by Paula Citron
Filarmonica della Scala under conductor Riccardo Chailly came and conquered. Apparently the only other time a La Scala orchestra was in Toronto was in 1921 under Toscanini.
The star attraction was heldentenor Ben Heppner. He sang Wagner’s Wesendonk Lieder very well but the impact was muted because he was on book. Heppner redeemed himself in his thrilling execution of Siegmund’s triumphant monologue from Die Walküre. His wonderful clarion voice has seasoned like good wine despite a bit of strain at the top. Heppner’s Toronto curse is broken, and he proved that he is one of the greatest singers in the world.
This being an Italian orchestra, there was a lightness of touch. The players gave Maestro Chailly a beautiful balance and every section was solid. The sound was tight but wonderfully musical. The two Respighi pieces – the Fountains and Pines of Rome – were marvellous examples of detailed orchestral colour as were the Rossini and Rota encores.
From Roy Thomson Hall, I’m Paula Citron, arts reviewer for The New CLASSICAL 96.3 FM.