Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem! Praise thy God, O Zion!

—Psalm 147

Allah, May He Be Praised, said of Jerusalem: You are my Garden of Eden, my hallowed and chosen land.

—Ka’ab al-Ahbar

I will not cease from mental fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand,
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England’s green and pleasant land.

—William Blake

And come forth from the cloud of unknowing
And kiss the cheek of the moon
The New Jerusalem glowing

—Leonard Cohen

artofsong kiya tabassianJerusalem is sacred to three faiths: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. On January 27 at 3pm, in Koerner Hall, Soundstreams will explore music and poetry centering on the city of Jerusalem. The singer will be Françoise Atlan, who was born in a Sephardic family in France but now lives in Morocco. She has performed and recorded several kinds of medieval music: Sephardic, Arabic and Spanish. In the Soundstreams concert she will perform Sephardic songs as well as a new work by James Rolfe. Persian music will be represented by the setar playing of Kiya Tabassian, a musician born in Iran, who now lives in Montreal. As for the Christian tradition, there will be a performance of Claudio Monteverdi’s motet Lauda Jerusalem, Dominum, a setting of Psalm 147. There will also be poetry readings from Blake, Cohen and John Asfour as well as new poetry by André Alexis. The musical direction will be in the hands of David Fallis, well known to Toronto readers as the artistic director of the Toronto Consort and the musical director of Opera Atelier.

artofsong francoise-atlan-070-alan-keohaneAround the venues: The Aldeburgh Connection will present its season’s second concert, “Madame Bizet,” December 2. The performers are Nathalie Paulin, soprano, and Brett Polegato, baritone, with readings by Fiona Reid and Mike Shara. The music is by Bizet, Debussy, Ravel and Hahn. The third concert in the series will take place January 27. Its title, “Valse des Fleurs,” is an allusion to Sacheverell Sitwell’s evocation of Imperial Russia. In this concert the singers are Leslie Ann Bradley, soprano, Anita Krause, mezzo, and Andrew Haji, tenor (with readings by Ben Carlson). The music is by Glinka, Borodin, Mussorgsky and Tchaikovsky. Both concerts are at Walter Hall at 2:30pm.

The Canadian Opera Company announces three free concerts in its Vocal Series: “GrimmFest,” arias and duets inspired by the Brothers Grimm, December 4; music by Mozart and Salieri, January 8; songs on the theme of travel and homeland, January 24. All three concerts are in the Richard Bradshaw Auditorium in the Four Seasons Centre at 12 noon.

Opera Five presents “Waking up the Senses,” with works by Hindemith, Rachmaninoff, and Granger at Gallery 345, December 4, 5 and 6 at 7:30pm.

There will be a recital of French carols and other Christmas music with singers Aurélie Cormier, mezzo, and Bruno Cormier, baritone, a freewill offering at the Newman Centre on December 7 at 7:30pm.

At the Heliconian Hall on December 8 at 7:00pm, Carla Huhtanen, soprano, and Heidi Saario, piano, will perform Finnish songs from Sibelius to Saariaho.

Also at the Heliconian Hall, on December 16 at 2:00pm Jacqueline Gélineau, contralto, and Brahm Goldhamer, piano, with John Holland, baritone, and Darlene Shura, soprano, will perform works by Brahms, Reichenauer and Handel.

Bravissimo: On December 31 at 7:00pm at Roy Thomson Hall you can hear “Bravissimo,” an anthology of opera’s greatest hits ranging from Don Giovanni to La Bohème. Two of the soloists are Canadian, the tenor Gordon Gietz and the baritone Gregory Dahl. The others are the Spanish soprano Davinia Rodriguez, the Italian mezzo Annalisa Stroppa and the Korean tenor Ho-Yoon Chung. I remember Dahl from a fine performance in Britten’s Paul Bunyan when he was still a student at the University of Toronto Opera School; Gietz made his debut at the Met in the role of the Nose in Shostakovitch’s opera of that name (I suppose we can call it the title role). On New Year’s Day at 2:30pm, also at Roy Thomson Hall, there will be a performance of “A Salute to Vienna,” with soprano Elena Dediu and tenor Alexandru Badia as soloists.

artofsongoption laylaclaire credit lisamariemazzuccoLayla Claire: Every January at Roy Thomson Hall the TSO presents a mini-Mozart Festival. This year the series is titled “Mozart At 257” and will include two concerts with the soprano Layla Claire. On January 9 at 6:30pm, Claire will sing Susanna’s recitative from The Marriage of Figaro,“Giunse alfin il momento,” but she will then not go on to the aria “Deh vieni non tardar,” but will substitute the aria which Mozart wrote for the 1789 revival of the opera: “Al desio di chi t’adora.” In the January 10 concert at 2pm, she will also sing an aria from La Finta Giardiniera. The “Alleluia” from “Exsultate Jubilate” will be part of both concerts. Claire is a Canadian singer (she was born in Penticton, B.C.), who studied in Montreal and now lives in New York City.

Mad Dogs and more: On January 13 at 3pm the Talisker Players will present “Mad Dogs and Englishmen: the Noel Coward Songbook” at Trinity St. Paul’s Centre. Also on January 13, at 6:30pm, Ariel Harwood-Jones will give a recital as a Prelude to Evensong, a freewill offering at St. Thomas’s Church.

There will be a free recital by voice students at York University January 18 at 1:30pm in the Martin Family Lounge, Room 219 Accolade East Building.

Monica Whicher, soprano, Liz Upchurch, piano, and Marie Bérard, violin, will perform a program of English-language songs by British, American and Canadian composers at 8pm on January 27 in the Mazzoleni Concert Hall.

The soprano Angela Meade will be the soloist in a performance of Richard Strauss’ Four Last Songs with the Ontario Philharmonic, conducted by Marco Parisotto. The concert, in Koerner Hall at 8pm on January 20, will also include Bruckner’s Fourth Symphony. And Adrienne Pieczonka performs the same work with the Hamilton Philharmonic led by James Sommerville on December 15 at 7:30pm in Hamilton Place.

On February 2 at 7:30pm in the Mazzoleni Concert Hall, the Glenn Gould School presents a concert in which voice students at the school perform art songs and arias.

And beyond the GTA: Anne Morrone, soprano, Marianne Sasso, mezzo, Anthony Macri, tenor, and Ian Amirthanathan, baritone, will be the soloists in a Christmas Concert December 14 at 7:30pm at St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church, Nobleton.

A postscript: I always have an eye (and two ears) open for newly emerging singers and it gave me great pleasure to attend the double bill offered by the Glenn Gould School at the Royal Conservatory on November 16. The works were the modernist Three Sisters Who Are Not Sisters by Ned Rorem (libretto by Gertrude Stein) and the romantic Le Lauréat by Joseph Vézina. The latter work was written in 1906 (it is an opéra comique with spoken dialogue but with arias and duets which reminded me of Puccini); the production was updated to the 1960s. The casts in both works were accomplished and there were especially fine performances by the soprano Lucy Fitz Gibbon and the mezzo Ekaterina Utochkina. In February the Glenn Gould School will mount its annual production of a full-length opera. This year it will be Mozart’s Don Giovanni and that will be something to look forward to. 

Hans de Groot taught English Literature at the University of Toronto from 1965 until the spring of 2012, and has been a concert-goer and active listener since the early 1950s; he also sings and plays recorder. He can be contacted at

As the latin epigram has it, Poeta nascitur, non fit: “a poet is born, not made.” Is that also true of singers? Up to a point, yes. When one hears outstanding artists like Karina Gauvin or Colin Ainsworth, one senses that there is an innate musicality which would simply have to come out. Yet a young raw talent will not be ready for a solo career, not even Ainsworth (who studied with Darryl Edwards) or Gauvin (who while still a teenager studied with Catherine Robbin, later with Marie Daveluy in Montreal and Pamela Bowden in Glasgow).

24-25-artofsong-nielsenThere are several institutions in Toronto and elsewhere in Ontario that offer training to young singers. In the Faculty of Music at the University of Toronto, Darryl Edwards is the head of voice studies and Lorna MacDonald holds the Lois Marshall chair. The university directory lists another ten voice instructors; they include a very senior figure in Mary Morrison along with well-known musicians such as Jean MacPhail and Nathalie Paulin. There are also teachers of diction and pianists who provide vocal coaching. One will be able to get a sense of what the university offers in the Tuesday performance classes for singers in the Edward Johnson Building on November 6, 20, 27 and December 4 at Walter Hall from 12:10pm to 1pm and also in the masterclasses with Edith Wiens in the Macmillan Theatre November 5 from 4pm to 6pm and Adrianne Pieczonka in Walter Hall (art songs November 14 at 7pm; operatic arias on November 15 at noon).

York University also has an extensive teaching program for singers. Catherine Robbin is the director of the classical voice studies program and other teachers include Stephanie Bogle, Norma Burrowes and Janet Obermeyer. On November 20 baritone Peter McGillivray will give a masterclass from 11:30am to 2:30pm and he will be followed by soprano Wendy Nielsen on November 23 from 11:30am to 4pm. Both events will be at the Tribute Communities Recital Hall, Accolade East Building.

Other strong music faculties in Ontario are those of Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo (Kimberley Barber, Leslie Fagan, Brandon Leis, Daniel Lichti) and the University of Western Ontario in London (Gwenlynn Little, Anita Krause, Frédérique Vézina and many others). In London there will be workshops for singers and vocal masterclasses on November 2, 9, 16, 23 and 30 in Talbot College, Room 100 at 1:30pm, a voice studio recital by Gloria Gassi on November 9 at 6pm and a masterclass with Adrianne Pieczonka on December 1 from noon to 2pm, both events in von Kuster Hall, UWO Music Building.

Not all singers go through a university degree in music. Isabel Bayrakdarian, who has a degree in engineering, studied with MacPhail, her first and only teacher. MacPhail has a very impressive teaching record: Wallis Giunta was another of her students and it was MacPhail who turned Giunta, an aspiring soprano, into a mezzo. She also taught Miriam Khalil and, among the most recent generation of singers, Erin Bardua, Beste Kalender, Sara Schabas and Taylor Strande.

A complaint I have heard from voice students is that academic programs are often so dominated by the requirements of the curriculum that there is not enough time for vocal technique or points of interpretation. Clearly there is a lot to be said for the sustained pupil-teacher relationship that Gauvin enjoyed with Robbin or Bayrakdarian with MacPhail. An alternative to study in a university program (or possibly a supplement) is offered by the Glenn Gould School at the Royal Conservatory. Here teachers include MacPhail (of course) and many other distinguished artists such as Ann Monoyios, Roxolana Roslak and Monica Whicher. Vocal coaching is provided by Rachel Andrist and Brahm Goldhamer. Some indication of the quality of advanced students will be given this month by an evening of opera on November 16 and 17 in Mazzoleni Concert Hall at 7:30pm. (Later this season there will be a concert of opera arias and songs on February 2 in Mazzoleni Concert Hall as well as the annual staged opera in Koerner Hall on March 20 and 22).

What happens after a music degree or a conservatory diploma? Toronto Summer Music and the Toronto Summer Opera Lyric Theatre and Research Centre offer further training as does the graduate diploma program offered by the Opera School at the University of Toronto. Some of the best young singers will be able to enter the Ensemble Studio of the Canadian Opera Company. The Aldeburgh Connection and Opera in Concert will always be looking for emerging talents; amateur choirs will need soloists. Yet the road towards a full-time professional career is not always easy, even for the most talented singers. One hopes that newly emerging singers will not have to go to Europe to have a career as has happened in the past with Lilian Sukis, James McLean and (until recently) Adrianne Pieczonka.

Some other events

On November 8 at 2pm Annamaria Eisler will perform a free concert of songs by Marlene Dietrich at the Toronto Public Library, 40 Orchard Blvd.

On November 16 artists of the U of T Faculty of Music with guest Adrianne Pieczonka, soprano, will present “An Evening of Song,” a free concert at 7:30pm in Walter Hall.

At the Glenn Gould Studio on November 18 Off Centre Music Salon presents “American Salon: Syncopated City – The Magic of New York,” with works by Sondheim, Gershwin, Bernstein and others, with soloists Sarah Halmarson and Ilana Zarankin, sopranos, and Vasil Garvanliev, baritone.

There will be a free concert at Walter Hall at 12:10pm on November 22. Lorna MacDonald soprano, with Susan Hoeppner, flute, Stephen Philcox, piano, and Peter Stoll, clarinet, will perform music by Gaveux, Roussel, Beckwith, Hoiby, Corigliano and Cook.

On November 25 at 2pm in Mazzoleni Concert Hall, Carla Huhtanen will be one of the soloists in a concert performance of Brian Current’s opera-oratorio Airline Icarus. (See cover story.)

Also on November 25 Danielle Dudycha, soprano, and Martin Dubé, piano, will perform works by Rachmaninoff, Poulenc, Dvorak, de Falla and Duparc at Gallery 345 at 8pm.

On November 28 John Holland, baritone, and William Shookhoff, piano, will perform works by Ravel, Donizetti, Dvorak, Mozart and others at 7:30pm in the Heliconian Hall.

On November 29 from 6pm to 8pm the Canadian Opera Company will hold its second Annual Ensemble Studio Competition in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre.

The Messiah season will be upon us in December but the Elmer Iseler Singers are anticipating the annual flood by presenting their performance on November 30 in the Metropolitan United Church at 8pm. The soloists will be Leslie Fagan, Lynne McMurtry, Colin Ainsworth and Geoffrey Sirett.

In Walter Hall on December 2 at 2:30pm the Aldeburgh Connection will be giving its second concert of the season with “Madame Bizet: from Carmen to Proust.” The singers are Nathalie Paulin and Brett Polegato.

On December 2 Carolyn Hague, soprano, and Marie-Line Ross, piano, will perform songs from musical theatre and from the classical repertoire in the Heliconian Hall at 2pm.

On December 4 the Canadian Opera Company, in its free vocal series, will present arias and duets inspired by the Brothers Grimm in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre at 12 noon.

On December 7 at 7:30pm Aurélie Cormier, soprano, and Bruno Cormier, baritone, will offer a free recital of French carols and other Christmas music at the Newman Centre.

And beyond the GTA

On November 8 at noon Patricia Green, mezzo-soprano, will be the soloist in a free program of love songs by Canadian composers in the Goldschmidt Room, 107 MacKinnon Building, University of Guelph.

On November 25 Monica Whicher, soprano, and Judy Loman, harp, will give a concert at Trinity United Church in Huntsville at 2pm. 

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

What is a song? When I started these columns, I realized that I had to make some attempt to decide what to include and what to exclude. I decided that opera, whether staged or in concert, was not part of my beat, although I could include vocal recitals that contained arias as well as songs. Similarly with choral music: it belongs in Benjamin Stein’s column, but I might talk about vocal soloists in such concerts (and have done so). Yet it was clear to me that the main emphasis should fall on songs (Purcell, Britten), lieder (Schubert, Wolf), chansons (Fauré, Poulenc).

The Aldeburgh Connection: We are lucky in Toronto to have the Aldeburgh Connection, an organization founded and led by Stephen Ralls and Bruce Ubukata, pianists who first met when they coached at the Britten-Pears School in Aldeburgh on England’s east coast. Subsequently, they founded the Aldeburgh Connection, which had its first concert in 1982. Over the years many distinguished singers have performed with the group and many young singers have sung there at an early stage in their careers. The performers have always been Canadians. Programs are never a series of individual items thrown together; they are always carefully constructed around a central theme. This season begins with “The Lyre of Orpheus: Robertson Davies and Music,” a program of works that Davies referred to in his novels or that he liked to sing and play. The soloists will be Miriam Khalil, soprano, Allyson McHardy, mezzo-soprano, and Geoffrey Sirett, baritone at Walter Hall, Edward Johnson Building, October 21.

We can also look forward to their concerts later this season: “Madame Bizet” in December, “Valse des fleurs: Music in Imperial Russia” in January and the annual Greta Kraus Schubertiad in March.

One of the singers who has performed with the Aldeburgh Connection is the soprano Shannon Mercer. You will be able to hear her this month in a concert of contemporary music given by Soundstreams, in which she will sing Analia Llugdar’s Sentir de Cacerolas and Fuhong Shi’s The Mountain Spirit at Koerner Hall. This may be your last chance to hear Mercer in 2012, since, immediately after this concert, she will start a European tour with the Queen of Puddings Music Theatre in a series of performances of Ana Sokolovic’s Svadba (The Wedding). Butshe will be back in the spring and one of the events in which she will sing is a Benjamin Britten concert with, you guessed it, the Aldeburgh Connection, May 7; it’s part of a series of three concerts titled “A Britten Festival of Song.”

Canadian Voices: Although it is regrettable that Koerner Hall no longer has a vocal series, we can welcome “Canadian Voices,” a series at the Glenn Gould Studio mounted by Roy Thomson Hall, now in its second year. These concerts are designed to showcase young Canadian singers and are therefore a perfect complement to the series presented by the Aldeburgh Connection, although they would seem to be concerned more with singers who have an established reputation. By contrast, Ralls and Ubukata are always careful to balance well-known singers with emerging talents.

art of song phillip addis option 2The first concert in the “Canadian Voices” series will be performed on October 28 at 2pm by Phillip Addis, baritone, and Emily Hamper, piano. The program includes Ravel’s Histoires naturelles, Vaughan Williams’ Songs of Travel, four songs from Op.38 by Tchaikovsky, Fauré’s L’Horizon chimérique and three folksong arrangements by Benjamin Britten. Addis is coming off a very busy and very successful season: in September 2011 he performed Count Almaviva in Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro with l’Opéra de Montréal; this was followed by a performance of the title role in Mozart’s Don Giovanni for Opera Atelier in Toronto in October; in March he sang Roderick Usher in Debussy’s Fall of the House of Usher in Paris and this was followed by another Debussy role, that of Pelléas in Pelléas et Mélisande, in a concert performance in London. That was in July and in that month he also sang Demetrius in Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream in Rome.

There will be three further concerts in this series later this season: David Pomeroy, tenor, will sing on February 24 and he will be followed by two mezzo-sopranos, Wallis Giunta, on March 24 and Allyson McHardy on April 14. These three singers are all former members of the Canadian Opera Company Ensemble Studio. Like Addis, they are largely known for their work in opera and it will be interesting to hear them in recital. Pomeroy is world famous for his portrayal of the leading tenor roles in 19th century opera: Hoffmann (Offenbach), Faust (Gounod), Alfredo and the Duke of Mantua (Verdi), Rodolfo and Cavaradossi (Puccini). But he has also performed in lesser known works such as The Two Widows by Smetana and The House of the Dead by Janáček (in a memorable production mounted by the COC in February 2008). Giunta sang Cherubino in Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro in Fort Worth last year and she will be singing the role of Annio in another Mozart opera, La clemenza di Tito, for the COC later this year. I first heard McHardy in 1997, as the Drummer Girl in Ullmann’s The Emperor of Atlantis, a performance of which I have a very vivid memory. Last year she sang Juno and Ino in Handel’s Semele for the COC. She also performed the title role in Bizet’s Carmen for Pacific Opera in Victoria. (Now that is something I would like to have seen!) In December she will sing the alto part in the Tafelmusik Messiah.

Other events in the GTA: On two consecutive Thursdays the University of Toronto, Faculty of Music, will present two performance classes for singers at Walter Hall. On October 11 at 12:10pm soprano Elizabeth MacDonald and pianist Steven Philcox perform “Women on the Verge,” with music by Mozart, Liszt, Schubert, Duparc and Libby Larsen. On October 18 in the Music Room, Hart House, there will be two performances of “Opera Scenes: Songs of Love and War” at 1pm and 7:30pm. Leigh-Anne Martin, mezzo-soprano, will be one of the soloists in a concert given in memory of Gustav Ciamaga, also at Walter Hall. Admission to these events is free.

The Canadian Opera Company has announced three events for October in its Vocal Series: on October 3 Sandra Horst and Michael Albano offer a preview of the 2012/13 season of the University of Toronto’s Opera Division; on October 11 members of the COC Ensemble Studio will perform highlights from Johann Strauss’ Die Fledermaus; on October 16 Ileana Montalbetti, soprano, Peter Barrett and James Westman, baritones, and Robert Gleadow, bass, all former members of the COC Ensemble Studio, will perform. These free concerts are in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre at the Four Seasons Centre at noon

On October 11 Tafelmusik will team up with the Vesuvius Ensemble in “Bella Napoli,” a combination of refined concertos and traditional Southern Italian music. Francesco Pellegrino will be the tenor soloist at Trinity-St Paul’s Centre at 8pm; to be repeated on October 12 and 13, also at 8pm, and on October 14 at 3:30pm.

The Royal Conservatory presents a series of seven concerts in Koerner Hall called “Montréal à Toronto” (MàT). The first of these, one of three in a mini-series titled in impeccable Franglais, “Chansongs,” is given by two Canadian singer-songwriters, francophone Mario Chenart and anglophone Elizabeth Shepherd, on October 12 at 8pm. Next in the MàT series, on October 28 at 3pm, is a recital by Marie-Josée Lord, a soprano born in Haiti who grew up in Lévis and now lives in Montreal.

Two vocal concerts have been announced at Gallery 345, 345 Sorauren Ave.: on October 12 at 8pm Donna Linklater, soprano, is the soloist in a program of music by Weill; on November 2 at 8pm Leigh-Ann Allen, soprano, and Michelle Garlough, mezzo-soprano, will sing in “Lovers and Coquettes: An Evening of Opera and Song.”

On October 14 the Off Centre Music Salon kicks off its season with its “Annual Schubertiad.” Soloists Allison Angelo, soprano, and Lawrence Wiliford, tenor, perform at Glenn Gould Studio at 2pm.

Several of the “Music at Midday” concerts at York University will feature vocal music. In “Singing our Songs,” arias and lieder are performed by classical voice students, October 23, 25, 30, and there is a masterclass with James Westman October 26. These free events are in the Tribute Communities Recital Hall, Accolade East, at 12:30pm.

On October 30 the Talisker Players will present a concert of music by Barab, Füssl, Handel, Plant, Rubbra and Weill with soloists Anita Krause, mezzo-soprano, and Lawrence Williford, tenor, at Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre, 8pm; the concert is repeated on November 1.

And beyond the GTA: The “Music at Noon” series at Wilfred Laurier University’s Maureen Forester Recital Hall includes three free vocal concerts: Kimberly Barber will be the soloist in the first two on October 4 and 11; Jennifer Enns-Modolo will perform in the third on the 18th.

Penelope, a song cycle based on the Odyssey, composed by Sarah Kirkland Snider and with lyrics by Ellen McLaughlin, will be performed by the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony with soloist Shara Worden, at the Conrad Centre for the Performing Arts, October 11 and 12 at 7:30pm.

On October 24 at 8pm, arecital by Suzie LeBlanc, soprano, and Robert Kortgaard, piano, “‘Tis the Last Rose of Summer,” consisting of music ranging from Schubert to Gershwin, will take place in the Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber Music Society Music Room, Waterloo.

A postscript: A few weeks ago my 11-year-old daughter Saskia (herself a singer and a member of the Canadian Children’s Opera Company) dragged me off to a pop concert sponsored by KiSS 92.5. Although I disliked the way the DJs whipped up the audience — mainly very young girls — into a frenzy, I found that I actually liked some of the songs. They certainly represent a different take on the Art of Song. 

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

September is never the best month for vocal concerts: the summer festivals have come and gone and the regular series that take place in the fall may not have started yet. Nevertheless there are some interesting concerts coming up:

COC Vocal Series:The 2012/2013 free lunchtime concerts at the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre, Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, will begin on September 18. The first, kicking off the Vocal Series, will be given by members of the Canadian Opera Company Ensemble Studio who will be singing their favourite arias. For the second concert in that series, artists of the U of T Opera Division will perform highlights from some of the best-loved operas by Britten, Donizetti, Offenbach and von Flotow on October 3.

At the festivals:On September 21 at 8pm, a concert will be given as part of the SweetWater Music Festival at Leith Church, in the hamlet of Leith near Owen Sound. The concert is billed as “Early Music” and will include music by Biber and Telemann, but also Dover Beach, the song cycle for medium voice and string quartet which Samuel Barber composed in 1931, to the text of Matthew Arnold’s poem of the same name. Over the years the baritone part has been sung and recorded by many distinguished singers such as Thomas Allen, Gerald Finley, Thomas Hampson and Thomas Stewart. Barber himself was a baritone and his recording of the work is also available on CD. The baritone soloist at Leith will be Philippe Sly, who is at present a member of the Ensemble Studio of the Canadian Opera Company. He is to sing Guglielmo in Mozart’s Così fan tutte for the San Francisco Opera next June.

artofsong virginiahatfield photo  2 courtesy of domoney artistsThe tenth Colours of Music festival kicks off in Barrie on September 21 and includes several vocal concerts. On September 22 at 7:30pm, Virginia Hatfield, soprano, Kristina Szabó, mezzo-soprano, and Giles Tompkins, baritone, are the soloists in “Night at the Opera,” featuring music by Mozart, Puccini and Gershwin; on September 27 at 2:30pm, mezzo-soprano Leigh-Anne Martin will be the soloist in a concert of music by Mozart, Brahms, Spohr and Gershwin; and on the 30th at 7:30pm, there will be a concert of music by Ivor Novello and Noel Coward with soprano Hatfield and baritone James Levesque. All these concerts will take place at Barrie’s Burton Avenue United Church.

At Picton’s Prince Edward County Music Festival, soprano Ellen Wieser will perform another Barber work, the Hermit Songs of 1953, a setting of English translations of Irish medieval songs. The concert, which is on September 22 at 7:30pm, at the Church of St Mary Magdalene. will also include works by César Franck and Marjan Mozetich. If you want to sample Wieser’s voice, go to YouTube where you can hear her perform Atys by Schubert and Nuit d’étoiles by Debussy.

Back in Toronto … :A performance will be given of Claudio Monteverdi’s great Vespers of 1610, also at 7:30pm on the 22nd, at Toronto’s Metropolitan United Church on Queen St. E. There have in recent years been several performances of this work in Toronto but this one is going to be different. There will be no chorus; instead the whole work will be performed one on a part. This is a great chance to hear experienced choral singers performing as soloists or as part of small ensembles. The singers are: Ariel Harwood-Jones and Gisele Kulak, soprano; Christina Stelmacovich and Laura McAlpine, alto; Charles Davidson, Cian Horrobin, Robert Kinar and Jamie Tuttle, tenor; John Pepper and David Roth, bass.

On September 23 at 8pm, (with a pre-concert talk at 7:15), New Music Concerts’ “Cellos Galore” at the Betty Oliphant Theatre will include Winter Words, a commissioned work by James Rolfe for tenor and eight cellos. The soloist will be Lawrence Wiliford.

There will be a concert dedicated to the music of Claude Debussy at the Heliconian Club on September 28 at 8pm. Many of the selections will be instrumental, including a great deal of piano music and the late sonata for violin and piano, but there will also be two of the song cycles: Ariettes oubliées (set to texts by Verlaine and composed between 1885 and 1887) and Proses Lyriques (settings of Debussy’s own texts and composed between 1892 and 1893). The singers will be sopranos Barbara Fris and Janet Catherine Dea.

On September 29 at 8pm, in the Glenn Gould Studio, Kerry Stratton will conduct the Grand Salon Orchestra in “Tribute to Edith Piaf.” The Acadian singer Patsy Gallant will be the soloist.

And down the road: If these concerts, while interesting, seem rather few in number, do not lose heart. There are plenty of exciting singers coming in the course of the year: Colin Ainsworth, Allison Angelo, Françoise Atlan, Alexandru Badea, Isabel Bayrakdarian, Isaiah Bell, Scott Belluz, Gordon Bintner, Lesley Bouza, Leslie Ann Bradley, Adi Braun, Russell Braun, Measha Brueggergosman, Benjamin Butterfield, Lucia Cesaroni, Ho-Yoon Chung, Layla Claire, Neil Craighead, Gregory Dahl, Elena Dediu, Alexander Dobson, Klara Ek, Gerald Finley, Hallie Fischel, Gordon Gietz, Carla Huhtanen, Joseph Kaiser, Miriam Khalil, Emma Kirkby, Marie-Josée Lord, Allyson McHardy, Amanda Martinez, Angela Meade, Shannon Mercer, Ileana Montalbetti, Nathalie Paulin, Ailyn Perez, Sophia Perlman, Sandrine Piau, Susan Platts, Brett Polegato, Robert Pomakov, Shenyang, Geoffrey Sirett, Annalisa Stroppa, Daniel Taylor, Erin Wall, Monica Whicher and Dave Young. Stay tuned!

Two postscripts:We mourn the death and celebrate the life of Jay Macpherson: poet, scholar, teacher, political activist, colleague, friend. There was some fine music at a service of remembrance on June 11: we sang two hymns that Jay had herself chosen, and listened to Teri Dunn’s performance of Houses in Heaven (words by James Reaney, music by John Beckwith), one of Jay’s political poems (sung by Mary Love) and Sarastro’s aria “O Isis und Osiris” from The Magic Flute (sung by Michael-David Blostein). The last selection was especially apt as Jay had, in the last years of her life, been working on the Masonic background of the opera. The bass voice is rare; it is even more rare to hear it fully developed in as young a singer as Blostein; he is still a student (he studies with Adi Braun) and can probably be called pre-professional. We shall hear more of him.

One of the best things in a Toronto summer is the Summer Opera Lyric Theatre and Research Centre. Each year the company performs three operas with young talented singers who are given extensive coaching. This year, all three Figaro operas based on the plays by Beaumarchais were performed: The Barber of Seville (Rossini), The Marriage of Figaro (Mozart) and La Mère Coupable (Milhaud). The last-named is very rarely done and is, as far as I know, only available in an unofficial recording. In 60 years of opera-going I had not come across it. The standards were very high with an especially outstanding performance by the soprano Elisabeth Hetherington as Countess Almaviva. The pianist, Nicole Bellamy, was also brilliant.

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

There was a time, not so very long ago, when Toronto in the summer was a cultural desert and if one wanted to see or hear anything, one had to go to the Shaw Festival at Niagara-on-theLake or to Stratford for either the Stratford Shakespeare Festival or Stratford Summer Music. That changed when Soulpepper began its summer season and when the Toronto Summer Music Festival opened. This year the festival will present two outstanding singers: the bass-baritone Gerald Finley and the tenor Colin Ainsworth.

Finley has sung in opera and in concert in many cities: he is especially well known as a Mozart singer, particularly in the role of Count Almaviva in Le Nozze di Figaro and the title role in Don Giovanni, both of which he has performed in many of the world’s leading opera houses. He has also sungthe title role in Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, and Hans Sachs in Wagner’s Die Meistersinger at Glyndebourne. As a recitalist he is especially well known for his performance of Schumann’s Dichterliebe. In recent years he performed in Toronto twice: in May 2010 he gave a recital with the pianist Julius Drake (Schumann, Ravel, Barber, Ives) and last February he took part in the Aldeburgh Connection’s 30th anniversary gala. Finley’s recital for this year’s Toronto Summer Music is on July 18 at 7:30pm (Koerner Hall, Royal Conservatory) when he and pianist Stephen Ralls will perform a recital that begins with Carl Loewe and ends with Benjamin Britten. Finley will also give a masterclass (July 19 at 10am, Walter Hall, U of T Faculty of Music). He will sing baritone arias at Westben in Campbellford on July 22 at 2pm. He has made a number of CDs and DVDs. I would particularly recommend the DVD of the Helsinki production of Kaija Saariaho’s L’amour de loin. This opera was done by the COC last season (the baritone part was taken by Russell Braun). Although musically the Toronto performance was also very good, it was hampered by too busy a production; by contrast the Helsinki production by Peter Sellars was much sparer and that brought out the tragic quality of the story much better. Finley will be back in Toronto in May 2013 to sing in Brahms’ German Requiem with the Toronto Symphony.

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