Be careful what you wish for. Within two days a long winter turned into summer, bringing humidity, gale-force winds and hordes of tourists. The change happened so quickly that there was still ice on the streets as Toronto’s restaurants opened their outdoor patios and scantily-clad drinkers supped their lagers in the sunshine. So, in an effort to reclaim the spring that never was, we’ve enjoyed our trips back to the Islands – now busier with families and cyclists, even if it’s not yet warm enough to swim – and to the beautiful cherry blossoms at High Park. A gift from the citizens of Tokyo in 1959, their ten-day bloom is eagerly anticipated by large crowds every year.

For the last few weeks it’s been difficult to walk around Toronto without seeing polka dots, on everything from subway billboards to the sides of streetcars. Their source is the Art Gallery of Ontario, which is hosting an exhibition by the Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama entitled ‘Infinity Mirrors’. The campaign has been so successful that tickets are highly prized; even as members we were lucky to secure a pair for the end of April. Influenced by the 1960s American pop art scene, Kusama’s style is dominated by lights, sex and her famous polka dots, which appear variously in small rooms able to accommodate only two or three people and decorated with enough mirrors to give the impression of a never-ending space. Leaving aside the long queues to enter each room (we definitely weren’t the only people in Toronto enticed by coloured circles on a streetcar), the dimmed, seemingly endless lights offered a powerful reflection on time and mortality.

Seizing the opportunity for a few more musical treats before the artists escape the city’s summer heat, we enjoyed the TSO’s rendition last week of a Mozart piano concerto – featuring ninety-year-old American pianist Leon Fleisher – and Bruckner’s epic Eighth Symphony, the Canadian premiere of the less popular first version (from 1887) in a new edition. It was a striking performance, but perhaps the piece’s initial critics weren’t totally misguided when they suggested it could be trimmed down a little (it’s over 75 minutes long). This was followed a few days later by a dramatic performance of Donizetti’s Anna Bolena, which depicts over three hours the decision of Henry VIII (Enrico) to execute his second wife so he can marry Jane Seymour (Giovanna). It’s a long opera without a defining moment of musical genius, but was performed with admirable commitment and extraordinary stamina, and soprano Sondra Radvanovsky was utterly captivating in Anne’s final delirious moments. After the work’s dark climax, we were pleased to emerge to a city that is, at last, much warmer and brighter.


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