Even the most cursory look at the listings will show that the upside of living in Toronto is the many concerts that take place here every day. That, of course, is a good thing but the downside is that it is impossible to go to all of them. In December I wrote about the tenor Sean Clark and had every intention of catching him in one of his performances with the Pax Christi Chorale, but, alas, it was not to be. On the Saturday I went to hear Adi Braun sing Kurt Weill; on the Sunday afternoon I heard Daniel Cabena’s recital. While I am glad that I went to these, I regret that I didn’t hear Clark. Much the same thing happened on January 9, when I heard a lovely recital by Anne Sofie von Otter and Angela Hewitt, but this also meant that I could not go the Bach concert at Metropolitan United which featured all six of the Bach solo violin sonatas, or to the plainchants and motets which the Schola Magdalena performed at St. Mary Magdalene.

2005_-_Beat_-_Art_of_Song_-_Christian_Gerhaher_and_Gerold_Huber.pngHowever, this is nothing compared with the choice I have to make for the afternoon of Sunday February 1, when there are four concerts I would like to go to: the recital by Melanie Conly at the Heliconian Hall, which features one of my all-time favourites, Schubert’s The Shepherd on the Rock, with its lovely clarinet obbligato (the concert also includes works by Brott, Purcell and Berlioz); Bach’s second cello suite played by Rachel Mercer at Seicho-No-le Toronto; the VOICEBOX performance of Kurt Weill’s Street Scene at the St. Lawrence Centre with Allison Angelo and Jennifer Taverner, sopranos, and Colin Ainsworth, tenor; and the concert at Mazzoleni Concert Hall given by the Amici Chamber Ensemble and the New Orford String Quartet, which features, among other works, Brahms’ Clarinet Quintet

No such problems will interfere with my going to hear the baritone Christian Gerhaher and the pianist Gerold Huber in their performance of Schubert’s Winterreise on February 26 at Koerner Hall. Schubert wrote this work for a tenor voice but it has been successfully performed by baritones, bass-baritones, basses, even sopranos and mezzos. The baritone with whom the work is especially associated is Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. Views about his singing vary. He always made sure that every detail registered and some listeners find that fussy. Others (and I include myself) feel that, in the words of Keats, he loaded every rift with ore. It will be interesting to hear how Gerhaher’s performance compares.

I am also looking forward to the performance by Monica Whicher, soprano, and Russell Braun, baritone, with the pianists Carolyn Maule and Stephen Philcox, of Hugo Wolf’s Italienisches Liederbuch at Walter Hall, February 9.

2005_-_Beat_-_Art_of_Song_-_Charles_Sy.pngThe Faculty of Music in the University of Toronto will present a free workshop for singers, composers and librettists. It will feature the soprano Barbara Hannigan, the composer Hans Abrahamsen (who is the Michael and Sonja Koerner Distinguished Visitor in Composition) and the music critic and librettist Paul Griffiths (who is the Wilma & Clifford Smith Visitor in Music) on March 2. The following day Griffiths will give a lecture with the title “Contemporary Music: A Plurality of Worlds?” Both events are in Walter Hall and are free. Hannigan is a Canadian soprano who is especially known for her work in contemporary opera. Abrahamsen is a Danish composer whose very accessible works form a sharp contrast with the serial music that dominated the mid- and late 20th century. His let me yell you is dedicated to Hannigan and was first performed by her with the Berlin Philharmonic on December 20, 2013.

Other Events: The Canadian Opera Company presents a number of free performances at the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre in the Four Seasons Centre: on February 3 the sopranos Aviva Fortunata and Karina Boucher will be the soloists in Messiaen’s Poèmes pour Mi (with Kerry DuWors, violin, and Liz Upchurch, piano); on February 9 members of the COC Ensemble Studio will perform and compete in the biennial Christina and Luis Quilico awards; on February 10 the soprano Jane Archibald and the pianist Liz Upchurch will perform a program titled “Songs of Love and Longing”; “Urlicht” is the title of the recital by Janina Baechle, mezzo, with the pianist Rachel Andrist, on February 17 (Baechle is singing the role of Fricka in the COC production of Wagner’s Die Walküre.). The recital by Barbara Hannigan on February 24 is titled “Rapture.”

On February 3 students from the classical vocal music performance program at York University will take part in a masterclass with the soprano Rosemary Landry; the singer Brenna MacCrimmon, with Bill Westcott, piano, will perform “Classic Blues” on February 12; singers from the studio of Michael Donovan will perform “Five Mystical Songs” by Ralph Vaughan Williams on February 24.All three recitals are free and will take place in the Tribute Communities Recital Hall, Accolade East Building, York University.

On February 8 the soprano Virginia Hatfield, the mezzo Maria Soulis and the pianist Kate Carver will perform duets by Britten, Brahms, Mendelssohn, Tchaikovsky and others in a program titled “Sisters in Song” at Rosedale United Church. This is a benefit concert for Rethink Breast Cancer.

Jessika Monea, soprano, is the singer in a free noontime recital at Metropolitan United Church on February 12.

The Art of Time Ensemble presents “Magic and Loss: A Tribute to Lou Reed” with Sarah Slean, John Southworth, Margo Timmins and Kevin Hearn at Harbourfront, February 27 and 28.

The soprano Kimberly-Rose Pefhany will be the soloist in Mozart’s Exultate Jubilate, with Sinfonia Toronto conducted by Nurhan Arman, on February 28 at George Weston Recital Hall.

And beyond the GTA: On February 1 the Spiritus Ensemble will perform a free concert of cantatas by Bach (Nach dir Herr verlanget mich), Buxtehude (Der Herr ist mit mir) and Schein (Vater Unser) in the St. John the Evangelist Anglican Church, Kitchener.

There will be a recital at the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts, Queen’s University, February 8, titled “Intimate Expressions - Dances, Stories and Songs” as part of the Queen’s University Faculty Artists Series. The artists are Elizabeth MacDonald, soprano, Jeff Hanlon, guitar, and Karma Tomm, violin.

A cabaret on the lives of Debussy and Ravel will be performed by Tom Allen, Kevin Fox, Lori Gemmell, Bryce Kulak and Patricia O’Callaghan at All Saints’ Anglican Church, Peterborough on February 27 and at Fleming College, Lindsay on March 1.

And looking ahead: Toronto Summer Music has announced the formation of a chamber choir for advanced amateur musicians, to be held from August 2 to 9. The instructors will be Matthias Maute and Laura Pudwell. The Canadian Opera Company has announced that three musicians will join the COC Ensemble Studio in August of this year. They are the tenors Charles Sy and Aaron Sheppard and the collaborative pianist Hyejin Kwon. Both Sy and Sheppard were prizewinners at the most recent COC Ensemble Studio Competition. Sy, who won the first prize, is a former Fellow of the Toronto Summer Music Art of Song Program. But you don’t have to wait until the summer to hear him. March 1 Sy joins soprano Carla Huhtanen and mezzo soprano Emilia Boteva to perform the “glorious music inspired by the most tempestuous relationships” in Off Centre Music Salon’s “On Love and Other Difficulties.”

A Correction: in my recent CD review of the Handel & Haydn Society performance of Messiah I mistakenly wrote that the duet He shall feed his flock was originally a soprano aria. I should have written “an alto aria.”

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


ArtSong 33The countertenor voice had been prominent in English music in the late 17th century, the time of Purcell, but was only kept alive afterwards in the cathedral choirs. That changed in 1944 when the composer and conductor Michael Tippett plucked Alfred Deller from the choir stalls in Canterbury Cathedral and helped him to develop a solo career. Initially many people found the experience of hearing a man sing in the alto register odd. There is a famous story of Deller being confronted by a woman who asked him whether he was a eunuch. The story goes on to say that Deller did not miss a beat but replied immediately: “I think Madam the word you are looking for is ‘unique’.” Well, si non è vero, è ben trovato, but the very fact that the story rings true even if it isn’t, and has been repeated by many tells us something about the way audiences felt about this high male voice. Things have changed: now there are many countertenors and only the naive and inexperienced will be nonplussed by what they hear. The other day there was a very good countertenor, singing Schubert’s Ave Maria during the evening rush hour inside the Bloor-Yonge Station. Nobody seemed to take any notice (I suppose people had trains to catch) but nobody there seemed to find it at all unusual either.

Countertenor Daniel Cabena will be a new voice for many. I remember hearing him with the Toronto Consort and I was recently listening to the splendid recording by Les Violons du Roy and the Chapelle de Québec of the Mozart Requiem. Cabena sings on that recording too. In 2004 he moved to Montreal, where he studied at the Université de Montréal; since then he has been a student at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis in Basel and has performed in Switzerland with Musica Fiorita and La Cetra and in France with the Concert Spirituel and Le Parlement de Musique. He recently returned to Canada and now lives in Guelph.

December and January are going to be busy months for him. On December 7 at 3pm he will be performing a free concert with the pianist Stephen Runge at Hart House. The countertenor voice is now largely associated with early music but Cabena has chosen late 19th and 20th century works, mainly British, for this recital: songs by Stanford, Vaughan Williams, Ireland, Finzi, Warlock, Quilter, Howells, Butterworth, Gurney, Britten and William Denis Browne. Of special interest are two songs by Barrie Cabena, Daniel’s father. The elder Cabena was born in Australia, studied in England with Herbert Howells, moved to Canada and taught at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo from 1970 until his retirement. 

On December 13 and 14 Daniel Cabena will sing in a concert of sacred music by Bach, with the Nota Bene Baroque Orchestra in Hamilton and Waterloo, respectively. On December 20 he will be the alto soloist in Messiah with the Guelph Chamber Choir at the River Run Centre, Guelph and on January 31 he will sing with the ensemble Scaramella in a program of 17th century German music at Victoria College Chapel.

Tenor Sean Clark is another busy singer. Fresh from his performance of Tamino in Ottawa’s Opera Lyra children’s version of The Magic Flute (set in space), he has begun rehearsals for another Mozart role, that of Don Ottavio in Against the Grain Theatre’s #UncleJohn, an adaptation of Don Giovanni at the Great Hall’s Black Box Theatre  December 11, 13, 15, 17 and 19). He is giving a recital of Canadian and American music that consists of Verlaine settings by Mathieu as well as folk-song arrangements by John Beckwith and John Jacob Niles at the Canadian Music Centre on December 13. He is also the tenor soloist in Pax Christi Chorale’s performance of Bach’s Nun kommt der Heiden Heiland as well as part of the Christmas Oratorio and in Stephanie Martin’s secular cantata Winter Nights at St. John Vianney Church in Barrie on December 5; Grace Church on-the-Hill on December 6 and 7. Clark has been a member of the Canadian Opera Company chorus for some time and is continuing in that role. But he is interested in developing a solo career and these concerts may mark an important stage in that development.

Other Events: On December 3 Erin Bardua, soprano, Christina Stelmacovich, mezzo, Charles Davidson, tenor, and Graham Robinson, baritone, sing Bach’s cantata Wachet! betet! betet! wachet! at St. James Cathedral, PWYC.

Miriam Khalil, soprano, and Julie Nesrallah, mezzo, are the singers in a concert of Arab music on December 4 at Koerner Hall.

Two concerts on December 7: Off Centre Music Salon presents Ilana Zarankin, soprano, and Erica Iris Huang, mezzo, singing works from Russia (Glenn Gould Studio); Marie-Lynn Hammond will sing with the Echo Women’s Choir at Church of the Holy Trinity.

On December 8; the soloists in the Toronto Masque Theatre Christmas concert are Lizzie Hetherington and Jean Edwards, soprano, Jessica Wright, mezzo, and David Roth, baritone  at 21 Shaftesbury Avenue.

The third and final installment of the International Divas series takes place on December 21; the singers are Rita Chiarelli, Maryem Hassan Tollar, Lara Solnicki, Sharlene Wallace, the Ault Singers and Hisaka at Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre.

Whitney O’Hearn, mezzo, and Bud Roach, tenor, will perform songs from the Irving Berlin songbook, with the Talisker Players at Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre, January 11 and, 13.  

Nathalie Paulin, soprano, Laura Pudwell, mezzo, Lawrence Wiliford, tenor, and Sumner Thompson, baritone, will be the soloists in Beethoven’s Mass in C with Tafelmusik. The concert at Koerner Hall, January 22 to 25, also includes Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony; the conductor is Kent Nagano (Koerner Hall, January 22 to 25).

On January 25 Emily Klassen, soprano, and Jean-Sebastien Beauvais, countertenor, will sing Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater at St. David’s Anglican Church.

On February 1 Melanie Conly, soprano, will sing Brott, Purcell, Berlioz and Schubert at Heliconian Hall.

And beyond the GTA: Marie-Josée Lord, soprano, will perform songs and melodies from Spain and Latin America at All Saints’ Anglican Church in Peterborough, January 17.

Catherine Carew, mezzo, performs at the Glenn Crombie Theatre, Fleming College, in Lindsay January 18.

Two Postscripts: I enjoyed Opera Atelier’s production of Handel’s Alcina. Most of it was very well sung and Allyson McHardy was spectacular in the role of Ruggiero. I wish though that the company had not advertised it as a Canadian premiere as there was a fully staged and very successful production of the work by the Opera School in the Faculty of Music at the University of Toronto in November 2002. This was with a modern orchestra but Essential Opera also performed the work with a chamber orchestra with period instruments in May 2012.

I have been reading with great pleasure the memoir of Mary Willan Mason, The Well-Tempered Listener: Growing Up with Musical Parents (Words Indeed, 2010). Mason is the daughter of Healey Willan, the composer, organist and choirmaster, and of Gladys (“Nell”) Hall, who had been a distinguished pianist and singer before her marriage. Mason is now 94 and retains a lively interest in musical events in the city. One of the many details in the book that struck me was an account of how during the Depression Evelyn Pamphilon “augmented her piano-teaching income by producing a pamphlet, What’s On, listing local concerts and recitals.” This was clearly a forerunner of The WholeNote. Do any copies survive, I wonder.

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

beat - artsongAdi Braun was born into a distinguished musical family. Her father was the great baritone Victor Braun, who died in 2001 (and who almost certainly crossed paths with this column’s second subject, Aprile Millo, at the Met, in the years following Millo’s debut there in 1985). Not many of Victor Braun’s recordings are at present available but I would recommend the Solti recording of Wagner’s Tannhäuser, in which he sings Wolfram and is easily the finest singer in the cast. Adi Braun’s mother is Eraine Schwing-Braun, a mezzo-soprano who in recent years has taught at the Royal Conservatory and has also acted as German language coach for the Canadian Opera Company. The elder of Adi Braun’s brothers is the now-famous baritone Russell Braun, who is currently appearing as Ford in Verdi’s Falstaff and whom we shall be able to see as Don Giovanni in the spring (both for the COC). The younger of her brothers, Torsten, is the lead singer in the alt-rock band Defective by Design.

Braun’s training was classical and she appeared in productions by the COC and by Opera Atelier. Some years ago, however, she decided to concentrate on singing jazz since she felt that she was able to bring out the essence of the music in ways she could not do in opera or in the art song. This change of field also marked a change from Adreana Braun, the opera singer, to Adi Braun, the jazz vocalist. She performs jazz regularly and now has four CDs to her credit. Her concert on December 6 at the Royal Conservatory of Music is best described as “cabarazz,” a blend of jazz and cabaret. It features the songs of Kurt Weill with pianist Dave Restivo, bassist Pat Collins and drummer Daniel Barnes. Braun gave an earlier version of this recital last season at one of the Richard Bradshaw Auditorium recitals at the Four Seasons Centre. I was at that show and I very much look forward to hearing her again on December 6, a performance which will include some additional songs as well as readings from the correspondence between Weill and his wife, the singer Lotte Lenya.

Braun also maintains a busy teaching schedule through her studio as well as through the RCM. She was formerly a conductor and accompanist with the Canadian Children’s Opera Company and still coaches there. She has succeeded her mother as the German language coach for the COC. This month she is also giving a three-lecture series on the history of cabaret at the RCM November 12, 19 and 26, 6:30 to 8pm.

beat - artsong2Aprile Millo.There is a rare opportunity to hear the soprano Aprile Millo on November 15 at Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre. The collaborative pianist will be Linda Ippolito; guest artists are Mary-Lou Vetere, soprano, Giacomo Folinazzo, tenor, Gustavo Ahauli, baritone and Merynda Adams, harp. The recital will include works by Donaudy, Strauss, Wolf, Verdi, Bellini, Donizetti, Boito and Puccini.

Millo began singing professionally in the late 1970s but her big break came in 1982, when she replaced the indisposed Mirella Freni in the role of Elvira in Verdi’s Ernani. Since then she has become especially famous as an interpreter of Verdi, in I Lombardi alla prima crociata, La battaglia di Legnano, Luisa Miller, Il trovatore, Un ballo in maschera, La forza del destino, Don Carlo, Aida, Simone Boccanegra and Otello. Recordings of many of these operas in which she sings the soprano part are still available on CD as is a recital of Verdi arias (EMI). She has also performed in operas by other composers, notably Puccini’s Tosca, Boito’s Mefistofele, Ponchielli’s La Gioconda, Rossini’s Guillaume Tell as well as the rarely performed verismo opera Zazà by Leoncavallo (you can hear an excerpt of her performance in this work on YouTube).

Critics have often seen Millo as one of the few singers still active who can be placed in a tradition which goes back to Maria Callas and Zinka Milanov, Renata Tebaldi and Magda Olivero. On the other hand, Millo does not see herself as the embodiment of a lost art and she has recently written about her admiration for Anna Netrebko’s singing in Verdi’s Macbeth. Millo is now 56, an age at which many singers think of retirement, but she will have none of that. On her blog she points out that the great Kirsten Flagstad did not find her true voice until she was 39. She herself feels that as a singer she is in the prime of her life and is only now emerging as a true spinto. “Fine wine gets better with time. It was and is supposed to be that way with voice too.”

Millo is also strongly interested in the future of opera. The recital on November 15 will be preceded by a concert in which Millo will present young Canadian singers from the Vetere Studio November 13, also at Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre. This studio is directed by Mary-Lou Vetere, a soprano and a musicologist with a special interest in Italian opera of the late 19th century, who also plays piano and accordion professionally.

beat - artsong3Other Events: The mezzo-soprano Catherine Wyn-Rogers will give two masterclasses (opera on November 3; art song on November 4) as well as a concert with student singers November 5. All in Walter Hall, the events are open to the public and are free of charge.

On November 7 Opera By Request presents the soprano Tsu-Ching Yu will sing works by Clara Schumann, Chaminade, Eric Whitacre, Tchaikovsky and others

The Art of Time Ensemble presents songs and the poems which inspired them (Petrarch/Liszt, T. S. Eliot/Lloyd Webber, Whitman/Crumb, Cohen and others). The reader is Margaret Atwood and the singers are Thom Allison, Gregory Hoskins and Carla Huhtanen at Harbourfront, November 7 and 8.

On November 8 Kira Braun, soprano, will sing works by Schubert, Rachmaninoff and Ravel at Calvin Presbyterian Church. Also on November 8 the baritones Serhiy Danko and Alex Tyssiak will sing with the Vesnivka Choir and the Toronto Ukrainian Male Chamber Choir at Runnymede United Church.

Recitals at Rosedale begins its new season with “A Walk on the Dark Side: Myths, Legends and Fairy Tales.” The works are by Mahler, Debussy, Szymanowski, Weill, Gershwin and others. The singers are Leslie Ann Bradley, soprano, Allyson McHardy, mezzo, and Geoff Sirett, baritone at Rosedale Presbyterian Church, November 9.

Kirsten Fielding, soprano, Scott Belluz, countertenor, Rob Kinar, tenor, and David Roth, baritone, will be the soloists in Bach’s cantata Nur jedem das Seine at St. James Cathedral, November 12; PWYC. Also on November 12, Responsories from the Office of the Dead by Victoria, Lassus and Palestrina, along with Gregorian Chant will be sung, with soloists Richard Whittall, countertenor, Paul Ziade and Jamie Tuttle, tenor, and Sean Nix, bass, at Holy Family Church; free.

Leslie Bickle, soprano, will give a free noontime recital at St. Andrew’s Church on November 14.

The next Tafelmusik concert will present music from the English Baroque. The director is the violinist Pavlo Beznosiuk and the singer will be the American soprano Joélle Harvey, who will perform arias from Handel’s Rinaldo at Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre, November 19 to 23.

Allison Arends, soprano, Christy Derksen, mezzo, Lenard Whiting, tenor, and Jesse Clark, bass, will be the soloists in Bach’s Christmas Oratorio at St. Matthew Catholic Church, Oakville, November 22 and 23. There will be another performance of this work on November 28 at Runnymede United Church with soloists Monica Whicher, soprano, Allyson McHardy, mezzo, Lawrence Wiliford and Colin Ainsworth, tenor, and Russell Braun, baritone

On November 25 Soundstreams presents Vespro della Beata Vergine by Monteverdi and Les Vêpres de la Vierge by Tremblay. The soprano soloist is Shannon Mercer.

The second instalment of the three-part series “International Divas” will take place at Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre on November 27. The singers are Eliana Cuevas, Fern Lindzon, Nathalie, Samidha Joglekar, Chloe Charles and Kathryn Rose.

On November 29 there are a number of concerts to choose from. The Eastman School of Music Bach Chamber Orchestra and Soloists present two cantatas by J. S. Bach, Alles nur nach Gottes Willen and Schwingt freudig euch empor. The soloists are Paulina Swierczek, soprano, Katie Weber, alto, Steven Humes, tenor, and Joel David Balzun, bass at Grace Church on-the-Hill. A performance of C. P. E. Bach’s oratorio Die Israeliten in der Wüste will have as soloists Emily Ding, soprano, Michelle Simmons, mezzo, Alex Wiebe, tenor, and Geoffrey Keating, baritone, at Bloor Street United Church. The soprano Lesley Bouza will perform Rachmaninoff, Chopin, Canteloube and others at Metropolitan United Church. The soloists with the Oakham House Choir in Haydn’s Nelson Mass are Zorana Sadiq, soprano, Adriana Albu, mezzo, Riccardo Iannello, tenor, and Michael York, bass, at Calvin Presbyterian Church.

On December 3 Bach’s cantata Wachet! betet! betet! wachet! will be sung by Erin Bardua, soprano, Christina Stelmacovich, mezzo, Charles Davidson, tenor, and Graham Robinson, baritone at St. James Cathedral, PWYC.

Pax Christi Chorale performs work by Bach and Martin, in which the soloists are Michele Bogdanowicz, mezzo, Sean Clark, tenor, and Doug MacNaughton, baritone at Grace Church on-the Hill, December 6 and 7.

And beyond the GTA: Melanie Conly, soprano, and Bud Roach, tenor, sing Noël Coward, in Grace United Church, Barrie November 9. What may be the first Ontario performance this year of Handel’s Messiah takes place on December 6. The soloists are Jennifer Taverner, soprano, Kimberly Barber, mezzo, Cory Knight, tenor, and Daniel Lichti, bass-baritone  at the Centre in the Square, Kitchener.

And looking ahead: TorontoSummer Music has announced that the mentors in the 2015 Art of Song program will be the soprano Soile Isokoski and the collaborative pianist Martin Katz. Steven Philcox will coordinate and will also act as coach (as he did in 2014).

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

BBB-ArtSong1Soon after the death of the distinguished Welsh contralto Helen Watts, in October 2009, a letter appeared in The Gramophone which argued that Watts’ death signalled the end of the contralto voice since all lower-voiced singers were now mezzos. I think there is some truth in that statement but only some.

First of all, there are a number of singers now who see themselves as contraltos and are generally regarded as such: Anna Larsson, Sara Mingardo, Ewa Podleś, Sonia Prina, Nathalie Stutzmann, Hilary Summers. Second, there is considerable overlap between the mezzo and contralto voice. (I am not now thinking of high mezzos such as Cecilia Bartoli and Magdalena Koźená, who could equally well be described as second sopranos, but have in mind a dark voice like that of the very fine English mezzo Sarah Connolly.) Anna Larsson made her international debut in the lower solo part in Mahler’s Second Symphony, a part which in the past has been sung by Stutzmann and by Maureen Forrester. Yet many mezzos have sung and recorded it: Connolly, Bernarda Fink, Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, Christa Ludwig, Jard van Nes, Christianne Stotijn and, of course, Janet Baker. On the other hand, Larsson has recorded the role of Kundry in Wagner’s Parsifal, a part nobody would think of as a role for contraltos.

And then voices may change: I first heard Baker, on records and on the radio, in the early 1960s and it seemed to me then that she represented the natural successor to Kathleen Ferrier. Such a statement must seem absurd now but I am not sure that it was absurd 50 years ago. Baker extended the higher range of her voice over the years and in the end even sang soprano parts (although they were generally transposed down). If a singer extends her range at the top, she is bound to lose part of her bottom range.

Marie-Nicole Lemieux: These reflections lead to a reminder that one of the great contraltos of our time, Marie-Nicole Lemieux , will be in Toronto soon. She is singing Mistress Quickly in Verdi’s Falstaff, in a series of performances with the Canadian Opera Company, beginning on October 3. Lemieux received her training in Chicoutimi and Montreal. She first came to international notice when she received First Prize as well as the Special Prize for Lieder at the Queen Elizabeth Competition in Brussels in 2000. She made her operatic debut in Toronto in April 2002, when she sang Cornelia in Handel’s Giulio Cesare. She is especially distinguished for her work in baroque opera (Monteverdi, Handel, Vivaldi), for which her strong but agile voice is eminently suitable, but she also sings later opera. Lemieux has sung the role of Mistress Quickly (a mezzo part!) many times: at Covent Garden, at La Scala, in Paris and in Montreal. She is also a fine singer of German lieder and French chansons as shown by her recordings of Brahms, of Schumann’s Frauenliebe und-Leben and, in L’heure exquise, a recording of songs by Hahn, Chausson, Debussy and Enescu.

Canadian Opera Company: lunchtime vocal recitals at the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre in the Four Seasons Centre continue apace! On October 2 arias and ensembles from operas based on Shakespeare will be sung by students at the University of Toronto’s Opera Division; on October 7 Colin Ainsworth, tenor, and Stephen Ralls, piano, will perform three song cycles by Derek Holman; Jean-Philippe Fortier-Lazure, tenor, and Iain MacNeil, baritone, will sing Fauré and Mahler on October 9; singers and dancers from Opera Atelier will perform excerpts from Handel’s Alcina on October 14; artists of the COC production of Falstaff will perform art songs on October 23. All of these concerts are free.

A busy October 4: There are several concerts on October 4: Suba Sankaran is the singer in a presentation which will show how global traditions can be and have been integrated into Canadian new music (Canadian Music Centre). Voice and Collaborative Piano students from the University of Toronto will illustrate the interaction between poetical and musical language in the classical art song (Edward Johnson Building). Both are free as part of Scotiabank Nuit Blanche. Allison Angelo, soprano, and Geoffrey Sirett, baritone, will be the singers in a concert commemorating the Great War (St. Andrew’s Church). Emily D’Angelo will be the soprano soloist with the Greater Toronto Philharmonic Orchestra at Calvin Presbyterian Church.

International Divas is an ambitious three-concert series (world, folk, roots, jazz, classics) in natural acoustics. The first of these will take place on October 5 at Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre and will feature the voices of Jackie Richardson, Laila Biali, Luanda Jones, Cindy Church, Saina Singer and Patricia Cano. The other instalments will follow on November 27 and December 21.

Two by Arends: On October 11 Allison Arends, soprano, will sing at Montgomery’s Inn. She will join Barbara Fris, soprano, and others, in a Heliconian Club program of music from Jane Austen’s family collection, at Heliconian Hall, October 17.

BBB-ArtSong2Last but not least: “Songs of Peace and Protest” will be presented by singers/songwriters James Gordon, Evalyn Parry, Len Wallace, Faith Nolan, Mick Lane and Tony Quarrington at Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre, October 18.

There will be three free midday concerts by vocal students at Tribute Communities Hall, Accolade East Building, York University October 21, 23 and 28.

Katherine Hill, Thomas Baeté and Joe Carew will be the vocal soloists in a program that includes songs by Rogers, Purcell and Brassens as well as 14th- and 15th-century Italian polyphony at St. Bartholomew’s Anglican Church, October 26.

Also on October 26, Allison Angelo, soprano, will sing with Giles Tomkins, baritone, in Off Centre Music Salon’s 20th annual Schubertiad at Glenn Gould Studio.

On October 28 and 29 the Talisker Players present “Songs of Travel,” music by Applebaum, de la Guerre, Vaughan Williams and Weigl, with readings from the journals of explorers. The singers are Virginia Hatfield, soprano, and Geoffrey Sirett, baritone at Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre.

Catherine Wyn-Rogers, mezzo, Stuart Skelton, tenor, and John Relyea, bass-baritone, will be the soloists in the performance of Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra with the Elmer Iseler Singers and the Amadeus Choir, at Roy Thomson Hall October 30 and November 1.

The tenor Michael Ciufo will sing at St. John’s United Church on November 1. You will also be able to hear Ciufo, along with the soprano Beatrice Carpino, in a concert given by the Ontario Christian Music Assembly Choirs at Roy Thomson Hall November 7.

Not to be missed, as part of the ongoing Ukrainian Art Song Project, music from Galicia will be sung by a top-flight group of singers (Monica Whicher, soprano, Krisztina Szabó, mezzo, Russell Braun, baritone, and Pavlo Hunka, bass-baritone) at Koerner Hall November 2.

The Art of Time Ensemble presents a program of poems and their musical settings: Petrarch/Liszt, Eliot/Lloyd Webber, Whitman/Crumb, Leonard Cohen. The reader is Margaret Atwood and the singers are Thom Allison, Gregory Hoskins and Carla Huhtanen at Harbourfront November 7 and 8.

And beyond the GTA: Daniel Lichti, bass-baritone, will sing in a free noon-time concert at the Maureen Forrester Recital Hall, Wilfred Laurier University on October 9. The countertenor Daniel Cabena will sing in a free noon-time recital at the University of Guelph’s MacKinnon Room November 6.

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


features - art of songSong recitals are a thing of the past, we are told; the audiences just don’t exist any more. But perhaps that statement is premature. I can think of several recent events which suggest that there is still life there. The first was the July 20 recital in which Daniel Lichti sang Schubert’s Winterreise. The Heliconian Hall was not full but the size of the audience was respectable. I wrote about Lichti in June, so I shall only add that his singing was just as fine as I had expected.

The second was an August 6 recital given by baritone Christopher Maltman and pianist Graham Johnson to a near-capacity (and very enthusiastic) Walter Hall audience. One thing that struck me about both recitals was their seriousness: no crossover items, no vacuous chitchat. Maltman’s recital was a commemoration of the start of the Great War. The songs of George Butterworth and Ivor Gurney were central but there were other songs about war, such as the excerpts from Mahler’s Des Knaben Wunderhorn and the song from Mussorgsky’s Songs and Dances of Death. Maltman introduced the program by reading a moving poem by Wilfred Owen but he provided nothing that was extraneous to the musical experience.

The Maltman recital was part of Toronto Summer Music, which offers not only concerts by established musicians but also the Toronto Summer Music Academy, which this year provided opportunity to eight singers and five collaborative pianists. (There is a similar program for instrumentalists.) On August 8 we were able to hear all 13 performers. The standard was high: a testament not only to the innate musicality of the artists but also to the quality of the teaching (from François Le Roux and Graham Johnson, and from Christopher Newton and Steven Philcox). I thought the best of the young singers was the mezzo Evanna Chiew but there were also fine performances from Jin Xiang Yu, soprano, and Jean-Philippe McClish, baritone. Among the able accompanists, Brian Locke stood out. There was an added bonus in that we also heard the lovely violist Ryan Davis in Brahms’ Songs, Op.91.

Meanwhile I look forward to next season, in particular to another performance of Winterreise, to be sung by baritone Christian Gerhaher (February 26), to the recital by Anne Sofie von Otter, mezzo, and Angela Hewitt, piano (January 9), to the Toronto debuts of the baritone Elliot Madore (March 26) and mezzo Christianne Stotijn  (April 16) and to the Kurt Weill recital by Adi Braun (December 6).

Upcoming Events in the GTA:

September 5 to 7, The Muted Note offers songs and dances based on the poetry of P.K. Page at The Citadel and September 27 at Gerrard Art Space .

Linda Condy, mezzo, will be the singer in a free recital titled It’s Easy Being Green at Yorkminster Baptist Church on September 16 at 12 noon, donations welcome.

The first recital in the noon series at the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre in the Four Seasons Centre will be a concert by the new members of the Canadian Opera Company Ensemble Studio on September 23. It will be followed, on October 2, by a concert of arias and ensembles based on Shakespeare’s plays, performed by students of the University of Toronto Opera Division, and, on October 7, by three song cycles by Derek Holman (The Death of Orpheus, A Lasting Spring, A Play of Passion) to be performed by Colin Ainsworth, tenor, and Stephen Ralls, piano. These concerts are free.

features - art of song2Last year much was made of the centenary of the birth of Benjamin Britten and the bicentenary of the births of Richard Wagner and Giuseppe Verdi. By contrast, the tri-centenary of the birth of Christoph Willibald von Gluck is now passing without notice (as is that of C.P.E. Bach). But there is one exception: Essential Opera is giving us Gluck’s rarely heard Paride ed Elena with Lyndsay Promane, mezzo, and Erin Bardua, soprano, in the title roles. The opera is staged and is performed with piano accompaniment at Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre, September 27 at 8pm; there will be another performance in Kitchener at the Registry Theatre on October 1 at 7:30pm.

Katherine Hill will be the soprano soloist in the Ensemble Polaris concert of Back to the Future: New Tunes from Sweden at 918 Bathurst Street on October 3.

On October 4 the soprano Emily D’Angelo will sing arias by Handel, Gounod and Rossini with the Greater Toronto Philharmonic at Calvin Presbyterian Church.

And beyond the GTA:

Chris Ness, piano, and Janet Ness, vocals, will perform works by Gershwin, Porter and Kern at Grace United Church, Barrie; September 10.

Daniel Lichti, bass-baritone, will be the soloist with the Nota Bene Baroque Players and Alison Melville, traverso, on September 18 at noon. On September 25, also at noon, the tenor James McLean and pianist Lorin Shalanko will perform. Both concerts are free, at the Maureen Forrester Recital Hall, Wilfred Laurier University, Waterloo.

On September 14 at 2pm, Charlotte Knight, soprano, and Jonathan Dick, baritone, will perform Schubert’s Der Hirt auf dem Felsen as well as songs by Argento and Bolcom and selections from My Fair Lady and The Phantom of the Opera. Michele Jacot is the clarinet soloist in the Schubert at Silver Spire United Church, St. Catharines.

On September 15, the Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber Music Society will present a concert in which the main work is Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire. The soprano soloist is Rachel Krehm at the KWCMS Music Room, Waterloo.

There will be a tribute to one of our most distinguished, and certainly our most inventive, living composer R. Murray Schafer, in The Barn at Campbellford on September 21 at 2pm. Donna Bennett, soprano, and Eleanor James, mezzo, will sing. The host will be Ben Heppner.

Two Postscripts: In 2012/13 the outstanding musical event was the Janáček-Kurtág double bill presented by Against the Grain Theatre. After that there was a modern adaptation of Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro, which I thought was splendid in some parts, less successful in others. But their latest offering this past June, Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande, was a triumph. It is an opera I am very fond of but I have never seen a production which was as imaginative and which was sung with the intensity that these performers brought to it.

In June I reviewed a new CD of Telemann’s opera Miraways. Since its publication Scott Paterson has pointed out to me that the main theme of one of its arias (“Ein doppler Kranz”) reappears in an instrumental trio by Handel. The opera dates from 1728; the Handel trio probably from the early 1740s. Much has been written about Handel’s borrowings but, as far as I am aware, this particular borrowing has not been noted before.  

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


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