Virtuosi Update

June 6, 2012

Dear Friend of Virtuosi,

Virtuosi Concerts completed the 2011-12 season on the Mother’s Day weekend with a spectacular series of  President’s Concerts hosted by Dr. Lloyd Axworthy. In partnership with Camerata Nova, we presented  three performances of “From The Middle Ages To Manitoba” in Convocation Hall, with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra Chamber Players and soprano Maria Luz Alvarez. For your interest, I append  below the concert review from the Winnipeg Free Press as well as some of the rapturous reactions of “The Audience as Critic”.

Subscriptions for the upcoming 2012-13 season are coming in hot and heavy (or at least in great numbers), well ahead of last season’s rate of return.  Orders are filling up fast. If you have not yet sent in your subscription (or individual ticket order), please do so soon. If you don’t have an order form you can download it from our website,, or call Sandra at 786-9000.

I remind you also of the BEN HEPPNER  concert  on November 13 at the Centennial Concert Hall, co-presented by Virtuosi Concerts and The Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra. This is huge, and way too big for Eckhardt-Gramatté Hall. This is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the finest dramatic tenor of his generation to be seen and heard live in performance in Winnipeg! You should not miss him. As a Virtuosi subscriber you will save 25% on Ben Heppner tickets.

Winnipeg Free Press Review:   Pilgrimage to a satisfying performance of classical music

By: Holly Harris
Posted: 05/14/2012 1:00 AM |

ANYONE who’s ever taken a road trip will often roll down the windows and crank up the tunes for the journey.
Camerata Nova, Virtuosi Concert Series, the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra and the University of Winnipeg joined forces to offer their early music take on the time-worn tradition, with a diverse program of music used during pilgrimages and sojourns throughout the centuries.
The two-hour-plus program conceived by conductor Ross Brownlee and early-music specialist Douglas Kirk featured acclaimed baroque soprano Maria Luz Alvarez as well as the WSO Chamber Players: Claudine St-Arnauld, violin; Rachel Moody, violin; Anne-Élise Lavalée, viola; and Yuri Hooker, cello. Sunday’s concert, held at the university’s acoustically rich Convocation Hall also doubled as VCS’ 2012 President’s Concert. The Madrid-born Alvarez, who now resides with her husband in Thompson, chose three works to showcase the purity of her well-controlled voice. Ay trista vida corporal, a 14th-century a cappella chant opened the concert with her clear soprano soaring from the hall’s upper loft.

The WSO players (save for Lavalée) as well as Michael McKay’s continuo joined her during Scarlatti’s Lamentatione per il Mercordi Santo (1707), performed during Holy Week services. The sectionalized piece with its alternating modalities afforded an even better opportunity to hear the soloist’s lightly executed ornamentation and fluid vocalization.
Her third selection, Ay amargas soledades, based on text by Spanish Renaissance playwright/poet Felix Lope de Vega featured Hooker’s sensitive cello underscoring her voice in close harmony.

Another highlight — two, actually — included CN’s own, in-house, wildly eclectic band: CN artistic director Andrew Balfour, djembe; Amir Amiri, santur; McKay, Gothic harp; and Michael Thompson, didgeridoo. The ensemble added their own pulsing energy to the hypnotic Laudemus Virginem/Splendens ceptigera, and later Cuncti simus concanentes.
Lest anyone think this journey was solely about the past, the concert also featured two world premieres by two, very much alive Manitoba composers.

Balfour’s choral setting of O Fortuna, based on medieval manuscript Carmina Burana, featured his signature close harmonies accompanied by the string quartet’s syncopated rhythms. The short piece will eventually grow into a three-movement work that will be heard in future.
Brandon-based composer Kenneth Nichols’ Music for Pilgrims and Penitents (and the only selection performed in English) is an extended work for choir and soprano/tenor soloists. Nichols adapted his earlier, CN-commissioned The Way of the Cross (2005) to become the nearly 18-minute revised piece. Effective instrumental ritornelli served as transitions between each of its sections that also displayed Nichols’ skilful part writing and effective tone painting.

Finally, who could forget baritone McKay’s exuberant solo Tempus est jocundum that chronicles the rush — and blush — of young springtime love. His heavy sigh at the end spoke volumes while giving a fresh new take on this more usually reserved musical ensemble.

Camerata Nova with Virtuosi Concert Series
From the Middle Ages to Manitoba
Sunday, May 13
Convocation Hall
Attendance: 147
Three and a half stars out of five

Audience as Critic Comments from the President’s Concerts:

– Of all the wonderful gifts I’ve received this Mother’s Day… the best was being blessed by the utter lack of tension and complete transcendence of M.L. Alvarez performance. I am inspired… thank you to all the musicians for presenting this music to us for out edification. You contribute most vitally to our society. We are civilized by you.

– WOW! Keep it coming. I got goose pimples. Maria is among the foremost interpreters of medieval and baroque music in the world. Thank you for a great experience. Lloyd: you did yourself proud.

– Currently life is filled with competing noise. One mediocre sound bite competes with the next. It’s easy to be lazy and casual about what we hear. Not at Camerata Nova. The performance and music demands we listen with intent and hear with our ears and hearts.

– Where else anywhere can you sit so close in so intimate a setting and hear such glorious sound. We are so blessed in Winnipeg.

– I found the concert to be very interesting/refreshing. I enjoyed the mix of different cultural sounds while still maintaining an overall cohesive theme. This was my first Virtuosi concert and I am interested to see the others and all the interesting music they have to offer.

– Manitoba – so far from everything – is so lucky to have this quality of musicians resident amongst us.

Warm wishes to all,

Harry Strub


Saturday, September 22, 2012 at 8 PM


“Expressive, brilliant and elegant” is how The Strad described Timothy Fain. Not all of our Virtuosi guests are movie stars, but you heard him standing in – or, rather, ‘playing in’ –  for Richard Gere in Bee Season and saw him playing onscreen in Black Swan. Michael Boriskin, the other half of this dupernova duo, is esteemed by The New York Times as “a pianist of the highest rank, with the Midas touch!”

Programme: Solo and duo works by Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Jalbert and Franc





Alexander MIckelthwate, conductor
Benn Heppner, tenor
John Hess, piano

Ben Heppner is recognized as the finest dramatic tenor of his generation. Renowned world-wide for his beautiful voice, intelligent musicianship and sparkling dramatic sense, Heppner’s appearances on the opera stage and in concert with the world’s leading orchestras have set new standards of artistic excellence.

Some of Heppner’s most acclaimed performances include productions of Lohengrin, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Fidelio, Les Troyens, The Queen of Spades, Otello and Parsifal. He has starred on the world’s leading stages, including New York’s Metropolitan Opera, London’s Covent Garden, Vienna State Opera, La Scala, Bavarian State Opera, San Francisco Opera and Chicago’s Lyric Opera.

We are honoured to co-present this renowned Canadian tenor in a once-in-a-lifetime performance with pianist John Hess and the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra.

For ticket information, please contact the WSO at 949-3999. Virtuosi subscribers receive special pricing for this concert. If you have renewed your Virtuosi subscription, please contact our office at 786-9000 for information.

Warm wishes to all,