Symphonic Delights and Operatic Comedy
Winter means music for a lot of people. It is the perfect indoor activity for all those couch potatoes that do not revel in winter sports but have to have their aesthetic needs filled with harmonious wavelengths. No wonder then that the TSO season has so much variety to offer, since there are so many of us.
In mid January Jacques Israelievitch, concertmaster of the TSO, conducted a lovely evening billed as violin extravaganza.
The use of violins was indeed extravagant with 4 solo violins for Vivaldiís Concerto in B Minor for 4 violins: Jaque Israelievitch, Adele Armin, Sergei Nikonov, and Amalia Joanou-Canzeroni. The light and lively piece was followed by Bachís Violin Concerto in E Major and Israelievitch played the violin most eloquently. And because it was a short concert he threw in a small "Zugabe". Brilliant!
After the intermission Mozartís Symphony no. 29 in A Major transported us to other shores and let us forget the weather outside. And after the Rossinisís Overture to Semiramide we expected it to be warm outside and palm trees to waft in the air. Of course we had no such luck but the vigorous applause we gave to the enthusiastic players kept our circulation going long enough to get us to the car and home before frostbite conquered our chilled hearts and minds once again.
The following week we went to hear guest conductor Helmut Rilling from Germany in the Masterworks Series. As an outstanding Bach expert he had already given Amster classes and seminars throughout the week and fused two choirs to one cohesive entity, the Elmer Iseler singers and the University of Toronto MacMillan Singers. The result was simply electrifying.
Starting with Bachís Magnificat in D Major, BWV 243, the mood was set for a truly magnificent choral concert of extraordinary quality. Jubilant comes to mind as a correct description.
The soloists were actually conducted by Mr. Rilling and they actually paid attention, something one can only rarely observe together in such obvious form.
Simone Nold, a German soprano, Anke Vondung, also from Germany, American Frederica Brillenbourg, alto or mezzo, Michael Dean, bass, and Michael Schade, tenor, replacing last moment the previously announced tenor James Taylor, gave brilliant performances in Magnificat and Mozartís Mass in C Minor, K.427 (minus Frederica Brillemborg).
For Torontonians it was nice to have the opportunity to hear one of its own famous singers. Michael Schade is so rarely heard in town, that any opportunity will do to catch up with the wonderful tenor, who so obviously enjoyed singing in this concert. He only had one other concert here earlier in the season, which I understand will be heard on radio soon at CBC).
Last, but not least we also went to the opera. Bypassing Turandot, it is still fresh in our minds from two seasons ago, we chose Falstaff. It turned out to be the perfect choice for this time of year. The Canadian Opera Company brought this boisterous Shakespearian work of the merry wives of Windsor to the stage in a most becoming and traditional form. The swollen belly and equally swollen ego of Falstaff rolled well over the stage at the Hummingbird Centre with much laughter by the audience. The buxom women complemented the large form of rich and animated bass baritone Pavlo Hunka perfectly and lovesick slender Elena Voznessenskaia as Nannette pleased most with her wonderful soprano voice that was smooth as silk. The set and costumes reminded us of other times when theatre was not experimentation as much.
This, Verdiís final opera, was a perfect choice for this Mardi Gras season. Shakespeareís broader humour came beautifully alive in comic perfection. At last we all had something to laugh about!
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