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Ludwig Van
Toronto Montreal

CRITIC'S PICKS | Eight Shows You Should Absolutely See This Week

By Joseph So on May 9, 2016

For the week of May 9 to 15.

Critic's Picks for classical music and opera events in Toronto for the Week of May 9 – 15, 2016.
Critic’s Picks for classical music and opera events in Toronto for the Week of May 9 – 15, 2016.

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.

Tops on my list this week are two interesting events. One is the Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s Shostakovich Symphony No. 13, “Babi Yar.”  I understand this will be a TSO premiere. Interestingly, the Buffalo Philharmonic beat us to it by performing it back in 2012 with conductor JoAnn Falletta. A real coup was the presence of poet Yevtushenko, whose poems inspired this Symphony, for readings of his work. It’s good that the work is finally receiving its TSO debut. The other is the radical re-imagining of Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte by Against the Grain Theatre, into A Little Too Cozy to take place May 12 to 21. Meanwhile in the opera house, Maometto II and Carmen continue their respective runs, and there’s also Les Adieux: Let Beauty Awake, where Aviva Fortunata and Iain MacNeil make their farewell.

Tuesday 10

COC | Vocal Series: Les Adieux: Let Beauty Awake at The Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre, Four Seasons Centre. 12 Noon. Free!

Soprano Aviva Fortunata and bass-baritone Iain MacNeil, two stalwart members of the COC Ensemble Studio, make their farewell in this noon hour recital. They are joined by members of the COC Orchestra to perform John Greer’s arrangement of Richard Strauss’ Four Last Songs and Vaughan Williams’ Songs of Travel, two of my very favourite song cycles. Not to be missed if you can get away in the middle of the day. Details at

COC | Georges Bizet’s Carmen at The Four Seasons Centre. 7:30 p.m. $50–435 (Repeats through May 15. Start times vary)

Performances of Carmen with two fabulous mezzo-sopranos, Anita Rachvelishvili and Clémentine Margaine. Paolo Carignani conducts. More info found, here.

Wednesday 11

COC | Rossini’s, Maometto II at The Four Seasons Centre. 7:30 p.m. $50–355. (Repeats through May 14. Start times vary)

Last two chances to catch superlative singing in Maometto II, starring Luca Pisaroni in the title role, Leah Crocetto (Anna), Elizabeth DeShong (Calbo) and Bruce Sledge (Erisso). Harry Bicket conducts the COC Orchestra. Info found right, here.

Thursday 12

AGAINST THE GRAIN THEATREA Little Too Cozy at Studio 42 CBC, 25 John Street. 8 p.m. $35-95 (Repeats through May 14)

A Little Too Cozy, Against the Grain Theatre’s radical re-imagining of Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte, had a successful run at Banff last summer. Now Toronto audience will get to see what all the buzz was about. A youthful and attractive cast featuring sopranos Shantelle Przybylo and Caitlin Wood, mezzo Rihab Chaieb, tenor Aaron Sheppard, baritone Clarence Frazer, and baritone Cairan Ryan. Cosi as a game show?  This I’ve got to see!!!  Full details, here.

Friday 13

TSO | Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 13, “Babi Yar” at Roy Thomson Hall. 7:30 p.m. $44.25-100.50 (Repeats May 15 at George Weston Recital Hall, matinee)

Toronto Symphony Orchestra presents Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 13, “Babi Yar.” It was composed in 1962 during the brief period of Nikita Khrushchev’s “Thaw” when Soviet citizens were allowed to speak freely about previously forbidden subjects. Inspired by poems of Yvegeny Yevtushenko, the Symphony, lasting approximately one hour, tells of the slaughter of 30,000 (disputed figure which could number up to 100,000) Jews by the Nazis in Babi Yar, a place outside Kiev. Shostakovich chose four more poems by Yevtushenko for the five-movement symphony, for bass solo, male chorus, and orchestra. The work premiered in December 18, 1962 to great acclaim, but it was subsequently banned from further performances, and the text was altered due to political pressure. The TSO performances use the original text. Andrey Boreyko conducts; the bass soloist is Petr Migunov. Also on the program is violinist Julian Rachlin to play Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 5, K 219.  Full details found, here.

ART OF TIME ENSEMBLEHawksley Workman: A Postmodern Cabaret at Harbourfront Centre Theatre. 8 p.m. $25-59 (Repeats May 14)

For something a little different, try Art of Time Ensemble’s show by Hawksley Workman, who “blurs the lines between rock music, cabaret and theatre.”  The singer presents a Songbook program on the discography of Bruce Cockburn. Info, here.

Saturday 14

TSO | Peter and The Wolf at Roy Thomson Hall. 2:00 p.m. $20.50-32.75 (Repeats at 4 p.m.)

The TSO balances the heavy Shostakovich with a family show, Prokofiev’s perennial favourite, Peter and The Wolf, featuring the Magic Circle Mime Company, conducted by Maestra Dina Gilbert, who’s the Assistant Conductor of the Orchestre symphonique de Montreal. Info and tickets, here.

Sunday 15

TORONTO CLASSICAL SINGERS | Puccini’s Messa di Gloria at Christ Church Deer Park 4 p.m. $25-30

Toronto Classical Singers presents Puccini’s Messa di Gloria, with soprano Lesley Bouza, mezzo Danielle MacMillan, tenor Christopher Mayell, and baritone Michael Nyby. Talisker Players Orchestra conducted by Jurgen Petrenko. Details, 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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