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Ludwig Van
Toronto Montreal

PRIMER | Kathleen Battle Returns To Toronto In Koerner Hall Gala

By Joseph So on September 25, 2018

Kathleen Battle (Photo: Douglas Foulke)
Kathleen Battle (Photo: Douglas Foulke)

For Toronto opera fans/stargazers, this fall season is particularly stellar. The world premiere of Rufus Wainwright’s Hadrian, opening on October 13, boasts a stellar cast that includes the Toronto operatic debuts of the great American baritone Thomas Hampson and Finnish soprano Karita Mattila. And the current queen of bel canto, soprano Sondra Radvanovsky, is slated to return to Koerner Hall on November 24.

But first we get to hear American soprano Kathleen Battle in recital, as part of the Koerner Hall 10th Anniversary Celebrations (October 2), in her Royal Conservatory of Music debut.  Joining her is pianist/productor/composer/arranger Joel A. Martin. I’ve loved her voice ever since I saw her Sophie in Der Rosenkavalier thirty-five years ago. I am not alone, as it’s the general consensus that Battle possesses one of the most beautiful light lyric sopranos of our time.

The American soprano is no stranger to Toronto audiences. Her recording of Handel’s Messiah with the Toronto Symphony under the baton of Sir Andrew Davis, recorded more than thirty years ago, remains a desert-island disc. She has appeared in Toronto quite a few times over the years, in both Roy Thomson Hall and the George Weston Recital Hall.  And she remains one of the most recorded artists of our time.

Her last visit to Toronto was May 2016, in Underground Railroad — A Spiritual Journey, a program of American spirituals. I was frankly astounded by her voice, as if she had indeed turned back the clock.  Her trademark vocal purity, warmth and beauty of tone were all there. She took this program to the Metropolitan Opera six months later and sold out the 3,800-seat Met.  She had not sung there since 1994 following a rift with the Company. With her return, the venerable New York Times critic Anthony Tommasini wrote that she sang with “remarkable freshness and beauty” and it was “worth the wait.”

In her Koerner Hall recital, the first half featuring songs by Purcell, Schubert, Mendelssohn, Liszt, and Rachmaninov. The second half includes Scott Joplin’s “Slow Drag” from Treemonisha, George Gershwin’s “I Loves you, Porgy” from Porgy and Bess, Duke Ellington’s “I Got it Bad and That Ain’t Good” from Jump for Joy, selections from Rogers and Hammerstein, and spirituals. If you love beautiful voices, this is not to be missed. Given this is a fund-raising event, the tickets ($100-$250) are pricey, and more if you plan to attend the dinner. But it’s for a good cause, as all proceeds from the concert goes to support the Royal Conservatory.

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
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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Ludwig Van Toronto

INTERVIEW | Gordon Bintner Wants Onegin To Be One Of His Signature Roles

By Joseph So on October 6, 2018

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CRITIC'S PICKS | 10 Concerts You Should Absolutely See This Week (Oct. 8 – 14)

By Joseph So on October 8, 2018

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SCRUTINY | Orchestra Métropolitain Sounds Like A Winner Under Yannick Nézet-Séguin

By Arthur Kaptainis on October 6, 2018

'Best Orchestra in Canada' is typically thought to be a fixed competition between three or four contenders. Last night's concert at Koerner Hall shows us that The Orchestra Métropolitain is one of them.
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