Fashion, Glamour, Opera

Toronto-based Sid Neigum‘s latest fashion project has our stamp of approval written all over it. The Alberta-born designer will be taking his Fall 2017 collection to the west coast later this month to present at the Vancouver Opera’s signature fundraising gala – All The Glitters.

On top of showing his latest collection, Neigum has also joined forces with the VO to design costumes for their upcoming production of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro. Those attending the black-tie gala will get an up-close preview before these costumes take over the stage at the inaugural Vancouver Opera Festival.

While these creations grace the runway, the presentation will be complemented with a remixed opera score by electronic music producer Phil Western and sets and lighting design from Emmy Award winning cinematographer Craig Trudeau.

For those who are able to attend this extravagant event, the evening will be a “a glamorous event with a unique collaboration. The show will be a fusion of contemporary fashion, music, and staging, coupled with the joy of the operatic aria. We’re playing off the beauty of the historic Pacific Ballroom and taking it into more futuristic directions,” says Thomas Anselmi, Creative Director at BMO Overture.

Mozart 261

As Mozart turns 261, another TSO festival has begun in honour of the great composer. Starting 2017 with a bang, we had the pleasure of attending “Magnificent Mozart” featuring violinist Kerson Leong and 14 year-old pianist Leonid Nediak. Conductor Peter Oundjian put on his ‘Mozart Hat’ and led with the utmost passion as always.

Kerson Leong, Peter Oundjian_2 (@Jag Gundu)

Kerson Leong with Peter Oundjian (Photo courtesy of Jag Gundu)

Leonid Nediak (@Jag Gundu)

Leonid Nediak (Photo courtesy of Jag Gundu)


More performance will follow this month as Mozart @ 261 continues with:

For more information visit and celebrate the wonder of Mozart

A New Sarastro

As we near closer to the premiere of the COC’s latest production of The Magic Flute, another new face will take the stage with beloved soprano Kirsten MacKinnon. Croatian bass Goran Jurić will make his Canadian (as well as North American) debut playing the role of Sarastro.

Juric, GoranA character, where many assume a villain from the beginning,  Sarastro guides Tamino and Pamina towards the truth, gradually revealing his deep wisdom and great kindness. Juric is no stranger when it comes to performing as the high priest. With a new city and continent to conquer, we chatted with the young and dashing artist on his latest musical venture.

MC: How do you feel about performing for the first time in Canada?

GJ: The dream of every musician is to perform around the world and to meet music lovers from all over. This will be my first appearance in North America and I am so happy to make my debut in Canada, especially Toronto. The Canadian Opera Canada is such an incredible performing institution and I am so honoured to be a part of this cast. Toronto is such a wonderful city – colourful and very hospitable. I love Lake Ontario along with the lights and high-rise buildings which are amazing. You don’t see that in Munich (where I currently live). During the holidays, I was taking the streetcar and loved how the driver was singing along to Christmas songs with other passengers.

MC: In preparation for this role, how did you study Sarastro’s character?

GJ: The Magic Flute was the first opera I sang during my studies at the Croation National Theatre in Zagreb. This performance with the COC will be my seventh production. Each one reveals a new lens where I seek to create a different interpretation of Sarastro while also working with the director and conductor. Even though I have played this role several times, I still refer back to when I first studied his character. You can take on so many approaches, but Mozart’s score, of course, stays the same. When it comes to the story, Mozart does not give you an answer right away if Sarastro is good or bad. The same can be said for the Queen of the Night. It is important to interpret this opera in a variety of contexts in order to understand all of the characters. To me, this is the genius behind Mozart’s music where one can reincarnate themselves when taking the stage every time.

W. A. Mozart - The Magic Flute (Zagreb 2010)

Goran will also be performing a Free Concert Series concert on January 24th titled “Lost in a Russian Forest”.

Jonathan Crow and Co.

Jonathan Crow, is all over the place – he has already established himself as a talented leading violinist performing with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra as Concert Master, was appointed this year as Toronto Summer Music’s Artistic Director, continues his chamber work with the New Orford String Quartet, and may I had, just so happens to grow more handsome as her gets older. I promise to focus on the music for the rest of this post.

The BC native has been turning heads in all directions and there is no slowing down. This evening he will perform an English chamber recital featuring both ensemble and solo works for piano and violin featuring works by Elgar, Mozart and others. We ask Mr. Crow about this extra special summer with Toronto Summer Music.

Photo by Sian Richards

Photo by Sian Richards

MC: What do you love about performing with Toronto Summer Music in comparison to your seasonal work with the TSO?

JC: I love the idea of getting to work with young pre-professional players who are excited to play great chamber music. I remember playing my first professional gig almost 20 years ago, and being shocked at the speed at which I was expected to put everything together- the learning curve was pretty steep! TSM does a great job of bridging this gap between student performance timelines of a few months and the professional world. TSM is also a great example of a “festival” type program where artists come in from all around the world and put together exciting programs in a short time- giving the potential for truly unique musical events.

MC: Please share more about your musical interpretation with a smaller ensemble and the repertoire you are focusing on for your TSM performance. 

JC: In my opinion there isn’t a huge difference between chamber music and orchestra- the same skills come into play in both fields. No matter what the kind of music, one has to have great listening skills as well as the ability to adjust to colleagues- both in rehearsal and on the fly during a concert. Chamber music is great for enhancing these skills though, as with only a few people on stage it is a little easier to really have an interaction with each colleague, giving perhaps the chance for more spontaneity than any other form of music.

MC: How does this year’s ‘London Calling’ them resonate with you musically? 
JC: My parents are both British, and I’ve spent a lot of time in England both visiting relatives and working. London is one of the world’s great cities, and has such a huge musical history; it’s fantastic for me to be able to perform an entire concert (and be part of an entire festival!) that takes place around a specific city that means so much to my family and me! It’s amazing to see such varied repertoire that all has a connection to one amazing city.
MC: Do you have a favourite English composer?

JC: For me it has to be Edward Elgar- specifically because of a recording of his violin concerto made by a young Yehudi Menuhin with Elgar himself conducting. I fell in love with this piece and the rest of Elgar’s music as a kid when I listened to this recording over and over. There isn’t a huge amount of chamber music by Elgar unfortunately, but I’m really happy to be performing the Elgar Sonata for Violin and Piano this week.

Photo from Toronto Star

Photo from Toronto Star

MC: Finally, how do you feel about your new appointment as Artistic Director?

JC: I’m pretty to excited to take over from Douglas next year- this is a great festival and he has been doing amazing things! I believe so strongly in what this festival has to present- Toronto in the summer is an amazing place, and the TSM presents a mix of events unlike any other organization in the country. We already have lots of great ideas for 2017- hopefully we can pick up where 2016 left off and make a great festival next year!


The Summer of Wallis

There is nothing I love more than to support those whose work not only impresses audiences from all over but also has the power to make the next musical generation fall in love with classical legends. Wallis Giunta’s enthusiasm sparked my attention a few years back while working with her on an opera gala production at Roy Thomson Hall. To this day, this mezzo soprano still doesn’t cease to amaze me with her charm, creative enthusiasm and sense of style.

Wallis Giunta_Michael Edwards

This month Wallis will be going to her native city of Ottawa where she will participate in a celebratory performance honouring conductor Pinchas Zukerman as he marks a close with the National Arts Centre Orchestra. Come July, before she jets off to sing several roles with Oper Leipzig, Wallis will take part at the Music & Beyond festival. As a fashion ambassador for McCaffrey Haute Couture, she has wowed the crowd with her selection of stage costumes.

MC: How does it feel to perform a concert that will mark the end of era with the departure of Pinchas Zukerman?

WG: It is a major honour, of course, and quite an interesting coincidence as well. Maestro Zukerman’s first season as Artistic Director of the NACO (1999/2000), was also the season I first performed at the National Arts Centre, as a 13 year-old member of the Ottawa Central Children’s Choir. That was an important year for both of us (in very different ways, of course), and it is quite special that I am able to be a part of his final season.

MC: Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony is not only one of the most famous classical compositions of all time but also powerful and contagiously courageous. How does this piece affect you in performance?

WG: It fills me with joy, and also with reverence. Can you imagine that this composer was almost completely deaf when he wrote it? For something so joyful and profound to be created by this masterful composer who would never even be able to hear it – that is some pretty powerful stuff.

MC: How do you prepare yourself for repertoire like this?

WG: Luckily, I learned this piece a few years ago in school, so it’s easily in my voice already. We will have a few rehearsals with Maestro Zukerman in the week leading up to the performances, but it should come together quite easily. Our Maestro and his orchestra have played it many times before.

MC: You’ll be wearing McCaffrey Haute Couture which is actually based in Ottawa. Can you share more about the dress(es)?

WG: Yes! David and I have been collaborating for over 5 years now, and we have a wonderful collection of gowns that he has created exclusively for my performances. I haven’t yet chosen which two I will wear on June 19th and 20th, but I can guarantee that they’ll be showstoppers. It happens every time I walk out on stage in a concert – I hear people gasp and whisper “oh, wow, look at that dress”. David is a master in his own right, and I am so privileged to have his support and creative collaboration. Wallis Giunta_MIV Photography

MC: What are the advantages of performing at festivals, compared to stand alone recitals, concerts, operas, etc.

WG: Performing within a festival environment is exciting because of the concentration of creativity all in one place – festivals inspire audiences to explore repertoire and styles that are new to them, and take in more performances than they otherwise would. As a performer, that means we can often connect with people who normally wouldn’t choose to attend our shows, and maybe we can open some new minds to classical music. It’s also a lovely experience as a colleague, to have so many peers all together, usually in the summer, in a more relaxed environment. I am really looking forward to Music & Beyond, and to taking in some of the other concerts on my days off.

Opera Atelier Alcina

Opera Atelier Alcina

MC: You will be performing quite a variety of repertoire. How do you transition from one musical number to another?

WG: I love creating programs with variety! It’s a lot of fun for me as a performer. I also happen to have this unusually wide range of stylistic ability – people tell me I’m much more versatile than the average classical singer. So, I try to capitalize on that. Shifting from one style to another is not a vocal challenge for me, but it does require some preparation from an artistic point of view. Thought goes into the order of the pieces on the program, so the transitions make sense. In the moment, I just wipe the slate clean for each new song, and treat it as its own 3-4 minute opera.

Photo Credits: Gerard Collett, Michael Edwards and MIV Photography

Visit to learn about her upcoming performances!