not being noted, oddly not only because of Stravinsky’s centrality to modern music but also because of his long association with Canadian orchestras. It was in that year that Cherney, by then a well-known oboist (he was one of the original members of the York Winds as well as the National Arts Centre Orchestra), founded Chamber Concerts Canada (later renamed Soundstreams). Its opening concert was a centenary celebration of Stravinsky’s work.

Over the years Soundstreams has specialized in the performance of contemporary works. Many of the composers featured were Canadian and a number of new works were commissioned. In 1988 Soundstreams programmed George Crumb’s Ancient Voices of Children. The soloist was a young soprano called Adrianne Pieczonka. September 29 at Koerner Hall, Pieczonka, now a famous singer, will again sing this work with Soundstreams. She will also perform Luciano Berio’s arrangements of songs by John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Together with the mezzo Krisztina Szabó she will sing selections from Crumb’s American Songbook as well as the world premiere of Analia Llugdar’s Romance de la luna, luna based on the poetry of Frederico García Lorca (as is Crumb’s Ancient Voices of Children). Soundstreams is also presenting, on September 18 at the Gardiner Museum, an exploration of the connections between poetry and music through the work of Lorca, including four short new works. The singer will again be Krisztina Szabó. PWYC.

Hannigan sings Nono at TSO: Another important concert featuring modern music will take place on October 7 and 8 at Roy Thomson Hall, when the soprano Barbara Hannigan will perform Djamila Boupacha by Luigi Nono. Boupacha was a member of the Algerian National Liberation Front. She was arrested in 1960, subjected to torture and rape, and condemned to death in 1961. She was released in 1962 after the Evian Accords. The work has been recorded by Sophie Boulin and there is a haunting rendition by Janet Pape on YouTube. Hannigan has never been the kind of artist who restricts herself by concentrating on only one kind of music. The concert will also include three arias by Mozart as well as a number of orchestral works conducted by Hannigan: Haydn’s Symphony No. 49 “La Passione,” Ligeti’s Concert Românesc and Stravinsky’s Symphony in Three Movements.

The Cathedral Church of St. James continues its Cantatas in the Cathedral sequence. On September 2 Sheila Dietrich, soprano, Christina Stelmacovich, alto, and David Roth, bass, will perform Bach’s Cantata BWV 78; on October 7 the featured work is Bach’s Cantata BWV 5. Roth will again be the bass soloist and the other singers are Julia Morson, soprano, Laura McAlpine, alto, and Andrew Walker, tenor. PWYC.

Lunch-time recitals in the Richard Bradshaw Auditorium at the Four Seasons Centre will resume on September 22 with a performance by the incoming artists of the COC Ensemble Studio. On September 29 Arraymusic will present Love Shards of Sappho, with music by Barbara Monk Feldman, and Hieroglyphs by Linda Catlin Smith. October 6 is “Alma Innamorata,” a free program of Italian baroque music about love, composed by Handel, Corelli and Scarlatti. Free.

The Friends of Gravity perform The Seven Deadly Sins, a “ballet chanté,” composed by Kurt Weill to a text by Bertolt Brecht, on September 25 and 26 at St. Bartholomew Anglican Church, with Stephanie Conn singing the main part. This work was first performed in Paris in 1933 with Weill’s wife Lotte Lenya taking the main role of Anna. It has since been recorded several times by Teresa Stratas, Ute Lemper and Anne Sofie von Otter. The role of Anna is split between two performers: Anna One, a singer, and Anna Two, a dancer. The full title of the work is The Seven Deadly Sins of the Petty Bourgeoisie: it is Anna’s virtues that are considered sins.

Other Events:

September 10 traditional Welsh folk music will be performed at the  Tranzac Club. The singer will be Bethan Rhiannon.

September 13 Missa Septem Dolorem, a new composition for two sopranos and organ by Philip Fournier, will be performed at The Oratory, Holy Family Church. Free.

September 16 to 20 Tafelmusik opens its 2015/16 season withThe Human Passions.” The mezzo Mireille Lebel will sing arias by Handel and Vivaldi; the concert will also include instrumental work by Bach and Vivaldi at Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre.

September 20 instrumentalists of Ensemble Caprice and vocal soloists from the Theatre of Early Music will perform works by Handel and Vivaldi. This is a fundraising event for the Early Music/Historical Performance of the University of Toronto. On September 27 music students from the Baroque Academy will perform. Both events are in the Trinity College Chapel.

There are several events at the University of Toronto. On September 22 Michael Albano will lead a performance class for singers which will concentrate on the relationship between song and the spoken word. On September 24 there will be a discussion of the mythic, literary and visual art sources that inspired Barbara Monk Feldman’s opera Pyramus and Thisbe (to be premiered by the Canadian Opera Company later in the fall). With Professors Caryl Clark, Holger Schott Syme, Alison Syme and Robin Elliott and composers Barbara Monk Feldman and Norbert Palej. On September 29 graduate students in vocal music will perform. All three events are free and take place in Walter Hall.

October 1 the baritone Wilbert Ward will sing a free concert at Metropolitan United Church. Free. Also on that day there will be a concert of traditional songs from Mali and of the sounds of ancient Africa mixed with blues and rock. The singers are Vieux Farka Touré and Julia Easterlin at Revival Bar.

October 1 and 2 Tim Albery and David Fallis will explore the dangers of looking too long or too closely, inspired by the Baroque repertoire at The Black Box Theatre. PWYC.

October 4 Kripa Nageshwar, soprano, and William Shookhoff, piano, will perform works by Dvorák and Kaprálová at St. Wenceslaus Church.

And beyond the GTA: October 7 Jennifer Potter, soprano, and Keiko Kuepfer, piano, will perform in the “Midday Music with Shigeru” concert at Hi-Way Pentecostal Church, Barrie. 

Hans de Groot is a concertgoer and active listener who also sings and plays the recorder. He can be contacted at

Art-Mattila.jpgFor the last ten years, summer in Toronto has for many lovers of vocal music revolved around the Toronto Summer Music Festival. This year, the year of the Pan Am Games, the focus is on the music of both North and South America. The festival kicks off on July 16 with a concert featuring the music of Gershwin and Copland, in which Measha Brueggergosman will be the soprano soloist. The great Finnish soprano Karita Mattila will give a recital on August 7. Both concerts are in Koerner Hall. Among this year’s Art of Song fellows (eight singers and four pianists) are soprano Danika Lorèn, baritone Samuel Chan, bass-baritone Erik Van Heyningen and collaborative pianists Maria Hwa Yeong Jung, Jérémie Pelletier and Andrea Van Pelt. Their mentors are Soile Isokoski, Martin Katz and Steven Philcox. The 2015 Art of Song fellows will perform on July 24 in two afternoon concerts at Walter Hall.

Elora: the Elora Festival opens with a performance of Handel’s oratorio Solomon on July 10; tenor Mark Masri will sing on July 15; there is a performance of Bach’s B minor Mass on July 17; and Jackie Richardson will perform with her trio and the Elora Festival Singers on July 25. These concerts are all at the Gambrel Barn. St. John’s Church will be the venue for the July 19 concert by the Studio de musique ancienne de Montréal, conducted by Christopher Jackson and also for two performances of “Dark Days, Bright Victory,” a program of the words and music of World War II on July 18. The vocal octet, Voces8, will sing at Knox Presbyterian Church on July 16.

Parry Sound: At the Festival of the Sound in Parry Sound, Patricia O’Callaghan will sing in “From Weimar to Vaudeville” on August 4. On August 8 Leslie Fagan, soprano, Mark DuBois and Keith Klassen, tenors, and Bruce Kelly, bass, perform in “Love, Laughter, and Passion.” This concert will also introduce three young singers: Julia Obermeyer, Emma Mansell and Elisabeth DuBois. Adi Braun sings songs from the repertoires of Rosemary Clooney, Judy Garland and Peggy Lee on July 31. Leslie Fagan sings Pergolesi arias on July 28 and performs in “Songs and Dances of the Americas” on July 29. These concerts are all at the Charles W. Stuckley Centre.

Huntsville and Leith: The Huntsville Festival of the Arts presents Buffy Sainte-Marie on July 29 and Molly Johnson on August 1, both at the Algonquin Theatre.

At the Leith Summer Festival you can hear three singers: Rebecca Caine in “A Soprano in Hollywood” on July 18, Julie Nesrallah in “Voyages à Paris” on August 8 and Isabel Bayrakdarian in a program of Spanish music ranging from classical works to zarzuelas and tangos on August 22. All concerts are in the historic Leith Church.

Art-Taylor.jpgThe Music and Beyond Festival in Ottawa offers several vocal concerts. Dominique Labelle, soprano, and Daniel Taylor, countertenor, will sing in “Love and Betrayal” on July 5; there will be a coffee concert featuring the Theatre of Early Music with Rebecca Genge and Agnes Zsigovics, soprano, and Daniel Taylor, countertenor and conductor, the morning of July 6. Both concerts are in Christ Church Cathedral. Two other concerts will be given in Southminster United Church: a recital by the mezzo Wallis Giunta on July 9 and one by the soprano Donna Brown featuring the music of Schubert and Brahms on July 11. The soprano Yannick-Muriel Noah sings a selection of first and last works by various composers including Richard Strauss (the Four Last Songs), Bizet, Puccini, Brahms and Verdi, on July 16 in the Dominion-Chalmers United Church.

Stratford Summer Music presents Rebecca Caine on July 25 at Revival House; Daniel Taylor and the Theatre of Early Music in a re-enactment of the Coronation of George II on August 6 at St. James Church; R. Murray Schafer’s Music for an Avon Morning on August 7 and 8 on Tom Patterson Island; a concert of Schafer’s Sacred Music on August 7 at St. James Church; and Michael Schade, tenor, in a program of opera arias on August 9 at St. Andrew’s Church. The 2015 Vocal Academy will be in session during the week beginning August 10; their work will culminate in a final concert on August 15 at St. Andrew’s Church. Mozart’s Magic Flute will be performed on August 15 and 16 at Revival House.

Westben: At the Westben Arts Festival in Campbellford, the soprano Marie-Josée Lord will sing spirituals, opera arias by Puccini and Gershwin as well as music by Bernstein and Cole Porter on July 18.

Other Events:

June 5 Ann Monoyios, soprano, and Peter Harvey, baritone, will be the soloists in a free concert by Tafelmusik, at Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre.

June 7 the Off Centre Music Salon will celebrate its 20th Anniversary with a concert which will feature a whole array of singers ranging (alphabetically) from Isabel Bayrakdarian to Ilana Zarankin at Glenn Gould Studio.

June 8 the soprano Sara Swietlicki will sing songs by Stenhammar, Rangström and Sibelius as well as arias by Mozart and Puccini at Heliconian Hall.

June 20 medieval songs connected with the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela will be performed by Linda Falvy and Mary Enid Haines, sopranos, and Catherine McCormack, alto, at the Church of St. Mary Magdalene.

June 22 Maria Soulis will sing classical and folk music from Turkey, Greece and Spain at the Church of the Holy Trinity.

June 27 at the Aradia Ensemble Baroque Ensemble concert, mezzo Marion Newman will sing in the new composition Thunderbird by Dustin Peters, based on a legend popular among the native peoples of the Pacific Northwest and sung in Kwakwala. The concert at the Music Gallery will also include pieces by Purcell and Locke.

July 16 Summer Music in the Garden at the Harbourfront Centre presents Michael Taylor, countertenor, in a concert of music by Handel and others.

August 3 Monique McDonald and Irina Rindzuner, sopranos, and Ricardo Rosa, baritone, all soloists from the CUI International Music Festival, will sing in a program featuring works by Schumann, Wagner and Gershwin at the Church of the Holy Trinity.

Looking back: I don’t normally go to two concerts on the same day but I could not resist the double attraction of the Off Centre concert and the recital by Meredith Hall and Brahm Goldhamer on April 26. The main item on the Off Centre program was Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire, which was brilliantly performed. It dates from 1912 but, a century later, it remains a difficult and I don’t think altogether successful work. The program was rounded off with arias and ensembles by Mozart. I was particularly impressed with the baritone Jesse Clark and the soprano Maeve Palmer.

Hall’s superb recital that evening included Haydn’s cantata Arianna a Naxos as well as parts of the Pyramus and Thisbe cantatas by Hasse and Rauzzini. Here too Mozart rounded off the recital. A particular delight was to hear Jean Edwards join Hall in the letter duet from The Marriage of Figaro. Edwards is now 88, but her voice is as pure and as fresh as it was when she was the soprano soloist in the Toronto Consort.

And looking ahead: Soundstreams will begin its 2015/16 season with performances by soprano Adrienne Pieczonka and mezzo Krisztina Szabó of music by George Crumb, Kurt Weill (in Luciano Berio’s arrangements) as well as Lennon and McCartney on September 29. 

Hans de Groot is a concertgoer and active listener who also sings and plays the recorder. He can be contacted at

2008_-_Beat_-_Art_Zarankin.jpgOff Centre Music Salon is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. To mark the occasion a special concert will be given on June 7 at Glenn Gould Studio. It features a great array of Canadian singers (many of whom performed with Off Centre Music Salon early in their careers): sopranos Isabel Bayrakdarian, Joni Henson, Nathalie Paulin, Monica Whicher, Lucia Cesaroni and Ilana Zarankin; mezzos Krisztina Szabó, Norine Burgess, Lauren Segal and Emilia Boteva; tenor Jeffrey Hill; baritones Russell Braun and James Westman; and bass-baritone Olivier Laquerre. Pianist-composer Jimmy Roberts will also take part.

In the beginning Off Centre Music Salon presented recitals but the directors, Boris Zarankin and Inna Perkis, soon realized that there were many musical organizations that offered recitals and that they would only be duplicating the kind of thing that was already available. Instead they hit on the notion of performing each program as a salon in the tradition of 17th-century France or early 20th-century Vienna. They were concerned that each concert should have a storyline and should include the spoken word as well as music, a practice that has now been adopted by other organizations, notably the Talisker Players. They programmed an annual Schubertiad, even before the Aldeburgh Connection followed suit. They like to present their programs as if they are improvised, although in reality everything is carefully prepared.

This season included a new venture, two concerts characterized as “dérangé,” programs that can be seen as “out of line,” and in which the music is at the intersection of Canadian contemporary, classical, jazz and folk music. The curators of the series are their daughter, soprano Ilana Zarankin, and drummer Nico Dann.

Their 2015-16 season will see a change of venue from Glenn Gould Studio to Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre, a good move, I think, since the ambience of GGS always worked against the notion of the salon that the organizers tried to create. Dates, artists and contents have already been set. The season begins on September 27 with “Russia Adrift,” a program which will focus on Russian composers who spent much of their lives in exile; the second concert on November 1, “The Geometry of Love,” will deal with the tangled relationship of composers and writers such as Beethoven, Strauss, Mahler, Rilke and Nietzsche; the musical life of Paris and Berlin in the 1920s (Les Six, the jazz music of Hindemith) will be explored on February 21; the season will end with the annual Schubertiad in which tenor Jeffrey Hill will perform Die Schöne Müllerin on April 10.

2008_-_Beat_-_Art_Szabo.jpgAgainst the Grain Theatre: Anyone who saw the magnificent double bill of Janácek’s Diary of One who Disappeared and Kurtág’s Kafka Fragments two years ago will be interested in their concerts on June 2, 3, 4 and 5 at Neubacher Shor Contemporary, in which mezzo Krisztina Szabó will sing Olivier Messiaen’s Harawi and bass-baritone Stephen Hegedus will perform Schubert’s Die Schöne Müllerin. The musical director and pianist is Christopher (“Topher”) Mokrzewski and the stage director Joel Ivany. There will be a free preview of selections from both works in the Richard Bradshaw Auditorium at the Four Seasons Centre on May 21.

Also at the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre (and free):On May 5 baritone Joshua Hopkins (who is currently singing Figaro in Rossini’s The Barber of Seville for the Canadian Opera Company) will sing lieder by Schubert and Schumann; on May 19 Ekaterina Gubanova, mezzo (Judith in the COC’s revival of Bartok’s Bluebeard’s Castle), and Rachel Andrist, piano, will perform the Songs and Dances of Death by Mussorgsky; and on May 20there will be a farewell concert by the graduating artists of the COC Ensemble Studio.

New Music Concerts: On May 17 NMC will present “Michel Gonneville and the Belgian Connection” with works by Gonneville and Henri Pousseur. The soprano is Ethel Guéret and the conductor Robert Aitken, at Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre.

Recitals at Rosedale: Lucia Cesaroni, soprano, Emily D’Angelo. mezzo, and Anthony Cleverton, baritone, are the soloists in the final concert this season. The pianist is Rachel Andrist. The program includes selections fromSchumann’s Lieder und Gesänge aus Wilhelm Meister, Opus 98a, as well as works by Schubert, Duparc and Berlioz and also traditional folk songs from the British Isles, at Rosedale Presbyterian Church May 3.

Pax Christi: Also on May 3 Pax Christi Chorale will present the North American premiere of Hubert Parry’s oratorio Judith (written in 1888). The soloists are Shannon Mercer, soprano, Jillian Yemen, mezzo, David Menzies, tenor, and Michael York, baritone. The conductor is Stephanie Martin; at Koerner Hall.

Toronto Masque Theatre: Two years ago the Toronto Masque Theatre presented The Lesson of Da Ji, a new work by Alice Ping Yee Ho, with a libretto by Marjorie Chan. On May 31 the company will perform a concert version of the work. Marion Newman, mezzo, is Da Jin and other parts will be sung by Derek Kwan, tenor, Vania Chan and Charlotte Corwin, soprano, Ben Covey, baritone, Alexander Dobson, bass-baritone and William Lau, who specializes in female roles in Peking Opera. Larry Beckwith conducts; at The Music Gallery.

Other Events: Two singer-songwriters will perform in Koerner Hall: Natalie Merchant sings original works on May 1 and 2; Buffy Sainte-Marie will sing on May 7.

On May 3 Natalya Matyusheva, soprano, and Justin Stolz, tenor, will be the soloists with the Vesnivka Choir and the Toronto Ukrainian Male Chamber Choir in a program of folk songs celebrating rebirth, romance and love at Humber Valley United Church, Etobicoke.

On May 5 the mezzo Marina Yakhontova will sing “Forgotten and Famous Art Songs” from Eastern Europe and America at Windermere United Church. The proceeds will be used to assist injured and displaced persons in the Ukraine.

There will be a free noontime recital at St. Andrew’s Church on May 8. The singer is the baritone Gianmarco Segato.

Stephanie Diciantis, soprano, will sing Richard Strauss’ Four Last Songs as well as works by Barber and Rachmaninoff on May 10 at Gallery 345. At the same location, on May 27, themezzo Ali Garrison will present a program titled “New Songs from the Heart of Now: Making Songs for Our Time.”

On May 12 the Talisker Players will present “Heroes, Gods and Mortals,” a selection of adaptations of Greek myths in poetry, prose and song. The musical components consist of works by Pergolesi, Hovhaness, Plant, Turina and Weill as well as the premiere of a commissioned work by Monica Pearce (the Leda Songs, based on texts by Rilke, HD and D. H. Lawrence). The singers are Carla Huhtanen, soprano, and Andrea Ludwig, mezzo, at Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre.

On May 13 Anna Bateman, soprano, Benoit Boutet, tenor, and Jeffrey Carl, baritone, are the soloists in a performance of Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana by the Toronto Choral Society at Eastminster United Church.

As part of Jewish Music Week Tibor and Kati Kovari, cantors, will perform “Afternoon Tunes: Celebrating Israel in Song” at Miles Nadal JCC, May 14; free.

To mark the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War the Shevchenko Musical Ensemble will sing “Songs of War and Peace” with Adèle Kozak, soprano, and Hassan Anami, tenor at St. Michael’s College School May 17.

In the May 21 performance of Verdi’s Requiem by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (repeated on May 22 and 23)the soloists are Amber Wagner, soprano, Jamie Barton, mezzo, Frank Lopardo, tenor, and Eric Owens, bass. Sir Andrew Davis conducts at Roy Thomson Hall.

Sonya Harper Nyby, soprano, Laura Schatz, mezzo, Anthony Varahidis, tenor, and Michael Nyby, baritone, will be the soloists in Mozart’s Mass in C Minor, K427 at St. Anne’s Anglican Church on May 24.

The soprano Erin Cooper Gay will sing Schubert’s song Der Tod und das Mädchen; and the Halcyon String Quartet will play Schubert’s other “Death and the Maiden,” Quartet No.14 in D Minor, as well as Mozart’s Quartet No.16 in E flat at Heliconian Hall May 25.

Tapestry Opera presents the premiere of M’dea Undone: book by Marjorie Chan, score by John Harris. The singers are Lauren Segal, mezzo, Peter Barrett, baritone, James McLean, tenor, and Jacqueline Woodley, soprano May 26 at Evergreen Brickworks.

The tenor Charles Davidson will sing works by Schubert, Schumann, Weill and others at Metropolitan United Church May 30.

On May 31 the Toronto Classical Singers will present Haydn’s The Creation with Lesley Bouza, soprano, Christopher Mayell, tenor, and Bruce Kelly, baritone, at Christ Church Deer Park.

Gospel songs are performed by Joni Henson, soprano, Valerie Mero-Smith, mezzo, Alan Reid, tenor, and Sung Chung, baritone, June 3 at Humber Valley United Church.

And beyond the GTA: On May 9 there will be a performance of Haydn’s The Creation with Ellen McAteer and Chelsea Van Pelt, soprano, Chris Mayell, tenor, and Joel Allison and Tyler Fitzgerald, bass, at George Street United Church, Peterborough.

The Bach Elgar Choir of Hamilton will perform Rossini’s Petite Messe Solennelle on May 23. The soloists are Michele Bogdanowicz, mezzo, Zach Finkelstein, tenor, and Giles Tomkins, baritone, at Melrose United Church, Hamilton.

Melissa-Marie Shriner will sing musical theatre, jazz and original compositions at the Vineland United Mennonite Church in Vineland on May 30.

Hans de Groot is a concertgoer and active listener who also sings and plays the recorder. He can be contacted at 

2007-Art-Stoijn.jpgI am an admirer of the Dutch mezzo Christianne Stotijn but I only know her singing from recordings. I look forward to her Toronto debut, organized by the Women’s Musical Club of Toronto, on April 16 at Walter Hall, in which she will be accompanied by the fine pianist Julius Drake. She will sing Shostakovich’s settings of six poems by Tsvetayeva, four Shakespeare songs by Korngold, and songs by Tchaikovsky and Strauss.

The name Stotijn is well known in the Dutch musical world. The story begins with Johannes Louis Stotijn (1852-1915), who began adult life as a baker but who also played the harmonica as a hobby. Three of his four children became professional musicians. The most distinguished was Jacob, usually known as Jaap. He was the first oboist of the Residentie Orkest in The Hague from 1919 to 1956. We can still hear his playing in a recording of Mozart’s oboe quartet (K370) on the Globe label. In the 1930s he played with the Palestine Symphony Orchestra, an orchestra that consisted largely of Jewish musicians who had fled Nazi Germany. The orchestra’s concerts were conducted by Arturo Toscanini, who was a great admirer of Stotijn’s playing. Stotijn was also a pioneer of period performance: he joined the Collegium Musicum Antiqua, which was founded in 1952. He died in 1970.

Another fine oboist was Jaap’s son Haakon. He became the first oboist of the Concertgebouw in 1940. In the early 1950s he was banned from the radio by two of the Dutch radio organizations because of his alleged Communist sympathies. In 1954 he, along with three other members of the Concertgebouw, was not allowed entry to the United States. He died at 49 in 1964.

And there are other musical Stotijns: a violist, a bassoonist and a double bass player. The son and pupil of that bass player, Christianne’s younger brother Rick, is also a bassist. Christianne herself began her musical career as a violinist. After she became a singer, she studied with Jard van Nes and Janet Baker. I can hear some of Baker’s qualities in her singing, although her sound is always individual. I am thrilled that half of her recital will consist of Russian music. My only regret is that she will not sing any Mahler, of whose music she is such a fine interpreter.

Other Events:

2007-Art-Asselin.jpgBradshaw Amphitheatre: There are several free vocal events at the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre in the Four Seasons Centre: a preview of Errol Gay’s Alice in Operaland will be given by the Canadian Children’s Opera Company April 1; Andrew Haji, tenor, will sing Schumann’s Dichterliebe, and Gordon Bintner, bass-baritone, will perform Schubert’s Schwanengesang April 4. Parts of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville will be sung by members of the COC Ensemble Studio April 28.

Walter Hall: On April 2 there will be a recital by the winners of the Jim and Charlotte Norcop Prize in Song and Gwendolyn Williams Koldofsky Prize in Accompanying in Walter Hall.

New Music Concerts: Ilana Zarankin, soprano, is the soloist in a program of contemporary Ukrainian music April 4 at the Betty Oliphant Theatre.

Two at the Royal Conservatory: Max Raabe and the Palast Orchestra will recreate the cabaret music and the popular songs of the Weimar years April 11 and 12 at Koerner Hall. Mireille Asselin, soprano, will sing with the Amici Ensemble in a concert that will include Schubert’s The Shepherd on the Rock as well as the Akhmatova Songs by Tavener April 12 at Mazzoleni Concert Hall.

Schubert: There will be another performance of The Shepherd on the Rock, part of an all Schubert concert April 17 at Heliconian Hall, in which the singer will be the soprano Barbara Fris. Another all-Schubert concert will be given at the Canadian Music Centre April 28 and will include Schwanengesang. The singers are Ryan Downey, tenor, and Bradley Christensen, baritone.

Two at Met at Noon: Cathy Daniel, mezzo, sings at noon in a free concert in Metropolitan United Church April 16. Also at noon at Metropolitan and also free: Olga Tylman, mezzo, and Michael Fitzgerald, baritone April 23.

Rozario: The soprano Patricia Rozario will be the soloist in a concert of music by John Tavener, presented by Soundstreams April 16 at Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre. Rozario was central figure in Tavener’s career; he wrote more than 30 works for her. The concert will also include works by Christos Hatzis, Jonathan Harvey and Vanraj Bhatia.

Bayrakdarian: The soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian will sing with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra in a concert of Armenian music April 22 at Roy Thomson Hall.

Oakham House: Wendy Dobson, soprano, and Michael Robert-Broder, baritone, will be the soloists in a concert April 25 at Calvin Presbyterian Church given by the Oakham House Choir of Ryerson University. The main works will be Handel’s Coronation Anthem My Heart is Inditing, the first movement of Elgar’s Coronation Ode and the Polovetsian Dances from Borodin’s Prince Igor.

The soprano Meredith Hall and the pianist Brahm Goldhamer will perform works by Mozart, Haydn and Rauzzini, April 26 at 8pm in Heliconian Hall. The program will include Haydn’s cantata Arianna a Naxos.

Also: The soprano Tessa Laengert will sing Handel, Dvorak and Puccini in a cocnert with the Oakville Chamber Orchestra May 2 and 3 at St. John’s United Church, Oakville. Andrew Haji, tenor, will be the soloist in a celebration of songs from opera, operetta and musical theatre with the VOCA Chorus of Toronto May 2 at Eastminster United Church. The Vesnivka Choir and the Toronto Ukrainian Male Chamber Choir will present a concert of folk songs celebrating rebirth, romance and love May 3 atHumberValleyUnited Church in Etobicoke. The solo singers are Natalya Matyusheva, soprano, and Justin Stolz, tenor.

The last concert in this year’s series for Recitals at Rosedale will be held on May 3 at Rosedale Presbyterian Church. The theme will be journeys, travels and returning home; the music will be by Schumann, Ravel and others. The singers are Lucia Cesaroni, soprano, Emily D’Angelo, mezzo, and Anthony Cleverton, baritone. And the famed singer-songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie will perform at Koerner Hall May 7.

Beyond the GTA: the soloists in Bach’s St. Matthew Passion are Rufus Müller (tenor, as the Evangelist), Tyler Duncan (baritone, as Christus), Agnes Zsigovics (soprano), Laura Pudwell (mezzo), Isaiah Bell (tenor) and Justin Welsh (bass). The conductor is Mark Vuorinen April 3 attheCentre in the Square, Kitchener.

Looking back: in February I wrote that I was looking forward to the recital in which Christian Gerhaher and Gerold Huber were to perform Schubert’s Winterreise. I was not disappointed. Koerner Hall was full; the audience listened with rapt attention and saved their enthusiasm for the end. Who says that the song recital is dead?

On a couple of occasions I have written about the emerging tenor Charles Sy. I did not realize until I got to the Macmillan Theatre that he was singing in the Opera Division of the University of Toronto’s production of Postcard from Morocco by Dominick Argento. I was very impressed with his singing, particularly with the evenness of tone and the solidity of his lower register.

And looking ahead: Against the Grain Theatre has announced that Colin Ainsworth, tenor, and Krisztina Szabó, mezzo, will sing Schubert’s Die Schöne Müllerin and Messiaen’s Harawi in May. The Women’s Musical Club of Toronto has announced its 2015-16 season. It includes a recital by the fabulous American mezzo Isabel Leonard (we heard her in the COC production of Mozart’s La Clemenza di Tito a few years ago). That will be on November 19. Stay tuned! clip_image001.png

Hans de Groot is a concertgoer and active listener who also sings and plays the recorder. He can be contacted at

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