Symphony seasons and operatic calendars wind down in the spring, but that doesn’t mean things have gone quiet in the performance halls just yet. Indeed, the most talked about Canadian classical-music event of the year happens this week.
On Wednesday, Canada’s National Arts Centre Orchestra under the leadership of music director Alexander Shelley arrives at Toronto’s Roy Thomson Hall for the world premiere of Philip Glass’s Symphony No. 13, his ode to freedom of the press. Part of the thematic program Truth in our Times, the piece by the great American composer was commissioned by the NAC Orchestra as a tribute to the late Canadian-born journalist Peter Jennings.
The concert also includes Nicole Lizée’s cinematic Zeiss After Dark, Dmitri Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 9 (a subversive piece written in sly defiance of the Stalin regime) and Erich Korngold’s Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 35.
Asked about music and truth recently, Glass resisted any grand proclamation, explaining that composers are best served to connect honesty and composing in these terms: “This is the music that I Iisten to, this is the music that I like and this is the music that I write.”
Leave it to the noted minimalist to break it down so succinctly.
After the Toronto performance, the NAC Orchestra takes its Truth in Our Time presentation to New York’s Carnegie Hall on April 5, before returning home to Ottawa’s Southam Hall on April 13 and 14. Further information and ticket particulars can be found at the NAC Orchestra website.
Other upcoming concert highlights across Canada include an appearance by a double-threat soprano-conductor superstar, a salute to a beloved Baroque music leader, a celebrative season-ender in D minor and more.
Barbara Hannigan: A Grammy winner for 2017′s Crazy Girl Crazy, the Nova Scotia conductor and opera singer appears with a Toronto Symphony Orchestra that will follow the baton of TSO music director Gustavo Gimeno for the world premiere of Zosha Di Castri’s In the half-light. Elsewhere on the program, Igor Stravinsky’s ballet score The Firebird will be performed in its entirety. May 19 and 21, Roy Thomson Hall, Toronto.
The Path Forward: A collaboration between the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra and its Indigenous Council combines traditional dancing, drumming, stories and singing with performances of Carnival of OUR Animals (a Coast Salish reimagining of Camille Saint-Saëns’s musical suite Carnival of the Animals) and the words of Vancouver Poet Laureate Christie Lee Charles. April 10, Orpheum Theatre, Vancouver.
A Tafelmusik Tribute to Jeanne Lamon: The late violinist and music director of Toronto’s Baroque orchestra and chamber choir is paid tribute with a multimedia presentation narrated by actor R.H. Thomson. The program includes selections of Bach (whose compositions inspired her from childhood) and a movement from Telemann’s Tafelmusik, the first piece she ever directed with the orchestra. The concert will be filmed for a digital screening on June 2. April 2, afternoon and evening performances, Jeanne Lamon Hall, Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre, Toronto.
Orchestre symphonique de Montréal: It’s for a good reason orchestras save Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 for the spring. An uplifting salute to humanity that culminates in the elated Ode to Joy, the piece is a fitting end to orchestral seasons and a harbinger of warm things to come. It’s part of program that includes another masterpiece for choir and orchestra, Song of Destiny by Brahms. May 31 to June 2, Maison symphonique de Montréal.
Teiya Kasahara: Following its production of Mozart’s fairy tale opera The Magic Flute (May 6-21), the Canadian Opera Company presents The Queen In Me by Nikkei-Canadian interdisciplinary artist Teiya Kasahara. Inspired by The Magic Flute’s Queen of the Night, Kasahara seeks to reclaim space on the stage for marginalized women, trans and non-binary individuals. June 2 to 4, Canadian Opera Company Theatre, Toronto.
Vancouver Recital Society: Founded in 1980, the VRS regularly brings in elite international talent. This spring sees the arrival of Chinese pianist Yuja Wang (March 30) and the Russian composer virtuoso Evgeny Kissin (April 28). Orpheum Theatre, Vancouver.
Anne Sofie von Otter: The silver-haired Swedish mezzo-soprano has headlined the world’s most illustrious opera halls and collaborated with the pop-music likes of Rufus Wainwright and Elvis Costello. In May she tours Canada with Austrian pianist Christoph Berner for a recital program heavy in Schubert and Mozart. May 11, Rebecca Cohn Auditorium, Halifax; May 13, Isabel Bader Centre, Kingston; May 15, Koerner Hall, Toronto; May 17, Carleton Dominion-Chalmers Centre, Ottawa.
BOUND: Building on the international success of last year’s Messiah/Complex film, the maverick opera troupe Against the Grain Theatre now offers BOUND, a contemporary hybrid opera-film that challenges Canada’s reputation for inclusivity. The production, done in association with Crow’s Theatre and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, is musically guided by a score inspired by the melodies of George Frideric Handel. Streaming now to April 24 at Against the Grain’s website.
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