If you’re into opera, you’re supposed to sigh and shake your head at Puccini’s La Bohème. A melodramatic tearjerker, a proven, cynical money-maker for cash-strapped opera companies, a hoary old chestnut? Sorry, not buying it. Here’s at least one case where “50 million Puccini fans can’t be wrong.” Forget about your Rings and your Traviatas – this may be the most perfect opera composed. Just enjoy, with some interesting casting choices by Canadian Opera Company director Alexander Neef for your added enjoyment. Four Seasons Centre, Oct. 3, 6, 9, 12, 16, 18, 19, 22, 25, 27, 29, 30.
We waited 17 years to hear Ben Heppner on a COC stage before his triumphant Tristan of last season. This time, we’ve had to wait just nine months. Heppner is back, with another of his signature roles – the tortured, powerful Peter Grimes. Benjamin Britten wrote Peter Grimes, the story of a Suffolk fisherman suspected of murdering two apprentices, as a reaction, it is assumed, to his own complex homosexuality and his society’s reaction to it. For Britten, it was something simpler – “a subject very close to my heart,” he wrote, “the struggle of the individual against the masses. The more vicious the society, the more vicious the individual.”Intensity and power on stage to help celebrate the Britten centenary. Four Seasons Centre, Oct. 5, 8, 11, 17, 20, 23, 26.
Abduction from the Seraglio
Fresh from its triumphs this summer in his hometown, Opera Atelier brings its pal Mozart’s Abduction from the Seraglio back to Toronto after a five-year hiatus. Set in a Turkish harem, the Abduction is an 18th-century trope on a 21st-century dilemma – the relationship between a fascinated, slightly uneasy Christian West and a mysterious, slightly frightening Muslim East. Elgin Theatre, Oct. 26, 27, 29, 30, Nov. 1, 2
It’s not so much the repertoire or the performers that make this a noteworthy concert (although both are interesting). But with this series of performances, Tafelmusik inaugurates its new/old concert space, officially entitled Jeanne Lamon Hall, Trinity St. Paul's Centre on Bloor Street in Toronto. Lamon’s victory lap, her last season (of 33) as Tafelmusik’s music director, is well-deserved. She leaves an organization at the peak of its playing prowess, that seems to be dealing with her departure with equanimity. The new performing space is the cherry on top of the sundae of her legacy. Jeanne Lamon Hall, Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre, Toronto, Oct. 3-6, George Weston Recital Hall, Oct. 8.
The last time James Ehnes performed in Toronto, for the remarkable Women’s Musical Club of Toronto, he provided a soul-expanding version of Bach’s solo Chaconne for Violin. This time, he’s with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, in Peter Oundjian’s 10th season, with the Benjamin Britten Violin Concerto. It’s Britten’s 100th anniversary this year, (and the classical world is sadly, anniversary-mad), so the TSO is playing a lot of his music, but this anguished post-Second World War piece may be the highlight. Roy Thomson Hall, Oct. 10, 12.
Who can’t love Rufus Wainright? The folk-singer turned chanteur, pop star, opera composer, Judy-Garland chaneller and who knows what else, is simply one of the world’s most unique performers. He brings to the TSO a one-man show that he premiered in Madrid this summer, complete with material from Prima Donna, his opera, orchestral versions of some of his greatest songs, If I Loved You from Carousel (almost worth the price of admission), and, oh yes, selections from Les Nuits d’été by Hector Berlioz. Need more coaxing? I don’t. Roy Thomson Hall, Oct. 11.
If anyone thinks the era of the great classical pianist ended with the passing of the Rubinsteins and Horowitzs or the aging of the Ashkenazys and Barenboims, forget it. New, young, fearless, technically jaw-dropping virtuosos are everywhere, proving once again that youth, a certain amount of sex appeal and musical intelligence are as marketable today as they were when Franz Liszt caused bloomers to drop 150 years ago. Enter Yuja Wang, last here to play (annihilate) Prokofiev with the TSO. Now she’s appearing solo, with Prokofiev again on the program, along with Chopin and Nikolai Kapustin. Not to be missed. Koerner Hall, Royal Conservatory of Music, Oct. 27.