‘Music is the poetry of the air.’ – Jean Paul Richter
Classical music is often thought of as an inaccessible art form, difficult to understand and not everyone’s thing. However, the annual Toronto Summer Music Festival brings this high art form into the heart of the city for all to enjoy and ultimately show that classical music isn’t just for those ‘in the know’. With shows ranging from opera and string quartets through to a classical twist on Radiohead, there truly is something for everyone. This year’s British theme takes you to the very core of British culture and these are six of the shows not to be missed.
Opening Night: English Music for Strings
The opening night of any festival is always exciting. After months of planning, the whole thing kicks off in a blaze of celebration and glory. The Parker String quartet and TSM Festival Ensemble are joined by guests Nicholas Phan and Neil Deland to pay tribute to Britain’s exceptional strings heritage, as you are transported to distant voices of the Welsh hills and valleys.
When: Thursday, July 14th – 7:30pm
Opera: The Rape of Lucretia
For the first time at this year’s festival, there will be an opportunity to see opera on the Toronto stage. The Rape of Lucretia is the iconic opera set in ancient Rome, centered around an immoral Rome of 500 B.C. where suicide, murder and rape are commonplace. An exciting opera which is riveting and revolting in equal measure, this is not one anyone would regret seeing!
When: Friday, July 22nd – 7:30pm
Coronation of King George II
Daniel Taylor’s recreation of the 1727 coronation of King George II is guaranteed to be full of all the pomp and pageantry that surrounds royalty. Music that is triumphant by nature, this rousing show is likely to cause the hair on the back of your neck to stand up. It is an apt celebration of a monarchy that still lives on today.
When: Tuesday, July 26th – 7:30pm
A Shakespeare Serenade
A festival centered on British art would be incomplete without its most famous name, William Shakespeare. In honor of the 400th anniversary of his death, there will be a series of events at this year’s festival that celebrate his work. The highlight will be the Shakespeare Serenade performed by an ensemble of young singers, who will reference both his plays and poetry which have left such a unique and irreplaceable mark on both British and Western culture.
When: Wednesday, July 27th – 7:30pm
A classical pianist on the stage at Koerner Hall, that sounds like a fairly standard night at a classical music festival. However, when Christopher O’Riley plays, it is anything but standard. His musical repertoire includes The Beatles, Pink Floyd and Radiohead. It’s a show and a style of playing that transcends and blurs the lines between music genres. His album True Love Waits was critically acclaimed and, simply put, he is a world-class musician.
When: Tuesday, August 2nd – 7:30pm
(Almost) Last Night of the Proms
With the British theme this year, it would be criminal not to have an ode to the last night of the proms, the traditional close to the season of classical music in London. This event will have you waving your Union Jacks with fervor and belting out Land of Hope and Glory for weeks. Leaving the theater you’ll probably struggle to understand how you’re still in Toronto rather than proudly pacing the streets of London.
When: Thursday, August 4th – 7:30pm
With so many shows available to view throughout all three weeks of the festival, this list is simply a snapshot of the incredible line-up that is on offer. So whether you’re a classical music aficionado or an absolute beginner, head to a show and experience an art form that has truly stood the test of time. You’re more likely to see a show that you’ll never forget than one that you regret.