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The Canadian Opera Company presents “Hansel & Gretel” February 6, 8, 11, 15, 16, 19, 21, 2020 at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts


Everyday magic comes alive in a new production that transplants Hansel and Gretel’s adventures from a wooded forest setting to modern-day Toronto. As the siblings make their way through a contemporary high-rise neighbourhood in search of food, they must rely on their wits – and each other – to outsmart danger along the way. All throughout, cutting-edge stage technology paints a picture of the characters’ vivid imaginations, creating a theatrical experience unlike any other. Hansel & Gretel runs for seven performances at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts on February 6, 8, 11, 15, 16, 19, 21, 2020.

Joel Ivany, award-winning Canadian stage director and artistic director of Against the Grain Theatre, brings his inventive theatrical vision to this beloved classic. Ivany’s boundary-pushing work has been credited with “chang[ing] the opera game” (National Post) and, together with Katherine Syer as dramaturg, the pair have created something entirely unique for the COC stage. In this Hansel & Gretel, relatable fears, such as income inequality and environmental sustainability, weigh heavy on the children’s minds, along with the fantastical threat of witches in wait. COC Director/Dramaturg-in-Residence Julie McIsaac joins the team as Assistant Director and S. Katy Tucker has dreamed up sets and specialized projections that weave storybook elements into modern day landscapes. Toronto-based Ming Wong is behind the production’s costumes and lighting has been designed by JAX Messenger, who last joined the COC for the world premiere presentation of Pyramus and Thisbe in 2015.

American mezzo-soprano Emily Fons has been called one of opera’s rising stars by Opera News and sings the role of Hansel. She is joined by a strong Canadian cast that includes three established COC Ensemble Studio graduates: soprano Simone Osborne is Gretel, mezzo-soprano Krisztina Szabó is the children’s mother, Gertrude, and tenor Michael Colvin is the diabolical witch, in a role debut. Seasoned Canadian baritone Russell Braun lends his “tremendous voice” (Toronto Star) to the role of the children’s father, Peter, and current Ensemble Studio soprano Anna-Sophie Neher sings the role of the Dew Fairy/Sandman.

COC Music Director Johannes Debus conducts the COC Orchestra through Humperdinck’s beautiful interpretation of the Grimm story, alongside the Canadian Children’s Opera Company singing the children’s chorus.

Hansel & Gretel is sung in German and presented by the COC with English SURTITLES™.

Hansel & Gretel is presented in partnership with the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity.


If you are looking for an easy opera to immerse yourself into whilst fighting off winter’s chill, consider catching the Canadian Opera Company’s “Hansel & Gretel”. It is a quiet and serene production that echoes moments of reflection. If you have little children in your life or would prefer a night out on your own, “Hansel & Gretel” will provide you pure contentment and a space to take in a well earned fairy tale.

American mezzo-soprano Emily Fons plays Hansel. She exposes the audience with a colourful and robust performance that will shine light from any darkened stage. Soprano Simone Osborne plays Gretel exudes warmth that further accentuates her talent. Krisztina Szabó is the children’s mother, and tenor Michael Colvin is the diabolical witch who challenge the production to the next level with their diversity in vocal performance and depth. The talent on stage is decadent during this relaxed performance. It pushes the booted up audience to giggle, to smile and just have a good time for the two hours or so they are together.

The “Hansel & Gretel” set was beyond magical and will be sure to mesmerize any child or adult. Think strewn fairy lights and a starry sky worthy of getting lost in. An apartment complex and a diverse cast that grounds the production in Toronto. “Hansel & Gretel” goes well beyond just an opera but more a rousing ode to a city that calls the Canadian Opera Company home. The production is a true treat for the home town crowd and for those visiting Toronto. It will leave you with a sense of Toronto’s grit but also its cheekiness.

Valentine’s Day and Family Day are just around the corner, grab some time and immerse yourself in the pure love and joy of opera. “Hansel & Gretel” will not disappoint, in fact it will fill your heart with enough warmth to carry you through until the spring.

FREE TICKETS GIVEAWAY to The Toronto Tea Festival! (Saturday February 1 and Sunday February 2, 2020 at the Toronto Reference Library)

Whether you are a newbie or an aficionado of tea culture, the Toronto Tea Festival will enable you to discover the world of tea from the traditional to the trendy. You will be able to sample hundreds of teas and learn from experts in the industry at one of the complimentary presentations. Taste a variety of teas uniquely and exquisitely prepared by exhibitors; noting how the flavours may differ depending upon place of origin, processing techniques, and preparation styles. Shop for all your favourite tea wares, teas, and related products – this is the perfect opportunity to shop for your Valentine. Take some selfies in front of the selfie wall and enter the raffle. Experience the event to the fullest by engaging with the exhibitors and learning about all things tea.

If you haven’t attend this gorgeous festival in the past, here is what you can expect:

Friday night, January 31st, VIP event – Rare Tea Tasting with Kevin Gascoyne

Demos and workshops, e.g. a kombucha demo, a tea tasting with sommeliers, Chinese Tea Ceremony workshop. Check out The Steep Off competition!

“Millennia Tea” will be presenting Flash-frozen tea.

“David’s Tea” will be presenting Concept to Cup.

“Soo Cha Tea” will be presenting Korean teas.

Tea sommelier/Author Linda Gaylard will be giving a talk entitled “Botany of the Tea Plant”.

Halifax Tea House, “World of Tea’s” owner Phillip Holmans will be giving a talk entitled “Survival Story of a Tea House”.

Lastly, immerse yourself in the “Tea lover’s Choice Awards” winning teas available at winning vendors’ booths.

Thank you to the TORONTO TEA FESTIVAL who has given Thirty Four Flavours a pair of tickets for their Sunday February 2, 2020 festival date.

What are the rules when entering the Thirty Four Flavours and TORONTO TEA FESTIVAL Ticket Giveaway?

Simple! Please sign up to Thirty Four Flavours Facebook, Twitter, or email subscription to enter the draw. Please also like the tea festival’s Facebook and Twitter pages. When you have signed up please send me a Facebook message, a tweet or email ( telling me what you are excited to see at the TORONTO TEA FESTIVAL.

Deadline for the Thirty Four Flavours and TORONTO TEA FESTIVAL Ticket Giveaway is Thursday January 16, 2020.

For a complete listing of the Toronto Tea Festival events and to purchase tickets in advance, please visit –


Review: The Toronto Symphony Orchestra presents Handel’s “Messiah” with special guests the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir (Dec 20, 2019)


Photo credit:  Jag Gundu

Over the holidays I took some time with friends to enjoy the Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s performance of Handel’s “Messiah”.  It proved to be a restorative evening out with some delicious moments to reflect upon as the year drew to a close.

A quick snapshot, “Messiah” is an English-language oratorio composed in 1741 by George Frideric Handel, with a scriptural text compiled by Charles Jennens from the King James Bible, and from the Coverdale Psalter, the version of the Psalms included with the Book of Common Prayer. It was first performed in Dublin on 13 April 1742 and received its London premiere nearly a year later. After an initially modest public reception, the oratorio gained in popularity, eventually becoming one of the best-known and most frequently performed choral works in Western music.

We felt ourselves getting lost in “The Trumpet Shall Sound”, “Hallelujah!” and “Behold the Lamb of God” early on in the performance. Think epic, reflective and a perfect anecdote as we wrapped up the decade.

The talent on the evening included the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir and four dazzling Canadian soloists. Alexander Shelley, Music Director, of the National Arts Centre Orchestra, conducts Handel’s Messiah with large doses of kindness and softness. Jane Archibald (soprano), Emily D’Angelo (mezzo-soprano), Isaiah Bell (tenor) and Russell Braun (baritone) blew the house down with emotion and verve. These talented individuals drew the audience together with rich hymns and high brow drama.  Close to the end of the performance, with programs in hand, the audience joined the soloists on songs that have truly lasted the test of time.

Jovial, thoughtful and purposeful was the tone felt in Roy Thomson Hall on the night. There were many times during the performance that I felt my mind thinking about my year and what brought me joy, what I have been forced to let go off and what has truly changed me. It’s funny how music can cement transformations and leave space for new growth.

Thank you to the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. Happy New Year! Looking forward to more performances in the year ahead.

Parkbus, Your Ride to the Great Outdoors!: Active Days Ontario – Trip to Hilton Falls

The holidays have come and gone in a pinch. I made sure to squeeze in a trip to Hilton Falls with Active Days Ontario and Parkbus so I could stretch my holidays out. If you don’t have a car and want to leave the driving to someone else after a busy week – Parkbus can help!

Active Days encourages folks to try something new, expand their comfort zone and/or engage in something they already love.  Walking or hiking in parks during the winter is great for your mind and body. It can be a wonderful way to reflect on your own about the year ahead. I made sure I took time for myself during the hike. But I also mingled with others who like me, needed time to reflect on where we were are at in the moment. Simple. Easy.

Here’s what we go up to!


9:45am – Pick-up MEC Toronto. 300 Queen St W

10:45 – Arrive at Hilton Falls

10:45 – 1:00pm – Hike to the waterfalls

1:00-pm – Lunch Trailside. Lunch was not provided

1:30pm – 2:15pm – Winter hike to feed chickadees, spot cool birds head back to the visitors centre

2:15 – 2:30 – Optional Hot Chocolate or Coffee

2:30pm – Depart Hilton Falls Conservation Area

3:45pm – Estimated Return to Toronto


Lunch – Pack some sandwiches, fruit and snacks. We stopped by a campfire and roasted a big bag of marshmallows.

Tea (optional). You can even bring a thermos of water if you feel so inclined.


Weather appropriate clothing. We layered up because it’s better to be safe than sorry out on foot in the woods. Winter boots, a hat, a scarf and mittens are essential.

Camera – to take a lot of shots for social media.

After a long day of hiking, climbing rocks, watching waterfalls and enjoying good company, we were on our way back to Toronto. We had a great time with Active Days and Parkbus. Check out their winter hikes – they are going quickly.

A heartfelt thank you to Parkbus. Tell them I sent you and have fun! @ParksCanada @Parkbus @mec @environmentca @OntarioParks @TourismeOntario #OurNature #goodtimesoutside #parkbusgotmehere

Have fun! Looking forward to my next trip with Parkbus!

Media Profile’s Holiday Party (2020): “Illuminate the Night”


Media Profile celebrated their annual holiday party last Thursday night and as usual – it was epic! Media Profile prides itself on being an independent, entrepreneurial and tenacious public relations firm. Their communication campaigns are based on a healthy blend of research and imagination. They use all the tools in the toolbox, whether media relations, social media, content creation and marketing etc. So clearly it was no surprise that their holiday parties resemble who they are and how they work. Think fun, fantastic and guaranteed to go late.

We love the historic Burroughes Building space. The aged brick, high ceilings, swooping arched doorways, NYC elevator shaft and roof top patio – makes you feel welcome and ready for a good time. It was no surprise that Media Profile’s guests were keen to take photos throughout the space for prosperity.

This year we indulged upon custom cocktails which were named “Profile Punch” and “Media Mixer”. Sixty Six Brix’s maple sugar station was buzzing as they drizzled the most gorgeous of maple syrup onto a bed of ice. Sixty Six Brix’s maple sugar station doled out gourmet cheese wrapped into ice hardened maple syrup like an ensconced sweater. We like to spend as much time as possible inhaling these delights when we are at Media Profile’s Holiday party.


The DJ was sure to cloud the air with cool mixes as we danced the night away while also saying hello to new friends as they breezed into the space.

The holiday decorations were minimal but celebrated modern winter scenes. The holiday lights beamed overhead as we took in the reindeer screen print that looked like something Toronto graffiti artist, Anser, would create.

We took advantage of the photographer/selfie station that came equipped with wooden moustaches and lips for cheeky shots. A young lady then printed shots on the tiniest printer you have ever seen as a takeaway bonbonierre.


Media Profile will always be known as the most crashable holiday party in Toronto. It’s epic in stature, the attention to detail is always on point and most importantly the vibe is consistently friendly, accommodating and authentically warm. Perfectly symbolic of the Media Profile brand and people.

Until December 2020!

Happy Holidays! #MPParty

Ticket Giveaway- The Royal Ontario Museum’s #FNLROM: Wicked

It’s that time of year – who’s ready to go to the ROM?

I’m giving away a pair of FNLROM tickets every week until the end of November 2019.

What are the rules when entering the Thirty Four Flavours and Friday Night Live (#FNLROM) Ticket Giveaway?

Simple! Please sign up to Thirty Four Flavours Facebook, Twitter, or email subscription to enter the draw. When you have signed up please send me a Facebook message, a tweet or email ( telling me what you are excited to see at #FNLROM by Wednesday Oct 23, 2019.

Good luck!

Here’s what’s on tap this Friday at FNLROM!

Art. Culture. Nature. Remixed.

Start the Halloween season with a night of fright. Cackle in our eerie galleries while experiencing wicked entertainment and cuisine.

The ROM is committed to inspiring a greater understanding of the world around us and promoting the values of diversity, inclusion, and respect. We ask guests to be respectful of cultural heritage and sensitive to harmful stereotypes when considering costume choices. In order to ensure a safe and fun filled evening for all staff and visitors alike, we ask that you please adhere to the following guidelines should you be attending in costume.

1) No masks of any kind are permitted. Your face must always be clearly visible. The Invisible Man, we need to see your face!

2) No weapons of any kind are permitted on ROM property. This includes but is not limited to, guns, knives, swords, axes, daggers or any replica there of.

3) No props are permitted. Captain America? Please leave the shield at home. Wonder Woman? No need for a magic lasso!

4) No balloons or any other inflatable item, helium or otherwise.

The ROM reserves the right to amend the above restrictions without notice. The ROM reserves the right to deny entry should a costume be deemed inappropriate.

Early bird tickets have flown.

#FNLROM @ROMtoronto


It’s Alive! Classic Horror and Sci-Fi Art from the Kirk Hammett Collectionpresenting sponsor Cosmo MusicSpace is limited. Last entry to exhibition at 10:00 PM. Exhibition surcharge applies, FREE to ROM Members.




Program Partner: Pride Toronto

DJ Craig Dominic
His signature ‘Jack of all trades’ style has given a new perspective on the DJ scene blending top 40, urban, house & more into one cohesive experience, like few others can.


DJ Sofia Fly


DJ John Caffery
Toronto based DJ who loves to dance and make you dance. DJ John Caffery specializes in new and classic disco and house music.


Jacklynne Hyde




Kasper the Queer Ghost


Nookie Galore


James Abrazado Creepy Dance Crew



In Conversation:

Gain a deeper understanding of the art featured in It’s Alive! from ROM Curator Arlene Gehmacher.
(8:00-10:00 PM – exhibition surcharge applies, FREE to ROM Members)

Transformation Station
Whether you’re just starting your transformation or adding a final touch, theatrical makeup accents by Mabel Moon will definitely enhance your Halloween look.



King Catering
Specializing in Caribbean cuisine with a North American twist. Vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, & halal options.

Tangy fusion flavours inspired by Indian street food. Vegetarian & halal options.

My Crème Caramel
French desserts handmade from scratch. Vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options

Delight Bite
The best fresh Mexican food. Vegetarian, vegan, & gluten-free options.

Preserve Indulgence
Elevated Filipino street food. Vegetarian, gluten-free, and lactose-free options.

Basil Box
Tasty and fresh boxes and snacks! All gluten-free. Vegetarian, vegan, & dairy-free options.

Mnandi Pies
Hand crafted Zimbabwean-style  pies made with fresh, locally-sourced ingredients. Vegetarian options.

Ice Volcano Ice Cream
Freshly made ice cream using 100% Canadian dairy and made with liquid nitrogen. Served with special Ice Volcano presentation!

Date & Time

  • Friday, October 25. Event runs from 7:00 – 11:30 PM




ROM Membership

ROM membership is your best value! Join now and save on selected programs and events.

TICKETS | What you need to know

  • Early bird tickets available now.
  • $20 adults*, $15.50 students/seniors*, $5 members* *Taxes not included
  • Entrance is guaranteed to early-bird ticket holders before 8 pm. After 8 pm, all entrance is based on capacity
  • All guests enter via the Bloor Street Entrance
  • Ticket Holders: Please join the “GOT EM” line
  • Wanna be a star? Chances are you will be! By entering the ROM Friday Night Live premises you consent to having your image captured and displayed for promotional and/or documentary use
  • Unlawful resale of ROM tickets is prohibited. The ROM does not guarantee the authenticity of tickets purchased from any non-authorized third-party re-seller, such as brokers or individuals; therefore, we recommend that you purchase tickets directly through the ROM Website at

The fine print: ROM general admission tickets are not valid for FNL. FNL is a specially ticketed event for adults 19+ only and you will be asked for valid ID (government-issued, not yet expired, with photo and date of birth).

The Canadian Opera Company presents Dvořák’s “Rusalka” (Oct 12, 16, 18, 20, 22, 24, 26, 2019)

Toronto – A classic mermaid myth dives to new depths when soprano Sondra Radvanovsky takes on the title role in a spellbinding new production of Dvořák’s Rusalka at the Canadian Opera Company. Water nymph Rusalka lives an idyllic, immortal life until a charming, earth-bound prince changes everything. Desperate to join him on land, she enlists the dark magic of a witch, sacrificing her shimmering voice for a chance at love. But Rusalka soon discovers this prince has a fickle heart – and there’s only one terrible solution to reversing her fate. Rusalka runs for seven performances at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts on October 12, 16, 18, 20, 22, 24, 26, 2019.
Canadian-American Sondra Radvanovsky, “one of the great sopranos of the 21st century,” (OperaWire) returns to the COC following her triumphant run in Anna Bolena in 2018. The Toronto Star says that Radvanovsky “at the peak of her powers is something extraordinary to behold” and she is joined in this production by an impressive cast. Cited as “a tenor on the rise” (OperaWire), Czech tenor Pavel Černoch is the Prince who captures Rusalka’s heart. Slovak bass Stefan Kocan has been called “a gifted scene-stealer” by New York Magazine; in a role debut, he takes on the role of Rusalka’s father, Vodnik. Russian mezzo-soprano Elena Manistina last appeared at the COC for 2014’s A Masked Ball and returns to sing the role of Ježibaba, the witch. American soprano Keri Alkema is the Foreign Princess; Alkema is a familiar face to Toronto audiences having brought her “strong stage presence and warm soprano” (The Stage) to several previous COC productions including Anna Bolena (2018), starring opposite Radvanovsky.
Sir David McVicar makes his COC debut at the helm of this gorgeous production. Knighted in 2012 for his services to opera, McVicar has worked with the world’s leading opera houses, including Royal Opera House, Lyric Opera of Chicago, and the Metropolitan Opera. Scottish set designer John Macfarlane brings Rusalka’s watery realm to life with a rich palette of jewel-tone blues and greens that come alive under a luminescent moon; the moody and, at times, ethereal lighting was created by David Finn. German costume designer Moritz Junge is the creative force behind the cast’s elaborate and whimsical wardrobe and Welsh choreographer Andrew George lends his expert touch to whirling ballet sequences.
Dvořák’s sweeping score is full of nocturnal serenades and includes the beloved “Song to the Moon” aria; COC Music Director Johannes Debus skillfully leads the COC Orchestra through its many intricacies with Price Family Chorus Master Sandra Horst leading the COC Chorus.
Rusalka is sung in Czech and presented by the COC with English SURTITLES™.

If you see anything from the Canadian Opera Company this Fall season, it has to be Rusalka. There is something about Slavic operas that makes my mouth drop open in awe with emotional fatigue. Dvořák’s Rusalka is magical, vulnerable and contemplative. It will move you.
Sondra Radvanovsky as Rusalka is awe inspiring. I felt for her. I wanted to let her know everything was going to be alright. Being a cheer leader for our Rusalka is right where Sondra wants you to be. If you are looking for a Disney version of The Little Mermaid, you won’t get it. The sentiment of love and good tidings is there, but when Pavel Černoch as the Prince enters the scene, you may feel a stir in the audience that something is amiss. Rusalka, is a modern day heroine. She is willing to make sacrifices for love whilst also fighting for what she wants on her terms.
I appreciated the forest scenes that were so beautifully curated by COC’s staging team. I felt like I wanted to sit under the trees and take in the dark ambience of a different kind of fairy tale. Rusalka echoed Hans Christian Andersen but without his fairy tale niceties. The audience is enveloped in a production that weaves in an aria into tree leaves that will hold your stomach tight for the length of the production. Reflect on the old men trees, glorious harvest moon and serene misty waters. We have some dangling relationship threads of our own that need mending.

“Song to the Moon” is the aria of arias which tells the story of Rusalka giving up her voice in return for human form and the love of her Prince. It is epic and gut wrenching. How can we not root for our girl when when we know she has given up a piece of herself for love? Would you do the same? It raises the question – in all her strength and fight, were there any other motives for her besides love? I made a note to dwell on the lyrics when I returned home, “Moon, glowing in the heavens, tell me where my lover is, tell him that I hope he’s dreaming of me”.
Enjoy the delicious sugar plum fairy wardrobe that looks like they were hurt in a thunder storm. Welsh choreographer Andrew George encouraged ballet sequences that were robust, mesmerizing and will encourage you to forget that you are watching an opera. With such an uplifting and sad love story, the dance sequences reminded me of the highs and lows of love. Nothing is ever what it seems.
Rusalka was beautifully articulated and a truly wonderful way to kiss the opera season good bye until the New Year.