2106-Art_1.pngRachel Andrist and Monica Whicher jointly direct the Mazzoleni Songmasters Series which consists of three vocal concerts each season. Andrist is a member of the music staff at the Canadian Opera Company. Her first appointment as a vocal coach was at the La Monnaie in Brussels. Since then she has held similar positions with the Salzburg Festival, with Glyndebourne, with the English National Opera, with the Bavarian State Opera, with Netherlands Opera and with Scottish Opera. She is also a collaborative pianist and she finds both kinds of work support each other. As she points out, one meets a singer as a vocal coach and that opens up the possibility of a joint recital. Whicher is a soprano well known for her work in recitals (including a number of appearances with the Aldeburgh Connection) and her part in opera productions by the Canadian Opera Company and Opera Atelier. Both Andrist and Whicher also teach in the Glenn Gould School at the Royal Conservatory.

When Andrist and the pianist-composer John Greer began the Recitals at Rosedale series two seasons ago, the time seemed just right for such an undertaking. The Aldeburgh Connection had ceased to exist and a real vacuum developed. Yet the concerts were a mixed success. Although Rosedale Presbyterian is not all that difficult to get to, it would seem off the mental map of many, so that audiences were disappointing. Another problem was that the space at Rosedale was small and the acoustics very live. Not all singers were able to scale their voices down to an appropriate level. The move this season to Mazzoleni Hall at the Royal Conservatory seems a wise one. The hall is familiar, the acoustics are good and the series, now retitled Songmasters (with a punning reference to the already existing Mazzoleni Masters) now has the backing of the Conservatory with its good publicity.

Their next concert takes place March 6. The singers are the soprano, Mireille Asselin, and the baritone, Brett Polegato. The pianists are Andrist and Peter Tiefenbach. Andrist believes strongly that for a recital to make sense it must be structured round a central theme. The theme chosen for this concert is the way in which composers have been inspired by paintings. The major work in the program is Poulenc’s Le travail du peintre. These are settings of poems by Paul Éluard and evoke the work of seven contemporary painters: Picasso, Chagall, Braque, Gris, Klee, Miró and Villon. The program also includes Debussy’s Fêtes galantes. These are based on the Commedia dell’ arte but mediated by Watteau’s painting. Two Schumann songs from the collection Aus dem Liederbuch eines Malers follow. The next group contains settings of four poems from William Blake’s Songs of Innocence: two of them by British composers (Walton, Britten); and two by Walter MacNutt (1910-96), a composer now chiefly remembered as the music director at St. Thomas’s Anglican Church in Toronto.

Asselin was a student at the Glenn Gould School (where Monica Whicher was one of her teachers) and subsequently was a member of the Canadian Opera Company’s Ensemble Studio. She has performed with the Metropolitan Opera, with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and (many times) with Opera Atelier. Along with the tenor Lawrence Wiliford, she sings in Ash Roses, the CD of music by Derek Holman issued by the Canadian Art Song Project. You will also be able to hear her in Opera Atelier’s production of Mozart’s Lucio Silla, starting on April 7.

I first heard Polegato in the wonderful CD, To a Poet, settings by several composers of poems by Flecker, de la Mare, Housman and Hardy (CBC; not currently available). The first time I heard him live was in a Tafelmusik performance of Handel’s Messiah. I thought then that I had never heard the bass solos better sung and I have not changed my mind since. Polegato is now much in demand. One of the roles that he has made very much his own is that of Kurwenal in Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde. This spring he will again be singing it in Paris.

Bach and Brahms at Metropolitan United: In the Christian calendar Good Friday is the holiest day of the year. This year it falls on March 25. In the evening I intend to go to Metropolitan United Church for a performance of three works: the Brahms Requiem (with the soprano Gisele Kulak and the baritone Jordan Scholl as soloists), Brahms’s Alto Rhapsody (with Laura Pudwell, mezzo) and Bach’s Cantata No.78 (with soloists Alison Campbell, Claudia Lemcke, Charles Davidson and Jordan Scholl).

Lunchtime at the Richard Bradshaw Auditorium: The free lunchtime recitals at the Richard Bradshaw Auditorium in the Four Seasons Centre resume on Mar 15 when Kyra Millan, soprano and opera educator, presents a concert of arias and sing-along choruses, with artists from the COC Ensemble Studio. On Mar 17 Bob Anderson will conduct “Choral Journeys,” from the Renaissance to contemporary Canadian works, with Charles Sy, tenor. On Mar 29 you can hear four tenors: Jean-Philippe Fortier-Lazure, Aaron Sheppard, Andrew Haji, Charles Sy.

University of Toronto (Walter Hall): Megan Quick, contralto, and Andrew Haji, tenor, will sing, on Mar 21, in Schoenberg’s arrangement of Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde. Quick will also sing Die Waldtaube from Schoenberg’s Gurre-Lieder. Mar 31 you can hear a free recital by the winners of the Jim and Charlotte Norcop Prize in Song and the Gwendolyn Williams Prize in Accompanying. “The Art of the Prima Donna” on Apr 1 is a staged and costumed program of romantic opera with works by Bellini, Donizetti, Verdi and others. The recital by the Cecilia Quartet on Apr 4 includes a new work by the composer and soprano Kati Agócs.

Quick Picks: Ilana Zarankin, soprano, and Laura McAlpine, mezzo, are the soloists in the Talisker Players presentation of “Spirit Dreaming: Creation Myths from Around the World” at Trinity-St.Paul’s Centre, Mar 1 and 2. The program includes works by Somers, Kuyas, Beckwith, Tanu, Ravel, Villa-Lobos and Jaubert. Paula Arciniego, mezzo, will sing works by composers ranging from Grieg to Theodorakis in Heliconian Hall, Mar 4. Alliance Française de Toronto presents Guy Smagghe in a selection of songs from Félix Leclerc to Francis Cabrel, Mar 5. Evelina Soulis celebrates her 50th birthday with mezzos Maria Soulis and Katerina Utochkina in music by Monteverdi, de Falla and others in Heliconian Hall, Mar 13. Bruce Ubukata will give a vocal master class at York University’s Tribute Communities Recital Hall, Mar 15. Xin Wang, soprano, and Derek Kwan, tenor, will sing an all-Canadian program with songs by Ho, Beckwith, Rickard and Tsuromoto on Mar 18 at the Canadian Music Centre. On Apr 7 the Women’s Musical Club of Toronto presents a program by the violist Steven Dann and family, including  soprano Ilana Zarankin.

And beyond the GTA: Bach’s Mass in B Minor can be heard in the Centre in the Square in Kitchener on Mar 25. The soloists are Carla Huhtanen, soprano, Allyson McHardy, mezzo, Colin Ainsworth, tenor, and James Westman, baritone. Ainsworth will also give a free noon-hour recital at Conrad Grebel University College in Waterloo on Mar 23

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

2105-ArtOfSong.jpgOn March 3, a concert, with the title “Tangopéra” will be given jointly by Marie-Josée Lord and the quartet Quartango at Partridge Hall in the brand new FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre in St. Catharines. Going by the tracks on the their 2014 Tangopera CD, the concert will feature music ranging from Puccini and Bizet to Gershwin and Weill, alongside pioneers of tango such as Ángel Villoldo, Carlos Gardel and, of course, Astor Piazzolla. Half the tracks on the CD feature the tango and milonga-based, hard-driving instrumental rhythms of Quartango. Lord, backed by the quartet, sings in the others, putting a remarkable spin on repertoire much of which the audience will have heard many times, but, safe to say, not like this!

Something similar happened to Lord herself when she first encountered the Montreal-based group: “When I first heard Quartango’s version of the aria ‘Quando men vo,’ from Puccini’s La Bohème,” she says in the liner notes to the record, “I was startled, because I couldn’t quite place it, even though I’d sung the original version countless times.”

Lord is a distinguished soprano, who was born in Haiti, adopted at the age of six by two Canadians working in Haiti at the time, and grew up in Lévis, Quebec. She made her operatic debut in 2003 with the Opéra de Québec in the role of Liù in Puccini’s Turandot, and has performed several important roles with the Opéra de Montréal (Mimì in Puccini’s La Bohème, the title role in his Suor Angelica and Nedda in Leoncavallo’s I Pagliacci). At the time of a memorable Koerner Hall recital in Toronto in October 2012, she talked to Trish Crawford of the Toronto Star (October 25, 2012) about her childhood years in a nutrition centre in Haiti (“I was in bad shape. Most of the children were orphans. There we could have a meal and education.”); about how overhearing a conservatory singing lesson changed her musical direction after years of piano and violin study (“I heard a lyric class and was fascinated by the production, how to build opera and all the rehearsals”); and about her return to Haiti in 2011. (“I wanted to close the circle. I had questions about my background. … I am proud of my people.”)

As for Quartango itself, the quartet was formed an astonishing 30 years ago. The group consists of four musicians: René Gosselin, double bass, Stéphane Aubin, piano, Antoine Bareil, violin, and Jonathan Goldman, bandoneon (an instrument operated by a bellows, akin to the accordion).

In the aforementioned interview with The Star’s Crawford about her hopes for that October 28, 2012, Koerner recital, Lord talks about wanting to “invite the audience into my lyric world.” There’s no doubt that her collaboration with Quartango over the past five years has significantly expanded the boundaries of that “lyric world.” In the CD liner notes Lord talks about the group’s “love of risk-taking and the unexpected” and their ability to take “well-known melodies and blend them into … unique hybrids of tango, opera, popular song, jazz, classical and many other genres. Today, when I sing the original version of the ‘Habanera’ from Carmen,” says Lord, “I almost feel as if it’s missing something.”

Far from “missing something,” the audience at “Tangopéra” on March 3, hearing these unique treatments of familiar repertoire, will likely feel just the opposite – that something has been quite unexpectedly gained.

Dmitri Hvorostovsky at Koerner Hall on February 21The Russian baritone first became known in the West in 1989, the year in which he won the Cardiff Singer of the World Competition, beating out Bryn Terfel, who had to make do with the Lieder Prize. At the time there was a great deal of grumbling and there were many suggestions that the jurors had made a mistake, but in recent years the merits of Hvorostovsky have been increasingly recognized. In any case, a discussion of who makes the better singer seems pointless as they represent such different voice types. Terfel made a name for himself in baritone or bass-baritone roles in Mozart such as Figaro and (later) Don Giovanni; he sang Schubert and Welsh songs. More recently he has become famous for his renditions of the heavier Wagnerian roles (the Dutchman, Wotan, Hans Sachs). In contrast, Hvorostovsky is essentially a high lyrical baritone, especially known for his interpretations of Russian song, of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin and of the baritone parts in many of Verdi’s operas (La Traviata, Simon Boccanegra, Don Carlo, Un ballo in maschera)Since Terfel will be singing at Koerner Hall on April 24, audiences will have a good chance to compare the two singers. Last summer Hvorostovsky announced that he was suffering from brain cancer and would have to take the summer off to receive medical treatment. He added, however, that he would be back in the fall to sing the role of the Count di Luna in Verdi’s Il Trovatore at the Met, and that he would fulfill all subsequent engagements. So far he has been as good as his word. On February 21, he will perform songs by Glinka, Rimsky-Korsakov, Tchaikovsky and Strauss.

Tapestry Opera, as its name suggests, specializes in contemporary opera. Many will remember the production of M’dea Undone by John Harris and Marjorie Chan in April 2015. On February 5 and 6, their sixth annual “Songbook” event showcases 36 years of Tapestry’s original repertoire, in the hands of emerging singers and pianists in Tapestry’s New Opera 101 program. Rising Canadian mezzo, Wallis Giunta, and conductor/pianist, Jordan de Souza, will anchor “Songbook VI” at the Ernest Balmer Studio.

Benjamin Butterfield sings SchubertOn February 29, Butterfield and pianist, Stephen Philcox will perform Schubert’s Die schöne Müllerin at Walter Hall. I have heard Butterfield in the past (with Tafelmusik and with the TSO) but never in this repertoire, so I am very much looking forward to the recital.

Lunchtime concerts at the Four Seasons Centre: Bass Robert Pomakov joins the Gryphon Trio in “Classics Reimagined” on Feb 2; Christopher Purves, baritone, and Liz Upchurch, piano, perform in “The Art of Song” on Feb 9; COC Ensemble Studio singers perform highlights from Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro on Feb 10; Josef Wagner, bass-baritone with Rachel Andrist, piano, performs Schubert’s Winterreise on Feb 11; Doug MacNaughton, baritone and guitar, performs in “Light and Shadow” on Feb 16.

Chelsea Hotel. Photo by Mat SimpsonVocal Quick PicksTheatre Passe Muraille presents “Chelsea Hotel: The Songs of Leonard Cohen” from Feb 3 to 21; Faye Kellerstein and Noreen Horowitz’s “The Ladies of Broadway” offers selections from Oklahoma!The King and I, Fiddler on the Roof, My Fair Lady and The Sound of Music at the Miles Nadal JCC, Feb 4; Alan Cumming sings “Sappy Songs” (by Billy Joel, Stephen Sondheim, Rufus Wainwright, Miley Cyrus and others) at the Winter Garden Theatre, Feb 6; “One Sunday” recreates a Sunday “from the Canadian Afrikan community of the 1960s” through song, script and piano, performed by Tiki Mercury-Clarke at the Neighbourhood Unitarian Universalist Congregation, Feb 7; mezzo Emily D’Angelo (who recently won first prize in the COC Centre Stage competition for a place in the COC Ensemble Studio) sings Messiaen’s Poèmes pour Mi, along with works by Korngold, Mahler and others Feb 12, with pianist Rashaan Allwood and the Junction Trio, at St. Anne’s Anglican Church. (D’Angelo and Allwood will then reprise the Messiaen at Heron Park Baptist Church on Feb 20.) Also on Feb 12, at Heliconian Hall, the Gallery Players of Niagara/Eybler Quartet concert includes a transcription of Schumann’s LiederkreisOp.39, sung by the baritone Brett Polegato; to be repeated in the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre, St. Catharines, on Feb 14; rarely performed English art songs will be performed by Marina Yakhontova and Brian Stevens Feb 13 at Bloor Street United Church; on Feb 18 at the Canadian Music Centre, composer Michael Purves-Smith and the soprano Caroline Déry explore the connection between poetry and music in “Cabaret Lyrique: Contrasts in Love”; on the jazz front, Feb 19 Laila Biali is at the Living Arts Centre in Mississauga, while René Marie pays tribute to Eartha Kitt at Koerner Hall; and Elizabeth Shepherd is at the COC’s Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre, Feb 24

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

Art Song 1As in preceding years, Attila Glatz Concert Productions bring two events to Roy Thomson Hall, a salute to Vienna (Strauss waltzes and melodies from operettas by Strauss and Lehar) on New Year’s Day, to be repeated in Hamilton at Hamilton Place on January 3, and on New Year’s Eve, Bravissimo!, a selection from the most popular operas by Rossini, Offenbach, Verdi and Puccini.

Care has always been taken to have both Canadian and non-Canadian singers in Bravissimo! This year both the tenor, Stefano La Colla, and the baritone, Lucio Gallo, are Italian, while the female singers are Canadian: Karina Gauvin, soprano, and Krisztina Szabó, mezzo. We have heard Szabó’s eloquent and powerful voice a number of times recently: in the dramatized version of Schubert’s Die Schöne Müllerin by Against the Grain Theatre and in the Canadian Opera Company’s triple bill of Monteverdi and Monk Feldman. Gauvin has performed in Toronto many times, with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, with Tafelmusik and in recital, but she has been away too long and the December 31 concert will be a good opportunity to catch up.

Toronto Masque Theatre presents “A Newfoundland Christmas Kitchen Party” on December 17, 18 and 19 at Enoch Turner Schoolhouse with music by Dean Burry. The singers are Carla Huhtanen, soprano, Marion Newman, mezzo, Christopher Mayell, tenor, and Giles Tomkins, baritone. Other performers are members of the Canadian Children’s Opera Company as well as two step dancers (Pierre Chartrand and Hannah Shira Naiman) and a jug band led by Larry Beckwith. This is a revival of The Mummers’ Masque, a work commissioned by the Toronto Masque Theatre and first performed on December 3, 2009.

Looking back: On November 3, I attended the annual COC Ensemble Studio Competition, eight finalists chosen from a large number of contestants. The first prize (and the Audience Award) went to mezzo Emily D’Angelo, who gave a beautifully paced performance of Contro un cor from Rossini’s The Barber of Seville. She needed a chair to lean on as she was on crutches, having broken her foot, but she deftly turned the chair into part of her act. The second prize went to Lauren Eberwein, also a mezzo, who sang Parto, parto from Mozart’s La Clemenza di Tito; third to Bruno Roy, baritone, who performed Hai già vinta la causa!, the Count’s aria from Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro. When there are prize-winners, there must also be those who receive no prizes, in this case including two especially fine performers: the baritone Zachary Read, who sang Valentin’s aria Avant de quitter ces lieux from Gounod’s Faust, and the soprano Eliza Johnson, who sang Caro Nome from Verdi’s Rigoletto.

Other Events of Note (see listings for details):

Dec 2: The Cathedral Church of St. James resumes its series “Cantatas in the Cathedral.” Soloists are Sheila Dietrich, soprano, Christina Stelmacovich, alto, Robert Busiakiewicz, tenor, and David Roth, bass.

Dec 3,4,5,6:Tafelmusik Baroque Opera and Chamber Choir, conducted by Ivars Taurins, present Bach’s Christmas Oratorio. Soloists are Jana Miller, soprano, Benno Schachtner, countertenor, James Gilchrist, tenor, and Peter Harvey, baritone. Dec 6 Toronto Classical Singers present the same work, conducted  by Jurgen Petrenko with Jennifer Taverner, soprano, Sandra Boyes, mezzo, Asitha Tennekoon, tenor, and James Baldwin, baritone. Yet another performance of the work by the Spiritus Ensemble takes place in Waterloo Dec 13 with Sheila Dietrich, soprano, Jennifer Enns Modolo, mezzo, Steve Surian and Bud Roach, tenors, and Richard Hryztak, baritone.

 Dec 4 Sondra Radvanovsky, soprano, will give a recital on at Koerner Hall. The program includes Vivaldi's Sposa son disprezzata from Bajazet as well as songs and arias by Strauss, Liszt, Barber and Giordano.

 Dec 5 there is an Aradia Ensemble concert and CD launch of sacred music by Vivaldi; the singers are Hélène Brunet, soprano, and Vicky St. Pierre, contralto.

Dec 5 and 6 there will be two performances by Pax Christi Chorale of Berlioz’s L’enfance du Christ with soloists Nathalie Paulin, soprano, Olivier Laquerre, baritone, Alain Coulombe, bass, Sean Clark, tenor, and Matthew Zadow, baritone.

Also Dec 6 Eliska Latawiec sings Dvořák at St. Wenceslaus Church. Dec 12, The Neapolitan Connection presents Allison Arends, Jennifer Mizzi and Victoria Gydov, sopranos, at Montgomery’s Inn. Dec 15 Mooredale Concerts presents the extraordinary Calmus Ensemble in “Christmas Carols of the World.” Dec 18, at St. Andrew’s Church, another concert of Christmas carols features Allison Angelo and Xin Wang, sopranos, as soloists; admission is by freewill offering in support of St. Andrew’s Syrian Refugee Sponsorship Fund.

 January the TSO brings us a mini-Mozart Festival. On Jan 16 at Roy Thomson Hall and Jan 17 at George Weston Recital Hall tenor Frederic Antoun will sing Dalla sua pace and bass-baritone Philippe Sly will sing Madamina, il catalogo è questo, both from Don Giovanni. On Jan 21, 22 and 23, the TSO will perform Mozart’s Requiem with Antoun and Sly, Lydia Teuscher, soprano, and Allyson McHardy, mezzo, as soloists..Bernard Labadie conducts both programs.

 Jan 28 After what seems a long absence the University of Toronto Faculty of Music resumes its free “Music and Poetry” series in Walter Hall. The singer is the mezzo Krisztina Szabó, who will perform Cinco Canciones Negras by Montsalvatge and Quattro Canziones by Berio. The pianist is Steven Philcox and a commentary will be provided by Eric Domville.

 Jan 27 and 28 Soprano Barbara Hannigan returns to the TSO to perform Dutilleux’s Correspondances for soprano and orchestra. The conductor is Peter Oundjian.

 Jan 30 the soprano Nathalie Paulin will be the soloist in works by Purcell and others in a program called “Soaring Over a Ground Bass” at Eastminster United Church.

 Beyond the GTA:

 Feb 7 the Spiritus Ensemble will perform cantatas by Bach and Kuhnau at St. John the Evangelist Anglican Church, Kitchener, on; free will offering.

 Looking forward:

 Feb 21 the Russian baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky will sing in Koerner Hall. More in our February issue.

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

Emma Kirkby: It has sometimes seemed to me that my interest in early music began with listening to Kirkby. When I checked dates, I realized that that was not true. I bought my first early music LP (two of Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos, conducted by August Wenzinger) when I was a schoolboy in the early 50s, while Kirkby’s career did not begin until 1971 when she joined the Taverner Choir as a founding member. But my mistake highlights the fact that Kirkby’s singing has been central to early music performances ever since. On October 18 she and her accompanist, the fine lutenist Jacob Lindberg, gave a recital of English music ranging from William Byrd to Henry Purcell at Trinity College Chapel. Now that Kirkby is in her mid-60s the incomparable beauty of her singing is also layered with a lifetime of nuance; every presentation provides a lesson in how these songs can be delivered.

In the first half of the program we heard a number of students, members of the University of Toronto’s Schola Cantorum. Until recently the University had not shown much interest in early music but this changed with the appointment of Daniel Taylor (best known as a countertenor but now also a conductor) as Early Music Area Head. Many of these performances were very fine, a tribute to the singers but also to Taylor’s leadership and to the extra coaching the singers received from Kirkby and Lindberg. 

Art of SongAgnes Zsigovics: Kirkby studied classics at Oxford University and became a schoolteacher. At that time she would have had no notion that a professional career could be built on the singing of early music. That is no longer the case and Kirkby’s career is one reason why that change became possible. There are now many singers who specialize in Early Music and one of the finest is a Canadian soprano Agnes Zsigovics whom we shall be able to hear on November 14 with the Ottawa Bach Choir and York University Chamber Choir in a performance of Bach’s Mass in B Minor at Grace Church on-the-Hill. The other soloists are Daniel Taylor, alto, Rebecca Claborn, mezzo, Jacques-Olivier Chartier, tenor, Geoffrey Sirett, baritone, and Daniel Lichti, bass-baritone. The conductor is Lisette Canton.

When I asked for an interview with Zsigovics, she accepted readily and added: “Isn’t it every soprano’s wish to talk about themselves all day long?” I decided not to take this too literally and I was right not to do so. She is not a self-absorbed diva but a down-to-earth and disciplined artist committed to her craft. As a young woman she sang in choirs at school and as a member of the Bell’Arte Singers. Her first big break came in 2005, when she sang with the Toronto International Bach Festival and was asked by the conductor, Helmuth Rilling, to sing the soprano solo in Bach’s Cantata BWV106 (the Actus Tragicus). Daniel Taylor heard her and invited her to sing part of Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater at a private function and to join the Theatre of Early Music. In 2007 she sang in Bach’s St. John Passion under Rilling with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.

I have heard her four times in recent years: in the virtuoso soprano part of Allegri’s Miserere and as Belinda in Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas (both with the Theatre of Early Music), in Vivaldi’s Gloria (with Tafelmusik) and as the soprano soloist in the Grand Philharmonic Choir’s performance of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion in Kitchener last Good Friday. 

She has now sung outside Ontario many times. In May she performed at the Bethlehem Bach Festival (and she will return there next May) and she took part in the reconstructed St. Mark Passion by Bach at the Festival d’Ambronay in France in September. As for the near future: in January she will be in Montreal in a program of Bach cantatas, in April she will sing Monteverdi’s 1610 Vespers in Chicago with Music of the Baroque and in May she will sing Bach in Calgary. She will make her debut in a fully staged operatic performance when she will sing the role of Eurydice in Gluck’s Orfeo ed Eurydice in Grand River, Michigan. We can also hear her voice on several recordings, two with the Theatre of Early Music (The Voice of Bach on RCA, and The Heart’s Refuge on Analekta) and one with Les Voix Baroques and the Arion Baroque Orchestra under Alexander Weimann (Bach’s St. John Passion, on ATMA). Zsigovics is now looking at the possibility of launching her first solo recording.

Simone Osborne: Like Zsigovics, Simone Osborne could be described as a lyric soprano but, unlike Zsigovics, she is primarily an opera singer. In 2008, when she was 21, she won the Metropolitan Opera National Concert Auditions. In 2012, Jeunesses Musicales Canada chose her as the first winner of the Maureen Forrester Award. She was a member of the Ensemble Studio of the Canadian Opera Company and has performed a number of roles for the COC on the main stage: Pamina in Mozart’s The Magic Flute, Oscar in Verdi’s Un Ballo in Maschera, Gilda in Verdi’s Rigoletto, Nannetta in Verdi’s Falstaff and Lauretta in Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi. She will return to the COC later this season to sing Micaela in Bizet’s Carmen. On November 12 and 14, we have a chance to hear her in concert with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. Part of the TSO’s Decades Project, that concert will show the diversity of styles in works from the first decade of the 20th century. Osborne will sing three pieces: the aria Depuis le jour from Charpentier’s Louise, first performed in 1900; the Song to the Moon from Dvořák ‘s Rusalka (1901) and the soprano solo in the final movement of Mahler’s Fourth Symphony (1901).

Isabel Leonard: The Women’s Musical Club of Toronto can always be relied on to provide artists and programs of interest. I, myself, am very much looking forward to the recital by the American mezzo Isabel Leonard on November 19 inWalter Hall. A few seasons ago Leonard sang with the COC in Mozart’s La clemenza di Tito and she was splendid in the role of Sesto. The recital will include works by Montsalvatge, de Falla, Ives, Higdon and others.

Sondra Radvanovsky: I last heard Sondra Radvanovsky in a dazzling performance as Queen Elizabeth I in Donizetti’s Roberto Devereux for the COC. On December 4 she will give a recital in Koerner Hall. The program includes the aria Sposa son disprezzata from Bajazet by Vivaldi, the Four Last Songs by Richard Strauss, the Song to the Moon from Dvořák ‘s Rusalka and songs and arias by Bellini, Barber, Giordano and Liszt.

Magali Simard-Galdès: Jeunesses Musicales Canada has announced that the winner of the 2015 Maureen Forrester Prize is the soprano Magali Simard-Galdès. The prize consists of a 30-city tour in which she will perform a program of art songs including a new song cycle by Tawnie Olson, commissioned by the Canadian Art Song Project. 

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

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 wholenote.com.

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