Music is the soul of society and for the city of Hamilton glorious musical notes have been played, and appreciated since 1949. In 1969 the dynamic Boris Brott took the amateur group to professional status, and despite being in the shadow of its more famous big market cousin down the Queen Elizabeth Way, the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra emerged as a formidable musical ensemble earning a big profile while based in a smaller market.

Good times and bum times followed. The organization even faced dissolution, but fanatic fan caregivers nursed the patient back to health and with the appointment of James Sommerville as artistic director, the orchestra is playing its way towards a harmonious future.

Maestro Sommerville, principal horn of the Boston Symphony, a horn soloist and a chamber musician considers the HPO a career opportunity. His Hamilton baton duties are as valuable as a player in the bean town symphony. In a conversation with Sommerville I noted an upbeat passion for his Hamilton position. He says market size is irrelevant, good musicians play in every community. The HPO’s players have enabled the orchestra to be a valuable pillar in the life of the arts in Hamilton and area. It serves “a solid base of dedicated classical music fans.”

The recent concert filled the Great Hall of Hamilton Place with an audience pleasing repertoire. The evening’s opener was Pergolesi’s majestic religious anthem “Stabat Mater”. It’s a powerful composition from the baroque period given a full value interpretation y the guest artists, the Hamilton Children’s Choir, soprano Monica Whicher and Jennifer Enns Modolo, mezzo soprano. Hamilton’s award winning youth were making a joyful noise, singing as one under Maestro Sommerville’s direction. This group is a credit to the city. Delighting these ears, the two soloists added vocal intonation and clarity to the text of Pergolesi’s mighty work. I’m not acquainted with Whicher and Modolo professionally, but their resumes reveal extensive appearances on concert and opera stages.

The evening also included Tchaikovsky’s Variations on a Rococo Theme which allowed a sterling performance by a youthful wizard on cello. Sixteen year old Cameron Crozman from London, Ontario seems destined to be a star on the instrument. As a fan of Yo Yo Ma, I took notice and will keep Cameron on my radar. The evening concluded with Mendelssohn’s popular Italian Symphony.

Ahead in the 2012-2013 season a luminous array of stars and classical heavyweights. Adrianne Pieczonka, the renowned international soprano, a Burlington native, will highlight a special fund raiser gala for the HPO.

In June Martin Short comes home to raise comic and musical mayhem in a night that will benefit the HPO.

Full details of future events are available on line at



This masked stranger has been a fascination for decades as the titled personage in the 1910 Gaston Leroux novel, and for a quarter of a century as the singing anti-hero in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s stage musical. Since 1986, the Phantom of the Opera has achieved global renown, millions of viewers, a 2004 film adaptation (not entirely pleasing to this viewer), and a musical sequel.

The 25th anniversary celebration was in the form of a concert at London’s famed Royal Albert Hall and on the massive stage it was a stunning performance, arguably one of the biggest shows in theatre history. With full cast, costumes, props, video projections, and the chandelier shaking amidst exploding fireworks but doesn’t crash into the audience, its entertainment that fulfills romantic as well as menacing expectations integral to the plot, The production beamed to movie theatres around the world in October 2011, was splendidly enhanced by visual and audio digital projection.

The evening ended with speeches, performances and appearances by the original cast (Sarah Brightman and Michael Crawford) and some of the show’s most notable Phantoms, including Colm Wilkinson who starred in the Toronto production.

Ramin Karimloo (a Toronto native) and Sierra Boggess toplined the concert cast playing a deformed musical genius who mentors a chorus girl, a member of the Opera Populaire. Shunned by society he lives in the catacombs of the Paris Opera House seeking revenge in cruel and often violent acts. In a love that cannot be, the phantom is smitten with Christine Daaé secretly training her to replace the opera’s reigning diva. However, when Christine is thrust into the spotlight, she is also reunited with childhood friend Raoul. Passion, obsession and chaos ensue as Christine finds herself torn between her love for Raoul and her strange pull towards the mysterious and dangerous Phantom.

The design team has neatly transformed the Royal Albert Hall into the opera setting of the plot. The huge static sets look impressive and the chandelier, although stationary, does look quite spectacular when finally unfurled after the lengthy opening auction scene.

Ramin Karimloo has appeared in numerous West End musicals, and has a strong association with the phantom, having played Raoul as well as alternating and playing the title role for long occasions. Indeed, it was his favourite show growing up in Toronto where he saw Colm Wilkinson perform, an experience that ignited his desire to become an actor. He also reprised the role in Webber’s follow up musical “Love Never Dies” which documents events in the masked character’s life a decade later.

I don’t consider Karimloo to be the ideal phantom, certainly not as menacing as Wilkinson and Peter Karrie who also has a long history in the title role. Let’s just say this phantom exhibits a “nice” nonthreatening menace.

Sierra Boggess presents a virginal image backed by soaring soprano pipes reminding me of the Christine originated by Sarah Brightman. There’s clarity and beauty with an operatic style in her singing, and when the song demands, drips with innuendo and tension.

A limited edition 4CD and DVD Collectors’ box set has been issued to celebrate 25 years of “The Phantom of the Opera”. Some subtle artistic and technical limitations are apparent, but overall it’s a spectacular production and for phantom fans, this collection is a must-have.

Providing a Fresh Perspective for Burlington and Hamilton.

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