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Music What to see at Tafelmusik and Opera Atelier this season

Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra

Keith Saunders

Two Toronto Baroque ensembles, both with growing international reputations, have announced their seasons for next year. Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Opera Atelier (for whom Tafelmusik supplies the music) are both offering new programs full of artistic promise.

A highlight in May 2014 will certainly be Jeanne Lamon's final concert as Tafelmusik's music leader (and great inspiration). Lamon will select her favourite repertoire from her 33 years at Tafelmusik's helm, to be supplemented by pieces chosen by the audience and a series of variations on a hornpipe by Purcell written in her honour by members of the orchestra.

Earlier in the season, Tafelmusik will offer a performance of Handel's oratorio Saul led by Ivars Taurins, guest appearances by Isabel Bayrakdarian, violinist Stefano Montanari, soprano Suzie LeBlanc and conductor Bruno Weil, the latter leading the orchestra in two early Beethoven symphonies.

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The classical era will also be represented with a visit by fortepianist Krisitian Bezuidenhout, who will both both play and conduct two Mozart concertos. And soprano Emma Kirkby, the woman who almost single-handedly inspired the early-music revival of decades ago, will be here in December for the group's annual Messiah.

The orchestra will also be remounting two of its exciting original productions, which were born out of the imagination of Tafelmusik bassist Alison McKay. Patrons in Toronto will witness The Four Seasons: A Cycle of the Sun, which combines Vivaldi's famous concerti with music by Inuit throat singers, a Chinese pipa, and an Indian sarangi, to celebrate the universality of music and its resonances worldwide.

McKay's The Galileo Project, now famous the world over, will be the basis of a tour by the orchestra in Japan and South Korea in November of 2013, the latest stop for this multimedia concert experience.

At a time when many orchestras have been forced to cut back their touring, Tafelmusik is still hitting the road with vigour. As well as its Asian tour, they'll be back in Carnegie Hall in March of 2014, will hit Versailles summer of 2014, and have been invited as orchestra-in-residence to the BachFest Leipzig in June of 2014.

One of their concerts at the Leipzig festival will be in the city's Thomaskirche, where J.S. Bach worked for 25 years and is buried – the Baroque equivalent of a invitation to a 60s R&B group to perform at Harlem's Apollo Theater.

Tafelmusik's Versailles trip is as the pit orchestra for the production of the other Toronto Baroque group saddled, perhaps, with too much success – Opera Atelier. Atelier is taking its new, more extravagant, version of Lully's Persée to the Royal Opera House in Versailles, where the opera first appeared, inaugurating the house in 1770 (to celebrate the wedding of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette). Persée has been extremely important in Opera Atelier's history. Its 2000 production was the opera's first fully-staged reappearance, anywhere, since 1770, and the video of Atelier's 2004 remount has been an international calling card for the company ever since.

The Atelier season opens in Toronto with a production of Mozart's The Abduction from the Seraglio, next to The Magic Flute his most fantastic, exotic, opera. The organizations' tentative foray into the world of nineteenth-century opera this season with its fine Der Freischutz last fall may have to wait until 2015 or later for a follow-up.

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