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Ludwig Van
Toronto Montreal

CRITIC'S PICKS | Five Musical Outings You Should Do This Holiday

By Joseph So on December 21, 2015

(Photo: Jackman Chiu via Flickr)
(Photo: Jackman Chiu via Flickr)

Musical Toronto’s weekly Critic’s Picks are a fully curated list of some of the best concerts happening now through the end of the week. Of course, this is not to say we are the provocateurs of taste, but simply seek to provide a good weekly summary. For a look at the full breadth of what’s available in and around Toronto, check out our concert listings in the Musical Toronto Datebook.

Given that classical musical presentations are much reduced during the week surrounding Christmas, I’ve combined the two weeks in my weekly preview, as I’ve done in previous years. That said, there are still a few notable events worthy of your consideration.

Tuesday 22

The National Ballet of Canada | The Nutcracker at The Four Seasons Centre. 1 p.m/ 5:30 p.m.. $80-130 (On through Jan 3, 2016 – start times vary)

The National Ballet of Canada is in the middle of its month-long run of The Nutcracker. This show is terrific holiday entertainment for the whole family and a surefire box office bonanza for the Company. I’ve seen the James Kudelka version only once when it was new – his colourful, slightly quirky and decidedly unique vision of the classic is sure to entertain the young and the old. It’s two hours long with a single intermission. Here’s a little Youtube video on the 20th anniversary of the Nutcracker, introduced by the head of the National Ballet and former prima ballerina Karen Kain. Thirteen more performances from this Tuesday to Jan. 3rd at the Four Seasons Centre. Go to the National Ballet website for details of times and principal dancers. More Details here.

Sunday 27

Toronto Operetta TheatreThe Student Prince at Jane Mallett Theatre. 3 p.m. $72-95 (On through Jan 3, 2016 – start times vary)

Toronto voice fans can count on the Toronto Operetta Theatre to stage a production every Christmas and New year. This time around, it’s Sigmund Romberg’s The Student Prince. I’ve always had a soft spot for this piece as it was my very first exposure to opera, by way of the Hollywood movie starring Mario Lanza, Ann Blyth and Edmund Purdom – I was all of seven years old. Perhaps that’s what got me interested in opera ever since! COC conductor Derek Bate is at the helm and TOT’s Guillermo Silva-Marin is the stage director. The principals are soprano Jennifer Taverner, tenor Ernesto Ramirez, tenor Stefan Fehr, and bass-baritone Curtis Sullivan. It opens on Dec. 27 at the Jane Mallett Theatre, with additional performances on Dec. 28, 31, Jan. 2 and 3. The New Year’s Eve performance also includes an option of a dinner and post-performance festivities. See here for details.

Thursday 31

The Corporation of Massey and Roy Thomson Hall | Bravissimo!  at Roy Thomson Hall. 7 p.m. $55-145

Top on my list is Bravissimo! The annual operatic concert on New Year’s Eve presented by Canadian impresario Attila Glatz of Attila Glatz Concert Productions. Billed as “Opera’s Greatest Hits,” it’s an evening of standard arias and duets sung by an international cast of soloists, with usually a non-Canadian maestro conducting the Opera Canada Symphony which is essentially a “pick-up orchestra” made up of local Canadian orchestral musicians for the occasion. There are two excellent Canadian singers this year – soprano Karina Gauvin and mezzo Krisztina Szabo. Joining them are two Italians – tenor Stefano La Colla and baritone Lucio Gallo. Conducting will be Italian maestro Marco Guidarini, who was just in town a couple of months ago for Canadian Opera Company’s La traviata. The performance starts at 7 pm at Roy Thomson Hall on Dec. 31 and will be all over shortly after 9 pm, leaving plenty of time for New Year’s Eve festivities. I’ve attended this concert annually from the beginning. It took a couple of years to catch on, but it now draws a large crowd, with excellent singing each time. You can be sure it will conclude with the festive “Libiamo, libiamo” from La traviata! More details here.

Friday 1

The Corporation of Massey and Roy Thomson Hall | Salute to Vienna at Roy Thomson Hall. 3 p.m. $65-155

If you are not tired out from partying all night, be sure to attend Salute to Vienna, an afternoon divertissement of ballet and operetta Viennese style. Hungarian conductor Imre Kollar leads the Strauss Symphony of Canada, with Polish soprano Katarzyna Dondalska and Austrian tenor Franz Gurtelschmied as soloists. Joining the festivities are dancers from the Hungarian National Ballet and the International Champion Ballroom Dancers. I’ve been attending this event the past several years, and it’s virtually sold out every time. Friday, Jan. 1st 2:30 pm at Roy Thomson Hall. More info here.

Musicians in OrdinaryBaroque Concert at Heliconian Hall. 2 p.m. $72-95 (Repeats Jan 2, 2016, 8 p.m.)

Last but not least, the Musicians in Ordinary is bringing in the new year with its traditional Baroque Concert. On Friday, Jan. 1st 2 pm at the Heliconian Hall, 35 Hazelton Avenue in Yorkville. This concert is repeated on Saturday, Jan. 2 at 8 pm. Soprano Hallie Fishel and lutenist John Edwards offer a programme of “Opus 1’s” – first compositions by Handel, Vivaldi and other Baroque masters. Joining them are violinist Christopher Verrette and Patricia Ahern as well as harpsichordist Borys Medicky.   More information here.

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Joseph So

Joseph So

Joseph So is Professor Emeritus at Trent University and Associate Editor of Opera Canada.He is also a long-time contributor to La Scena Musicale and Opera (London, UK). His interest in music journalism focuses on voice, opera as well as symphonic and piano repertoires. He appears regularly as a panel member of the Big COC Podcast.He has co-edited a book, Opera in a Multicultural World: Coloniality, Culture, Performance, published by Routledge (Taylor & Francis Group).
Joseph So

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