Unquestionably, the most important recent event for Toledo's classical music scene was the October opening of the newly renovated Valentine Theatre. Acoustically clean, lovely to look at, and, with relatively intimate seating for about 900, Toledo now has a world-class hall for music and theater.
And if Toledo Opera's spectacular fall production of Tosca is an indication of things to come, one can reasonably predict that the Valentine will be used for plenty of world-class performances. In celebration of its move into the Valentine, Toledo Opera has expanded its season from two to three productions; Offenbach's Les Contes d'Hoffmann and Mozart's The Magic Flute are scheduled this spring. To accommodate the smaller seating capacity (as compared to Toledo Opera's former home in the much larger Stranahan Theater), each opera is being given a third performance.
Another Toledo Opera highlight was the Opera Gala 2000 Peristyle appearance earlier this month by soprano Marilyn Horne.
Toledo Opera's 2000-2001 season will open in October with Puccini's Madame Butterfly. Spring productions include Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor and Carlisle Floyd's Susannah. The Gala 2001 will feature Metropolitan Opera star soprano Hei-Kwung Hong.
On the heels of the Tosca Valentine Theatre debut came the news that James Meena, Toledo Opera's general director and principal conductor since 1986, has accepted a post as general director of Opera Carolina in Charlotte, N.C. Meena will be back to conduct some of next season. After that, however, his relationship with Toledo is unclear. A search for a replacement is under way.
A few miles south of Toledo, a spectacular January recital by cellist Yo-Yo Ma highlighted a fine 20th anniversary season for Bowling Green State University's Festival Series. Fall performances included the Ying Quartet and the Vienna Choir Boys. The Empire Brass Quintet will close out the season on March 25.
Toledo Symphony has presented its share of stars as well. Topping the list on the Peristyle Series was the recent recital by German violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter. Other highlights included fall performances by the Moscow State Radio Orchestra and Chorus, the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie, and the Harlem Boys Choir.
Artists performing with the Toledo Symphony last fall included Itzhak Perlman in an occasionally inspired performance of the Beethoven Violin Concerto. Violinist Sarah Chang gave an athletic reading of the Tchaikovsky concerto for the Classics Series opener.
Although the commitment is small, Toledo Symphony has also ventured into the Valentine Theatre with a three-event visiting-artist series. Sitarist Kartik Seshadri will close the series in mid-April.
Still to come in the Classics Series are March appearances by conductor Maxim Shostakovich and violinist Axel Strauss, and April and May performances by clarinetist David Shifrin and pianist Andre Michel Schub, respectively.
Next season looks like a high flyer. Flutist superstar James Galway will join the orchestra for a special event-program on Nov. 4. The Toledo Symphony's Classics Series opens with violinist Midori on the weekend of Sept. 22 and 23. Other featured artists slated to appear include violinist Corey Szerovscek and pianists Helene Grimaud, Philippe Entremont, and Tian Ying.
The 2000-2001 Peristyle Series will open with guitarist Christopher Parkening and baritone Jubilant Sykes. Coming during the winter and spring will be cellist Yo-Yo Ma, the Dresden Staatskapelle Orchestra, and the Beaux Arts Trio with the Prague Chamber Orchestra.
In late May of 2001, in a program organized by the Toledo Symphony musicians rather than the administration, pianist John Browning will join conductor Victor Yampolsky in a program of music by Prokofiev and Shostakovich.