Tag Archives: Music

Review: The Canadian Opera Company’s “The Magic Flute” from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (February 1, 3, 4, 7, 10, 16, 18, 19 and 24, 2017)


It’s a fairy-tale start to 2017 with the revival of the Canadian Opera Company’s playful and whimsical production of Mozart’s beloved opera, The Magic Flute. Bernard Labadie, one of Canada’s pre-eminent conductors, makes his COC debut with one of the most popular operas in the world with a cast of international and Canadian rising stars. The Magic Flute was last performed by the COC in 2011 and returns February 1, 3, 4, 7, 10, 16, 18, 19 and 24, 2017.

Canadian conductor Bernard Labadie is a specialist in Baroque and Classical repertoire who “moulds the phrases, plucks out all-important details in the texture and radiates an infectious joy in the music” (The Telegraph). An Officer of the Order of Canada and a knight of Ordre national du Québec, Labadie is a regular guest with the premier orchestras across North America and gaining increasing renown in Europe. He now brings his musicianship to the COC for the first time to lead the internationally acclaimed COC Orchestra and Chorus through some of Mozart’s most beautiful and infectious melodies.

The COC production was conceived by Tony Award®-winning director Diane Paulus with a purposeful sense of fun, playfulness and whimsy in this theatrical version of Mozart’s humorous, sometimes profound, exploration of the trials of growing up, seeking ideals and finding love. COC Ensemble Studio graduate and artistic director at the Thousand Islands Playhouse, Ashlie Corcoran, makes her COC mainstage debut staging the 2017 revival, based on Paulus’ original direction. The production is full of wonder and wisdom in following the adventures of Prince Tamino as he undergoes feats of heroism to rescue his love, Pamina, from the forces of evil.

The look and feel of the COC’s production evokes an 18th-century storybook sensibility in its costume and set design by acclaimed designer Myung Hee Cho with slight contemporary touches in colours and textures. The period feel carries through in the lighting design by Scott Zielinski who incorporates such 18th-century performance practices as candles, torches, and reflections off shiny surfaces and mirrors. The production conjures up a play-within-a-play scenario with the guests of a young girl’s name day celebration finding themselves entertained by an opera to only become the characters themselves, with the line between performer and audience quickly blurring. The ensuing trials and tribulations of the play travel through the girl’s home and take place over the course of one night, beginning at evening and ending at dawn.

Leading the young cast are two breakout tenors from the COC’s own Ensemble Studio, recent graduates Andrew Haji and Owen McCausland, who share the role of Prince Tamino. They are matched with two sopranos to watch: Russian Elena Tsallagova and Canadian Kirsten MacKinnon, singing the role of Princess Pamina, in their Canadian and COC debuts, respectively.

Two of the finest baritones of their generation, Canadians Joshua Hopkins and Phillip Addis, return to the COC to share the role of the bird catcher, Papageno. COC Ensemble Studio graduate soprano Jacqueline Woodley, heard last season as the Forest Bird in Siegfried, brings her exceptional talent to the role of Papageno’s sweetheart, Papagena.

The Queen of the Night is brought to life by the thrilling coloratura of COC Ensemble Studio graduate soprano Ambur Braid.

The priest-king Sarastro is sung by Croatian bass Goran Jurić, in his Canadian debut, and American bass Matt Boehler. The roles of Monostatos and the Speaker are sung by two notable voices on the international opera scene, COC Ensemble Studio graduate tenor Michael Colvin and German baritone Martin Gantner, respectively.

Rounding out the cast are many new and returning Ensemble Studio members: graduate soprano Aviva Fortunata, mezzo-soprano Emily D’Angelo, in her COC mainstage debut, and graduate mezzo-soprano Lauren Segal are the First, Second and Third Ladies, respectively; tenor Charles Sy sings the First Priest and is joined by baritone Bruno Roy, in his COC mainstage debut, as the Second Priest. Alternating in the role of the First Armed Man will be Ensemble Studio graduate tenors Owen McCausland and Andrew Haji, when not singing the role of Tamino, with graduate bass Neil Craighead as the Second Armed Man. Singing the First, Second and Third Spirits are members of the Canadian Children’s Opera Company.

The Magic Flute was Mozart’s final opera, receiving its premiere only three months before his death in December 1791. From the spectacular fireworks of the Queen of the Night to Pamina’s anguished lament and Papageno’s comic antics, the charm and profundity of Mozart’s music has made The Magic Flute a timeless classic in the years since with it consistently ranked as one of the most performed operas in the world.

The COC’s production of The Magic Flute is sung in German with English SURTITLESTM.

The COC performs The Magic Flute at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts. The COC’s 16/17 season marks the 10th anniversary of the Four Seasons Centre, Canada’s first purpose-built opera house, which opened in fall 2006 and has been hailed internationally as one of the finest in the world.


Single tickets for The Magic Flute range from $35 – $235 and box seats, when available, are $350. Tickets are now on sale, available online at coc.ca, by calling 416-363-8231, or in person at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts Box Office (145 Queen St. W.). For more information on specially priced tickets available to young people under the age of 15, standing room, Opera Under 30 presented by TD Bank Group, student groups and rush seating, visit coc.ca.


The Canadian Opera Company’s “The Magic Flute” from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is an opera that digs deep into the psychopathy of what a ‘happy ending’ really means. The audience is immediately thrown into a play within a play and are tasked to feel out the emotional mayhem transforming itself in front of their eyes.

Indeed fairtyale like with injections of comedy throughout the over 2 hour production – the joyfully painted portraiture as seen through exuberant costuming and enthusiastic stage production is thwarted by the ‘in your face’ theme of the mistreatment of women in “The Magic Flute”.

This production is filled with robust romance and decadent melodrama. It is also a wonderful introduction to Mozart’s work.  “The Magic Flute” is accessible and indeed very hummable.  There was many a toe tapping and giggling felt in the aisles throughout the evening.

Cheeky, campiness and majesty aside, our heroine, Pamina is offered to the audience in a rich text for feminine critique. Pamina represents the ideal woman, a good wife and daughter. Her mother, the Queen of the Night, is all attitude, heavy on the melodrama and exciting.  Whereas Prince Tamino and Papageno show us aristocracy’s stiff upper lip in contrast to the court jester.

Director, Diane Paulus, states “We have set the action in 1791, the year in which the opera was first performed, against the backdrop of the Enlightenment. The entire play-within-a-play is presented in the open space of a nobleman’s garden, itself a place of enchantment and symbolic power during this historical period. As the drama unfolds, the actors leave the theatre behind and continue to enact their story in an elaborate labyrinth that covers the grounds of the estate. The theatricality of their journey is enhanced by the mysteries of the outdoor world beneath the cover of night where they act out the rituals of the drama. All distinctions between fantasy and reality fade away as their pageant lasts through the night until dawn.”

The staging of “The Magic Flute” is grand, complex and ethereal. It was indeed the icing on the cake.  Watching the singers and chorus frolic, clash and find a common ground amongst lit wall sconces, well-manicured shrubbery, revolving hedge doors and The Shining like passageways transported us into a European country side far away from big city living.

The arts and crafts paper dragons, alligators, birds and giraffes were a delight to see. The sparkles of glittery dresses, kitschy fire walls and umbrella festooned men in electric blue jumped off the stage.  These vignettes felt like a scene out of “Beauty School Drop Out” from Grease.  These simple artisan notes added a pop up experience to the production and again continued to hypnotize the audience into a light mood even though the textures of music brought a silence to linger upon and the idea if the end really does justify the means?

Be sure to dwell on the gorgeous sicilienne aria for “Queen of the Night” as sung by Ambur Braid. It is an athletic feat and beautifully curated.  Think puncture holes through the heart and mesmerizing all in one shot.  The aria’s provided a rocking rhythm throughout the production and emulated a cradle of sorrow for the audience to breathe in in small bursts.

Elena Tsallagova as Pamina, Goran Jurić as Sarastro and Andrew Haji as Tamino created a safe place for the audience to lean into and learn about Mozart’s art. Their performances also allowed one to reflect quietly on the intent behind their deliveries.

“The Magic Flute” leaves the audience with the ideals of “reason, wisdom and light” as a take away. Perhaps easy ideas to read on paper, but difficult after a production that has opened up a dialogue that touches upon themes that are au courant in today’s current political climate.  That said, “The Magic Flute” is an opera to be reckoned with.  Emanate a grateful nod to the Canadian Opera Company for providing food for thought and a deep breath as we commence 2017 together.


Review: Toronto Symphony Orchestra: ‘A Jann Arden Christmas’

‘The holiday season is such a wonderful time for music—we hear everywhere during this period of the year some of the finest classical music written for the occasion as well as inspiring traditional carols and tuneful popular classics. The brilliant, multi-talented Canadian artist Jann Arden recently recorded her take on the season’s most beloved songs and I’m thrilled to have her perform them in her début with your Toronto Symphony Orchestra! The beautiful voices of the Etobicoke School of the Arts Holiday Chorus also join us for this performance, and you, too, will have the chance to contribute to this Christmas soundscape in our annual sing-along. May this concert of holiday music warm your hearts and get you in the holiday spirit!’

Steven Reineke

Principal Pops Conductor


Elegant, sexy and savvy. The Toronto Symphony was in top form last night.  We were ready to be ‘sleighed’ with holiday anthems.  Add the likes of the Etobicoke School of the Arts Holiday Chorus and the incomparable Jann Arden, whom brought the house down within seconds of taking the stage.

The evening was robust with songs like ‘The Best Christmas of All’, ‘Winter Wonderland’ and ‘It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.’ The audience caroled using carol sheets in their TSO Program book, the air was filled with warmth and fairy lights and the mood was festive and jovial.

When Arden took the stage with her cheeky humour on show and her voice in all its abundance ready to tear the walls down in Roy Thomson Hall, the audience was warmed up and ready for her.   She gifted the audience with songs from her song catalogue including of ‘Insensitive’ and ‘Waiting for Canada’.  The Canadian flag’s poppy red colour was emblazoned on Arden’s gorgeous chiffon dress and bejeweled gown.  We were on the same page.

After the intermission the Toronto Symphony gave us ‘Carol of the Bells’ from Mykola Leontovych/arr. David Hamilton and ‘“We Need A Little Christmas” from Mame’ from Jerry Herman/arr. Robert Wendel. Perhaps not all that well known but beautifully positioned in the evening.  TSO did a wonderful job playing the audience old standards, blues, folk and pop songs.  It was an evening for everyone.  The audience was satiated, ready to learn, have a giggle and most importantly have a great time.

Arden had many intimate moments with the audience last night. She spoke of road stories, her writing process, sweet comments to orchestra members and a rawness only she can pull off in a space as prestigious as Roy Thomson Hall.

She created a gorgeous space between her and her fans last night when she spoke of her collaboration with Bob Foster on ‘Good Mother’. Arden spoke of scribbling notes in the lining of a cigarette liner and how she wanted to create an ode to her parents.  The moment felt like she was whispering her narrative to every member of the audience singularly.  Intimate, emotional, generous and fraught with pain.  As the Toronto Symphony Orchestra started to play the opening bars of ‘Good Mother’ the audience sighed a sigh full of anticipation, Kleenex were at the ready, men sat up straighter in their seats and other’s leaned forward.  The Toronto Symphony Orchestra illumined ‘Good Mother’.  It took the audience to another level of loving Arden’s music and winning us over with TSO’s gorgeous arrangement.  People wept, some stood up and cheered.  The festive love embraced us as the song concluded.

The night could not be complete without an appearance by Jolly Saint Nick who ‘ho, ho ho’d’ down the aisles and then helped in leading the audience with a ‘The Jingle, Jangle Sing-along’. It was upbeat and fun.  What better way to warm up our voices by busting them out into the holiday season with the professional help of TSO?

The Etobicoke School of the Arts Chorus is comprised of the Grades 11 and 12 music theatre classes at the Etobicoke School of the Arts (ESA). The music theatre department, headed by Paul Aikins, is one of six majors offered at ESA, which is the oldest free-standing arts-focused high school in Canada. Their contribution was boisterous, electric and punctuated the evening’s program with a lightness that can only be captured by the talented voices of these youngsters.

As Arden said last night, ‘Music is the fabric of life’. It’s true.  The evening delivered was joyous, a true respite from work drama and encouraging in the colours of red, green and gold of the holiday season into the fabric of our lives in the present.  Music as performed by the likes of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and Jann Arden is to be inhaled and exhaled and perhaps even channelled into 2017 as we move ahead into the next year of our collective lives.


Holiday Stocking Stuffer: The Twelve Days of Christmas with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra – December 9 & 11, 2016

The malls maybe busy and we maybe run off our feet on our weekends – what better time is it to carve out some much needed early family and friends time before the holiday rush kicks in?

I encourage you to pick up tickets to the Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’. It is truly an event for the whole family.

On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me…a festive family concert! Sing along with your favourite carols and songs as part of The Twelve Days of Christmas—a hilarious live-action pageant, narrated by Canadian actor and improv comedian Colin Mochrie, that will have you rolling on the floor with laughter. If it isn’t already, the TSO’s annual family Christmas concert is sure to become your new holiday tradition!

These concerts feature the Toronto Symphony Orchestra under the direction of conductor Earl Lee, with the Highland Creek Pipe Band, Resonance Youth Choir and Tha Spot Holiday Dancers.


JAMES STEPHENSON: Holiday Overture

MOZART/arr. Aubrey Winter: Allegro from Toy Symphony in C major

STEVEN REINEKE: “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year”

LUCAS RICHMAN: Hannukah Festival Overture


JOHN RUTTER: Candlelight Carol

TRADITIONAL/arr. Mitch Clarke: Frosty the Snowman

TCHAIKOVSKY: “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” from The Nutcracker

TCHAIKOVSKY: Trépak from The Nutcracker

ANDERSON: Sleigh Ride

DELVYN CASE: Rocket Sleigh

RICHARD HAYMAN: The Twelve Days of Christmas

FINNEGAN, PLOYHAR, LUCK: Rudolph’s Christmas Medley

Tickets can still be purchased and they are reasonably priced at $26! True stocking stuffer pricing that will keep your wallet happy as well as you and your loved ones.


Review: Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring in Concert’

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring Original Score composed by Howard Shore Composer Howard Shore brings J.R.R. Tolkien’s literary imagination to vivid life with his Academy® and GRAMMY® Award–winning score to The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.  By the way, Howard Shore is Canadian!

Shore’s music expresses Peter Jackson’s film as an immense symphonic work—a uniquely developed vision drawn from centuries of stylistic tendencies. The music of The Lord of the Rings is counted among film music’s most complex and comprehensive works. This unique performance sets the score to the film, but allows the music to bear the narrative weight, creating a wholly new and dramatic live concert experience.

Shore’s score not only captures Fellowship’s sweeping emotion, thrilling vistas, and grand journeys, but also echoes the very construction of Tolkien’s Middle-earth.    Styles, instruments, and performers collected from around the world provide each of Tolkien’s cultures with a unique musical imprint. The rural and simple hobbits are rooted in a dulcet weave of Celtic tones.  The mystical Elves merit ethereal Eastern colours.

The Dwarves, Tolkien’s abrasive stonecutters, receive columns of parallel harmonies and a rough, guttural male chorus. The industrialized hordes of Orcs claim Shore’s most violent and percussive sounds, including Japanese taiko drums, metal bell plates and chains beaten upon piano wires, while the world of Men, flawed yet noble heirs of Middle-earth, is introduced with stern and searching brass figures. In operatic fashion, these musical worlds commingle, sometimes combining forces for a culminated power, other times violently clashing…and always bending to the will of the One Ring and its own ominous family of themes.

The music’s vast scope calls for symphony orchestra, mixed chorus, children’s chorus, and instrumental and vocal soloists singing in the Tolkien-crafted languages Quenya, Sindarin, Khuzdul, Adûnaic, Black Speech, as well as English. Original folk songs stand alongside diatonic hymns, knots of polyphony, complex tone clusters, and seething, dissonant aleatoric passages. It is purposeful, knowing writing, as contained in execution as it is far-reaching in influence; for within this broad framework resides a remarkably concise musical vision.

Shore’s writing assumes an earthy, grounded tone built on sturdy orchestral structures and a sense of line that is at once fluid yet stripped of frivolous ornamentation.

Says Howard Shore, “This is the first time that the complete score to The Fellowship of the Ring will be performed live to projection in Toronto. My first score for The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Fellowship of the Ring, was the beginning of my journey into the world of Tolkien and I will always hold a special fondness for the music and the experience.”

—Doug Adams is a Chicago-based musician and writer. He is the author of the book The Music of the Lord of the Rings Films.


“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

It was pretty fitting that we took in the Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring in Concert’ last night as the end of the year creeps towards us. The 3 night sold out performance captured Howard Shore Academy Award ®– Winning Score at its essence and perfectly ‘lit’ the Roy Thomson Hall space with a musical respite from the damp weather outside.

There was a definite excited energy in the air as we took our seats above Roy Thomson Hall. We had a perfect view.  The space was filled and there were a few die heard fans in full Arwen gear in front of us.  We made sure to pick up our cocktails and popcorn prior to the performance.   It’s great that the Toronto Symphony Orchestra encourages guests to indulge on treats from the concession stand for evening performances.  It is a truly cultural experience watching a film and having the Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s musical wares wash over you.

The nuances that Conductor, Ludwig Wicki, brought to the table last night amplified every note that may have gotten lost as we watched ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring’ on the big screen in the past.  From the lovely Kaitlyn Lusk’s soprano solos and the Canadian Children Opera Company’s subtle but eloquent odes to the landscapes and intimate scenes between characters – the emotion was at its height last night.  There were tears, laughter, sighs of relief and ‘yes!’ in unison but the audience members.   We were in union last night.  Alastair Thorburn-Vitols the boy soprano was gentle in his intent with his performance but he was sure to provide the goose bump texture for the evening.   The evening was rich, diverse and beautifully curated.

The Toronto Mendelssohn Choir’s deep bass made us cringe at numerous points throughout the performance. In those moments we constantly were made aware that the collective group of musicians, conductor and singers are true athletes.  A three hour performance with one intermission – we felt emotionally and physically raw.  Sure, these musicians are professionals – but how do they do it?  Not only were they able to evoke, provoke and keep up with a consistent momentum and still ‘slay’ us – they did it with joy, verve and it was gobsmackingly good.  The audience repaid the musicians with an epic prolonged standing ovation which was well deserved.

Music from the soundtrack that we visited in our travels together with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra in the Shire and abroad included of:


Prologue: One Ring To Rule Them All

The Shire

Bag End

Very Old Friends

Farewell Dear Bilbo

Keep It Secret, Keep It Safe

A Conspiracy Unmasked

Three is Company

Saruman the White

A Shortcut to Mushrooms


The Nazgûl


The Caverns of Isengard

Give Up the Halfling



The Sword That Was Broken

The Council of Elrond Assembles

The Great Eye



The Pass of Caradhras

The Doors of Durin



Balin’s Tomb


Caras Galadhon

The Mirror of Galadriel

The Fighting Uruk-hai

Parth Galen

The Departure of Boromir

The Road Goes Ever On…

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra is definitely on to something here.   Last night was an excellent example of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra not only illuminating the beauty of Howard Shore’s score but also raising the bar on entertainment in the city of Toronto.  The audience lay in awe as we left Roy Thomson Hall last night and brimming with gratitude for an art that is hardly fading thanks to the Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s efforts and gracious talent.


Review – The Canadian Opera Company: ‘Norma’ (October 16 – November 5, 2016)

Searing drama and epic lyricism open the Canadian Opera Company’s 2016/2017 season with a new production of Bellini’s Norma. This bel canto masterpiece is a remarkable showcase for the rare soprano who can handle the demands of this title role and the COC production boasts the return of two of today’s most sought-after divas to its stage: Canadian-American Sondra Radvanovsky and South African Elza van den Heever star as the high priestess Norma. Norma was last performed by the COC in 2006 and returns for eight performances on October 6, 15, 18, 21, 23, 26, 28 and November 5, 2016.

Bellini’s opera tells of all-consuming passion and devastating betrayal when the Druid high priestess Norma finds her life in turmoil with the discovery that she’s been cast aside by her Roman lover for a fellow priestess. American director Kevin Newbury makes his COC debut with this new staging, co-produced by the COC, San Francisco Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago and Gran Teatre del Liceu. One of the finest directors working in opera today, Newbury sets the action of Norma in a mythic, Game of Thrones-inspired milieu, brought to life through his creative team that includes recent Tony Award-nominee set designer David Korins, rising star costume designer Jessica Jahn and internationally acclaimed lighting designer Duane Schuler.

American maestro Stephen Lord has made a specialty of bel canto operas and conducts the graceful melodies and musical fireworks that distinguish the florid magnificence that is Bellini’s Norma, presented by this all-star cast with the acclaimed COC Orchestra and Chorus. Chosen by Opera News as one of the “25 Most Powerful Names in U.S. Opera” (one of four conductors), Lord returns to the COC after past productions of A Masked Ball and Lucia di Lammermoor.

The title role of Norma demands a true diva to convincingly convey the character’s emotional range while effortlessly delivering some of the most vocally challenging music ever composed. Globally celebrated artist Sondra Radvanovsky, acclaimed in past COC productions of Roberto Devereux and Aida, now brings her “dramatically and vocally arresting” (New York Times) Norma to Toronto. Elza van den Heever mesmerized audiences in the COC’s Il Trovatore with her “plush, dramatic voice capable of formidable power and dazzling high notes” (Associated Press) and delivers triumphant performances with premier opera companies around the world, including a Norma where she is “breathtaking throughout … with her controlled virtuosity, [has] the audience anxiously awaiting every note” (Bachtrack).

American mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard is acclaimed by critics for her passionate intensity and vocal beauty. She returns to the COC after a much-admired performance in La clemenza di Tito to make her role debut as Adalgisa, Pollione’s new lover, a character that demands supreme dramatic and vocal sensitivity and authority in order to harmonize with Norma and deliver the duets that make up some of the opera’s greatest musical moments.

American Russell Thomas is one of the most exciting vocal and dramatic talents on the international opera and concert scene. His “gorgeous, warm tenor” (Globe and Mail) makes a swift return to the COC, after his recent Dora Award-nominated turn as Don José in Carmen last spring, to sing Pollione, Norma’s Roman lover. Russian bass Dimitry Ivashchenko, last heard as “a menacing, vocally chilling Hunding” (New York Times) in the COC’s recent Die Walküre, is Oroveso, Norma’s father.

Recent COC Ensemble Studio graduate soprano Aviva Fortunata is Clotilde, Norma’s maid. Ensemble Studio tenor Charles Sy is Flavio, Pollione’s friend.

Norma is Bellini’s best-known opera and was the composer’s personal favourite. Bellini claimed that, were he shipwrecked, it was the score to Norma that he would try to save.

Norma is sung in Italian with English SURTITLESTM.


Single tickets for Norma range from $35 – $235 and box seats, when available, are $350. Tickets are now on sale, available online at coc.ca, by calling 416-363-8231, or in person at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts Box Office (145 Queen St. W.). For more information on specially priced tickets available to young people under the age of 15, standing room, Opera Under 30 presented by TD Bank Group, student groups and rush seating, visit coc.ca.



It is rare to find an opera that will re-awaken all of your senses in one sitting. The Canadian Opera Company’s production of Bellini’s ‘Norma’ is beautifully curated but also littered with a deep symbolic spirituality rarely (and yet authentically) brought to stage with such intensity of heart, soul and mind.

“Casta Diva” from ‘Norma’ as sung by the great, Elza van den Heever is transformational. You will appreciate every note like it is a fine wine early on in the performance.  Take a moment to close your eyes and meditate on its essence.

The ‘coloratura’ is an appropriate word in defining the ‘decorative singing’ as seen in “Casta Diva”. The audience will be immersed in it when breathing in ‘Norma’. The opera is ornate, full blossomed and aromatic in its delivery.  The libretti are illuminated as it is colored in with broad strokes.  Don’t be afraid as you are assaulted with every flower, leaf and root as it comes flying at you in musically noted symbolism and text throughout ‘Norma’.

The Druid’s religion of sacrifice, rituals, human and animal sacrifice are central to the Druid ethos and seen on stage through the images of Ritual of Oak, Mistletoe, bulls, sacred forests and burning effigies. These pieces provided the audience with a gorgeous texture throughout the performance. The audience is transported not only to a specific place and time but also a culture not all that different from our own in the present.  Themes of community versus exclusion, monogamy vs. adultery, the religious right vs. atheism and expensive love triangles.

The actors and actresses oozed a Games of Thornes meets Medea aesthetic in their luxe costuming, knotted hair and metallic tattoos. The exquisite visual stage décor specifically outfitted with totem bullheads on the walls and Norma’s children’s miniature elements of war reflect sacrifices and conflict.

As per Kevin Newbury’s Director’s Notes, ‘Norma’s moments with her children are deeply moving to me, especially in the hands of two gifted singing actresses: Sondra Radvanovsky and Elza van den Heever. Her rumination about whether or not to kill her own children envisions both a Medea-like act of revenge and an act of protection from the violent world she knows awaits them (as in Toni Morrison’s classic novel Beloved). In our production, Norma breaks the cycles of violence as she turns the war machine into an effigy and the instrument of her ultimate sacrifice.’

Elza van den Heever has set the bar high in her performance as ‘Norma’. Toronto audiences will be hard-pressed to not want to tear up when we encounter Bellini’s work in our future thanks to her dynamic performace.  Alongside Isabel Leonard, as ‘Adalgisa’, both women take us on a rollercoaster of emotions while also demonstrating to us the sheer complexity of girl drama at its finest.  Giggles, tears and a melodramatically drawn out, duh duh duh, will be experienced sequentially in this performance.

Russell Thomas can do no wrong as ‘Pollione’. Russell’s quiet yet powerfully serene presence fills the space with so much ambiance and intent that one can’t help but dwell upon each word sung from the deep crevices of his pained heart.

The three artists collide with such force and prove to be a wonderful reminder of the athletic artistry exhibited by Maestro Stephen Lord and his artists and musicians. They collectively, beautifully shape together The Canadian Opera Company’s production of Bellini’s ‘Norma’.

The audience was on their feet before the curtains closed and there was a joyful yet heroic mood felt in the Four Season of Performing Arts air. The audience was sure to let the cast and crew know of their sincere gratitude.  The cast’s emotional faces demonstrated that they accepted it.

There are only a few performances left – I encourage you to check out ‘Norma’ before she is gone.


Review: Toronto Urban Roots Festival (TURF) – Friday September 16 – Sunday September 18, 2016

Toronto Urban Roots Festival (TURF) always promises a good time.  It’s a late in the summer kinda happening that brings only the best in folk rock artists and deliciously sound foodies to its three daylong festival at Fork York and Garrison Commons.  This past Friday September 16 – Sunday September 18, 2016 fete was all about the likes of homegrown veterans, honouring our locals while still mixing it up with some international flare to keep our musical vernacular fresh.

Day 1 gave us The Hives, Skinny Lister, Jake Bugg, Modern Baseball, Dropkick Murphys and Explosions in the Sky. A mix you cannot happen upon anywhere else in our fair city on any given day.  The Hives annihilated our hearing.  Skinny Lister kept it folk rockabilly.  Jake Bugg gave us some teen dream boat vibes.  Explosions in the Sky,  let’s face it made the audience collectively swoon in good measure.  A true crowd highlight.

TURF always provides bang for one’s buck. You get variety of musical nuances and at the same time will be sure to leave with new bands that you can’t wait to tell your friends about.  Well, that is after you first pop it all over your social media accounts.

The drinks were flowing from the likes of Tropical Temptations and Smoothe Operator. The foodie in you could easily be filled with affordable yummies from Mustache Burger, 50 Pesos and Kung Fu Dawg.

The layout at TURF this weekend was all about easy accessibility. Even in the rain on Saturday, fans were seen dodging raindrops as they caught LUSH as they said hello from a long absence from Canadian shores and whilst checking their schedule to see what was next on in their rainy day schedule.

The crowd was diverse, eclectic, suits mixed with boho types with the common thread of having a hang ten chill vibe. Everyone gets along and is up for a giggle over a pint or two.  Who knew the Gardiner Expressway could evoke so much rad energy?

A crowd that could not only make Gord Downie proud was seen paying homage to the Tragically Hip’s legacy as Dwayne Gretzky played song after song from their illustrious catalogue. It was an emotional hour or two.  Fans hugged one another while kids played on the grassy hill.  TURF brings us together every year as we break bread with one another under the Gardiner Expressway and reminds us how transformative and healing music can be with good people, great tunes and a harvest moon overhead.


TD Toronto Jazz Festival Kicks Off Tomorrow!


Friday, June 24
An Evening with Sarah McLachlan
8 p.m. – Sony Centre (1 Front Street East)
Multi-platinum singer and songwriter best known for her intimate vocals and relatable lyrics

KC and The Sunshine Band
9 p.m. – Toronto Star Stage, Nathan Phillips Square (FREE)
After more than 40 years, the legendary supergroup can still throw-down

Heather Bambrick & Friends feat. Alex Pangman with Russ Little Quartet
7:30 p.m. – Home Smith Bar, The Old Mill (21 Old Mill Road)
Heather Bambrick joins forces with 2016 JUNO nominee Alex Pangman to breathe new life into the beloved standards of the classic jazz era

Bill Charlap Trio
8 p.m. / 10 p.m. – Jazz Bistro (251 Victoria Street)
A premier jazz pianist whose trio is recognized as one of the leading groups in jazz

Jane Bunnett & Hilario Duran
12:30 p.m. – Holt Renfrew (50 Bloor Street West)
Multiple JUNO-award winner, Jane Bunnett plays with one of the world’s most innovative pianist of Afro-Cuban music & Latin jazz

Tia Brazda Quartet

5 p.m. – Distillery Historic District (55 Mill Street)
“A technicolour swing that’s just the thing” – Globe and Mail

Heavyweights Brass Band w. Jay Douglas

6:30 p.m. – Outdoor Stage, Nathan Phillips Square
Inspired by the New Orelans sound, they pack a powerful one-two punch in brass tradition

We Came to Get Down: Swing vs. Street

7:30 p.m. – Outdoor Stage, Nathan Phillips Square
Contemporary street dancers pop, lock and break it down while vintage swing dancers lindy, charleston and jitterbug in a friend dance battle

Saturday, June 25
Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings
8:30 p.m. – Toronto Star Stage, Nathan Phillps Square
They have single handedly revived soul and funk music

Heather Bambrick & Friends feat. Broadsway with the Russ Little Quartet
7:30 p.m. – Home Smith Bar, The Old Mill (21 Old Mill Road)
Jazzy cabaret with a distinctive Broadway bent

Bill Charlap Trio
8 p.m. / 10 p.m. – Jazz Bistro (251 Victoria Street)


Jarrod Lawson
12:30 p.m. – Holt Renfrew (50 Bloor Street West)
“Everything he touches turns to soul”

Bill King’s Rhythm Express

12:30 p.m. – Toronto Star Stage, Nathan Phillips Square

Regent Park School of Music
2 p.m. – Outdoor Stage, Nathan Phillips Square
RPSM animates the Square with interactive opportunities for kids of all ages!

Joe Sealy – Solo Piano
3 p.m. – Holt Renfrew (50 Bloor Street West)

Slocan Ramblers
3 p.m. – Distillery Historic District (55 Mill Street)
Toronto’s young bluegrass band to watch

Bob Brough Trio
5 p.m. – Distillery Historic District (55 Mill Street)
…46 years later, Bob’s original artistic vision, to make music and be heard, continues

Jarrod Lawson
6:30 p.m. – Outdoor Stage, Nathan Phillips Square

Sunday, June 26
Lee Fields & The Expressions / Allen Stone
8:30 p.m. – Toronto Star Stage, Nathan Phillips Square
A pitch-perfect powerhouse, Allen Stone identifies as the “hippie with soul”
Lee Fields brings James Brown-style funk to lo-fi blues to contemporary Southern soul

Laila Biali Trio + Phil Dwyer

8 p.m. / 10 p.m. – Jazz Bistro (251 Victoria Street)
“She is an exciting and unique talent” – Sting

Molly Johnson
12:30 p.m. – Holt Renfrew (50 Bloor Street West)
Molly’s luscious interpretations of jazz and blues standards speak to an emotional depth that few vocalists in any genre have ever reached

Toronto Mass Choir
12:30 p.m. – Toronto Star Stage, Nathan Phillips Square
On the cutting edge of the Canadian gospel music scene

Tanika Charles
2 p.m. – Outdoor Stage, Nathan Phillips Square
“The most buzzed-about soul singer in Toronto” – CBC Music

Sam Dickinson Trio
3 p.m. – Pool Deck, Hilton Toronto Downtown Hotel

Rhythm & Truth

3 p.m. – Distillery Historic District (55 Mill Street)

Blue Moon Marquee

5 p.m. – Distillery Historic District (55 Mill Street)

Jamison Ross
6:30 p.m. – Outdoor Stage, Nathan Phillips Square
A 2016 Grammy nominee, he takes listeners on a musical journey that unifies his drumming with his vocal gifting

For the complete club listings, please visit www.torontojazz.com

TD TORONTO JAZZ FESTIVAL Artist Spotlight: Joe Jackson

Celebrating its 30th anniversary this summer, the TD Toronto Jazz Festival announces its lineup as it runs from June 24 – July 3, 2016 featuring a diverse range of musicians including heavyweights, rising stars and established artists such as:

Gregory Porter • Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings • Oliver Jones Trio • Joe Jackson

Robert Glasper Experiment • Avishai Cohen Trio • Grace Potter • Allen Stone

Michael Franti • Lee Fields • Eagle Rock Gospel Singers • Bill Charlap Trio

Fanfare Ciocarlia • The Hot Sardines • Robi Botos • David Braid

Broadsway • Heather Bambrick • Laili Biali • Hilario Duran

Lemon Bucket Orkestra • Alex Pangman • Phil Dwyer

Melissa Stylianou • John Alcorn

and many more!

The music of Joe Jackson spans new wave, pop, jazz and classical. With 19 studio albums and multiple Grammy nominations to his credit, Jackson rocketed to stardom with a string of hit songs and landmark albums including, “Is She Really Going Out With Him?”, “Steppin’ Out” and “Breaking Us In Two.”

Catch him Saturday July 2, 2016 at Nathan Philips Square at 8:30 p.m..


I Fell In Love with NXNE 2016’s Port Lands

This year NXNE 2016 launched a brand new lakeside live music, festival venue on the east side of Toronto. Friday, June 17 and Saturday, June 18 presented a complete, immersive festival experience in this brand new concert site, across the street from the old Sound Academy, 51 Commissioners Street, at the corner of Cherry Street and Commissioners Street.
Getting there was easy, there are bike paths to the door and there was even a free bike valet parking. The TTC ran quickly and if you fancied boating it to NXNE Port Lands — you could for free.
Friday was co-presented by Manifesto and was heavy on the hip hop with international stars as well as the best of the best of the soul scene. Saturday went deep into Indie rock.
Toronto’s best food trucks showed up, there were art installations galore, cool activations and summer sun soothing beer gardens were all the rage.
The two stages offered a respite from the crowds. If you needed a break, you could hit the smaller stage with a drink in hand. If you were keen to be down deep with the kids – the grander Budweiser stage could satiate you.
The views of the city from the industrial side of the Port Lands was perfect for reflection time. With no grass underfoot, you could easily find a space to spread out with a meal and not be trampled on by fellow concert goers running between stages.
The neat tee pee balloon tents were an awesome shelter from the scorching sun and the bbq meat made for a transformative journey far away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Toronto.
With Club Land, Game Land and Future Land all the rage – it was no wonder that Port Lands was going to be a hit with the locals and visitors alike.
NXNE 2016 was beautifully curated with those special details that spoke to everyone depending on what you fancy. Till NXNE 2017!

NXNE Daily Tip Sheet – Day 6

Saturday, June 18




Live music and gaming at Yonge-Dundas Square
12pm – Play video game LOUD on Planet X
3 – 10pm – Live Music including No King for Countrymen, Taylor Knox, Le Groupe Swing, Sam Cash & the Romantic Dogs, and Zeus


Gates at 1pm, 51 Commissioners Street

Canal Stage Commissioners Stage
1:20pm – Devin Cuddy Band 2:20pm – Land of Talk
3:30pm – The Highs 4:20pm – Dan Mangan
5:30pm – The Zolas 6:40pm – Mother Mother
8:10pm – Born Ruffians 9:30pm – Father John Misty


M for Montreal Showcase at the Horseshoe Tavern
9pm Doors – 370 Queen Street West
Homeshake, Alex Calder, Michael Rault, Kandle and the Krooks, and Cat and The Queen

8pm Doors – Danforth Music Hall, 147 Danforth Avenue

UTA Showcase at Lee’s Palace
9pm Doors – 529 Bloor Street West
Laura Sauvage, Birds of Bellwoods, Jesse MacCormack, Adam Baldwin, Motorleague and The OBGMs


So So Glos
NXNE Club Land
9pm Doors – Smiling Buddha, 961 College Street
with Hobo Lord, Honduras, and Big Ups

Screaming Females
NXNE Club Land
9pm Doors – The Silver Dollar Room, 486 Spadina Avenue
with Mikey Erg, and The Worrier