The Canadian Opera Company unveils its 2012-13 season of free concerts at the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre

COC Ensemble Studio member Adrian Kramer sang his farewell concert at the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre with accompanist Christopher Mokrzewski last May.

The most significant concert presenter in this city outside the Toronto Symphony Orchestra is Nina Draganic, the unheralded doyenne of the Canadian Opera Company’s annual 10-months of free concerts at the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre.

The new season kicks off at lunchtime on Sept. 18, with a concert by the COC’s Ensemble Studio and will run its combination of classical, jazz, world and new music, dance and lecture concerts through to the end of June. Continue reading

Introducing: The Grande pièce symphonique by César Franck

Sainte-Clothilde basilica in Paris inspired César Franck.

The pipe organ has had several lives over its five-century history, the grandest as a symphony orchestra substitute, starting in the second half of the 19th century.

We have a chance to hear a live performance tomorrow of the French composition that heralded this great, golden chapter in the instrument’s history: the Grande pièce symphonique. The 30-minute work will be performed by Simon Walker, one of Toronto’s bright young organ virtuosos, at St James Cathedral, at 1 p.m. Continue reading

Listening: The ghosts of Wagners future and past hover over Gluck, Elgar and Schoenberg

Susan Graham starred in the Canadian Opera Company’s production of Iphigénie en Tauride, desolately staged by expat Torontonian Robert Carsen.

Grabbing the heart with text and music takes many forms. This weekend, we have a chance to sample opera reduced to its essence, and two very operatic ways of crafting oratorio and cantata.

The first comes via CBC Radio 2’s Saturday Afternoon at the Opera, which broadcasts the Canadian Opera Company’s critically praised production of Christoph Willibald Gluck’s 1779 masterpiece, Iphigénie en Tauride, featuring American mezzo Susan Graham in the title role. Continue reading

Interview: The consummate pianist is like a consummate actor, says Jean-Efflam Bavouzet

French pianist Jean-Efflam Bavouzet plays Haydn and Debussy at Stratford Summer Music on Wednesday afternoon (J Henry-Fair photo).

Never write off an artist because they are a late bloomer.

French pianist Jean-Efflam Bavouzet won his first competition in 1986, and quickly gained the respect of anyone who heard him play, but it took nearly two decades for the wider classical music world to fully catch on to this performer’s prodigious talents, which will be on solo display at Stratford Summer Music on Wednesday afternoon. Continue reading

Listening: Voices galore in Canadian Opera Company Rigoletto, Gillian Keith at Royal Albert Hall, Rollando Villazón in Verbier

Ekaterina Sadonikova was Gilda in the COC’s season-opening production of Verdi’s Rigoletto (Michael Cooper photo).

The Canadian Opera Company’s update of Giuseppe Verdi’s warhorse Rigoletto from the start of this past season is featured on today’s Saturday Afternoon at the Opera broadcast on CBC Radio 2. Music director Johannes Debus was in the pit. On stage was a decent mix of visiting and Canadian singers. Continue reading

Concert review: Nash Ensemble and Colin Ainsworth ace all-English Toronto Summer Music programme

Tenor Colin Ainsworth joined the Nash Ensemble at Koerner Hall on Thursday night (Liz Parker photo).

There are great performances and then there are magnificent ones like the first of two recitals the Nash Ensemble presented for Toronto Summer Music on Thursday night. Continue reading

Concert review: Emotional fervour from Cecilia String Quartet and Georgy Tchaidze at Toronto Summer Music

The Cecilia String Quartet performed for Toronto Summer Music at Walter Hall on Wednesday night (Liz Parker photo).

Chamber music concerts are so often seen as staid, serious events. But Wednesday night’s Toronto Summer Music performance by Canada’s Cecilia String Quartet and pianist Georgy Tchaidze at Walter Hall was pure excitement. Continue reading