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four seasons centre for the performing arts

15 Things To Do in Toronto This December

This festive month is filled with a mixture of holiday merriment and family-friendly activities.

New Year’s Eve at Nathan Phillips Square. Photo courtesy of the City of Toronto.

12 Trees: Let There Be Light at The Gardiner Museum
To Jan. 7
A tradition since 1990, this year’s edition is co-curated by author and visual artist Douglas Coupland and focuses on light as a symbol of hope. Evan Biddell, Vivian Wong, Julia White, Alex McLeod, Connor Crawford, Christine Dewancker and Katherine Strang are among the contributing artists who have designed themed trees. This year’s creations include an animated winter dreamscape and a disco-ball tree.
Gardiner Museum, 111 Queen’s Park

Home Alone in Concert
Dec. 1-2
The Toronto Symphony Orchestra, joined by the Etobicoke School of the Arts Junior Chorus, performs John Williams score from the 1990 smash hit during a live screening of the movie. The hit comedic film sees Macaulay Culkin as Kevin McCallister take on two bumbling burglars by himself (played by Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern) when his family accidentally leaves for a trip without him.
Roy Thomson Hall, 60 Simcoe St.

St. Michael’s Choir School Annual Christmas Concert
Dec. 2-3
The angelic voices of the St. Michael’s Choir School, which celebrates its 80th anniversary this year, perform both secular and sacred carols to herald the Christmas season, including “O Come All Ye Faithful,” “Hallelujah,” and Handel’s “Messiah Part I.”
Massey Hall, 178 Victoria St.

150 Years of Canadian Christmas at Casa Loma
Dec. 2-Jan. 7
The city’s palatial castle celebrates the season with a 40-foot tree designed by Canadian icon Jeanne Beker, along with eight other trees throughout the estate. Live entertainment features illusionist Professor Wick and ice skating performers Glisse on Ice. Kids can seek out Santa Claus at his castle workshop, decorate edible treats, and partake in arts and crafts.
1 Austin Terr.

A Christmas Carol. Photo by Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann.

A Christmas Carol
Dec. 7-24
Bah-humbug! Miserly Ebenezer Scrooge discovers his heart and the holiday spirit after visits from the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future in this adaptation of the Charles Dickens classic presented by Soulpepper Theatre Company.
Young Centre for the Performing Arts, 50 Tank House Lane

Peter Pan
Dec. 8-31
Escape to Neverland with J.M. Barrie’s iconic character, Peter Pan. The boy who never grows up encounters an assortment of colourful characters including pirates, fairies, crocodiles, and even ordinary children like the Darling siblings. This musical rendition by Soulpepper Theatre Company is sure to capture the imagination of the entire family.
Young Centre for the Performing Arts, 50 Tank House Lane

The Nutcracker
Dec. 9-30
A true holiday classic featuring the Sugar Plum Fairy, dancing bears, and cannon dolls, is masterfully choreographed by James Kudelka and set to music by Tchaikovsky. The National Ballet of Canada transforms E.T.A. Hoffman’s traditional tale with enchanting dance numbers, elaborate costumes, and lavish sets.
Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, 145 Queen St. W.

The Lorax. Photo by Manuel Harlan.

Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax
Dec. 9-Jan. 21
The North American premiere of this Dr. Seuss fable about protecting the environment gets the stage treatment. Direct from London and adapted by David Greig, Dr. Seuss’s colourful world is reflected with bold sets and costumes, puppets, and an original score by Charlie Fink.
Royal Alexandra Theatre, 260 King St. W.

The Illusionists
Dec. 12-Jan. 7
Marvel as seven world-class magicians perform dazzling displays of wizardy and more right before your eyes. Back by popular demand—last year’s shows sold out—new performers are part of this year’s line up, including Darcy Oake, a.k.a. The Grand Illusionist, who performs death-defying acts, while Raymond Crowe, a.k.a. The Unusualist, is a mime and ventriloquist, and An Ha Lim, a.k.a. The Manipulator, mesmerizes audiences with card tricks.
Princess of Wales Theatre, 300 King St. W.

Dance Me/Music of Leonard Cohen
Dec. 15
This Toronto premiere by Ballets Jazz Montréal (BJM) pays tribute to beloved Canadian singer, songwriter, and poet Leonard Cohen. This contemporary dance company, known for its expressive style and accessibility, selects music from the span of Cohen’s lengthy career.
Sony Centre for the Performing Arts, 1 Front St. E.

DJ Skate Nights on the Natrel Rink
Dec. 16-Feb. 17
Head down to the waterfront for a scenic twirl on the rink at Harbourfront Centre. DJs spin tunes every Saturday night, with hot beverage and bites available from the rinkside restaurant, Boxcar Social.
Harbourfront Centre, 235 Queens Quay W.

Sing-Along Messiah
Dec. 17
Become part of the choir at this interactive show led by conductor “Herr Handel” as thousands of voices sing Handel’s beloved Hallelujah chorus. The Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Chamber Choir, along with featured soloists Joanne Lunn, James Laing, Rufus Müller, and Brett Polegato, take part in this family-friendly concert.
Massey Hall, 178 Victoria St.

Disney on Ice

Disney on Ice Presents Reach for the Stars
Dec. 22-Jan. 1
Beloved friends from the Disney Kingdom, including Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck and Goofy, join a royal cast that includes Anna and Elsa (and their snowy sidekick, Olaf), Ariel, Rapunzel, and Belle for a musical skating spectacle. Sing along to such songs as “Be Our Guest,” “Let It Go,” and “Tale as Old as Time.”
Rogers Centre, 1 Blue Jays Way

Toronto Christmas Market
To Dec. 23
Inspired by traditional European Christmas markets—and named one of the world’s best by Fodor’s Travel—the magic of the season is on dazzling display at the pedestrian-friendly Distillery District. Good boys and girls can have a photo op with Santa, visit a life-sized gingerbread house, and take a spin on a carousel or a ferris wheel. Grown ups can head to one of several heated lounges and beer gardens throughout the venue and partake in craft beers, mulled wines, European cocktails, and hot toddies.
Distillery District, 55 Mill St.

New Year’s Eve at Nathan Phillips Square
Dec. 31
Bid farewell to 2017 and ring in the new year at the city’s central gathering spot, Nathan Phillips Square. Festivities begin at 8 p.m. (get there earlier to secure a good spot), featuring live performances, a DJ skating party, and an impressive fireworks display to cap off TO Canada with Love, a year-long celebration of Canada’s sesquicentennial.
Nathan Phillips Square, 100 Queen St. W.

The National Ballet’s Carmen Turns Up the Heat

The National Ballet of Canada's Carmen is a sultry offering for summer (photo: Sian Richards)

The National Ballet of Canada’s Carmen is a sultry offering for summer (photo: Sian Richards)

JUNE 5 TO 16  The summer heat is nothing in comparison to the erotic intensity of Carmen. This month, the National Ballet of Canada brings back to the stage the tale of a strong-willed, independent woman and the man who is both drawn to and terrified by her sexuality. Incorporating the timeless music of Rodion Shchedrin and Georges Bizet, this modern production by choreographer Davide Bombana is a full-length version of his original one-act ballet—first seen in Toronto in 2009—expanding on its unflinching carnality and heartrending tragedy. Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, $25 to $180; call 416-345-9595 or click here for showtimes and to buy.  —Marina Smart

The Canadian Opera Company’s Lucia di Lammermoor is a Gothic Tragedy

Canadian Opera Company Lucia di Lammermoor Toronto Anna Christy

Anna Christy stars in the Canadian Opera Company’s Lucia di Lammermoor (photo: Clive Barda)

APRIL 17 TO MAY 24  Powerful feuds, doomed love affairs and shocking confessions—when it comes to drama, Lucia di Lammermoor has it all. The Canadian Opera Company staging of Donizetti’s most famous bel canto work promises romance and tragedy thanks to a marquee performance by American soprano Anna Christy, whose portrayal of Lucia is fragile yet imbued with considerable vocal force. Direction by David Alden takes the gothic masterpiece, based on a novel by Sir Walter Scott, to a whole new level of intensity. Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, $23 to $325; call 416-363-8231 or see coc.ca for showtimes and to buy.  —Anna Marszalek

The Canadian Opera Company’s Tristan und Isolde is a Modern Knight’s Tale

Canadian Opera Company's Tristan und Isolde

Bill Viola created video backdrops for the Canadian Opera Company’s performance of Tristan und Isolde

JANUARY 29 TO FEBRUARY 23  A love potion disguised as poison is the catalyst of Tristan und Isolde, a story of passion and betrayal staged by the Canadian Opera Company. Famed director Peter Sellars brings a unique contemporary vision—incorporating dramatic video backdrops by Bill Viola—to Wagner’s adaption of the medieval fable of a knight and a maiden who fall in love despite her betrothal to a powerful king. The big-ticket production also features celebrated Canadian tenor Ben Heppner singing the role of Tristan. Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, $54 to $390; call 416-363-8231 or visit coc.ca for showtimes and to purchase tickets.  Eva Voinigescu

Hot Date: Beauty and the Beast is a Fable for All

photo by Joan Marcus

JULY 3 TO 22 Be reminded of the axiom “it’s what’s inside that counts” as Disney’s Beauty and the Beast returns to the Toronto stage. An unforgettable cast of characters enacts the tale of lovely Belle and the cursed prince who must learn to love and be loved before he becomes trapped forever as a monster. Opulent sets, award-winning costumes and songs from the timeless animated movie ensure an enchanting evening (or afternoon) for the whole family. Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, Tuesday to Saturday 7:30 p.m., Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday 2 p.m., $37 to $150; call 416-640-0172 or click here to buy.

Hot Date: The National Ballet of Canada Serves Up Royal Vengeance

photo courtesy of the Stuttgart Ballet

JUNE 1 TO 10 The elegance of dance is contrasted with a story of bitter angst and revenge in the North American premiere of Hamlet by the National Ballet of Canada. Choreographer Kevin O’Day adapted Shakespeare’s tour-de-force about a Danish prince’s bloody plan to reclaim his murdered father’s throne, presenting it with stunning set pieces and a rousing score by John King. Be sure to arrive early to the performance—guests can attend a pre-show talk to gain further insight into the story and the production itself. Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, $25 to $234; call 416-355-9595 or click here for showtimes and tickets.

Save the Date: The National Ballet of Canada’s 2012/13 Season

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (photo by Cylla von Tiedemann)

Just as theatre company Mirvish Productions was announcing its upcoming schedule, so too was another of the city’s performing arts institutions, the National Ballet of Canada, presenting its own highly anticipated 2012/13 programming—a selection that promises to thrill and inspire with its diverse mix of celebrated classics and groundbreaking new works.

The fall season opens with a whimsical bang when Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland returns to the Four Seasons Centre stage from November 10 to 25, 2012. Having received rapturous reviews when it premiered at last year’s Luminato festival, this lavish co-production with England’s Royal Ballet reimagines Lewis Carroll’s most beloved work through the grace and lyricism of dance. (more…)

Hot Date: Admire the COC’s Love From Afar

FEBRUARY 2 TO 22 A 12th-century love story gets a 21st-century makeover when director Daniele Finzi Pasca brings his striking visual style to Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho’s opera, Love from Afar. The Canadian Opera Company presents this story of a world-weary medieval troubadour from France who sets sail to find the Countess of Tripoli, his vision of ideal love. Baritone Russell Braun plays the troubadour Jaufré, while Erin Wall makes her COC debut as the object of his desire, Clémence. Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, $12 to $318; for showtimes and tickets, call 416-363-8231 or click here.

Hot Date: Midday Music at the Four Seasons Centre

photo by Karen Reeves

ON NOW Add some culture to your lunch break courtesy of the Canadian Opera Company’s free concert series. Every Tuesday and Thursday from noon to 1 p.m., the institution hosts a slate of exceptional performances ranging from small dance productions, piano recitals, world music, vocal jazz and more, including notable upcoming shows like East Meets West (January 19), featuring artists of the COC Orchestra performing works by Debussy and Tan Dun, and a vocal recital by COC talents Russell Braun, Erin Wall and Krisztina Szabó (February 16). Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre; call 416-363-8231 or click here for more information.

Weekend Roundup, November 18 to 20

Friday: The National Ballet of Canada interprets Romeo and Juliet (photo by Bruce Zinger)

Friday, November 18
See one of the greatest dance dramas in a brand new light when the National Ballet of Canada presents Romeo and Juliet. Choreographer Alexi Ratmansky gives the classic tale with a modern edge for a fresh show at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts.

One of Canada’s best-known musical voices, Steven Page, interprets the tunes of Elvis Costello, Harry Nilsson, Randy Newman and others in Songbook 6. The always innovative Art of Time Ensemble accompanies the singer at Harbourfront Centre’s Enwave Theatre.

Find unique Aboriginal arts, crafts and fashions at the Thunderbird Centre’s presentation, Very Beautiful Things. The exhibition and sale at the Gladstone Hotel will be a trove for discerning gift buyers and Aboriginal art collectors.

The rest of the weekend is just a click away!

Hot Date: Classics of the Ballet

The National Ballet's beloved production of The Nutcracker (photo by Bruce Zinger)

The National Ballet of Canada celebrates its 60th anniversary season with a fresh version of Romeo and Juliet (November 16 to 27). Internationally celebrated choreographer Alexi Ratmansky blends the story’s timeless elegance with a modern emotional edge to create an unforgettable dance drama. Then, seasonal favourite The Nutcracker (December 10 to 31) takes centre stage with dazzling stagecraft, expert choreography and enchanting design. Tchaikovsky’s glorious music underscores the entire production. Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, $25 to $234; call 416-345-9595 or visit here for showtimes and to purchase.

Hot Date: Dancing with Sinatra

photo by Joan Marcus

AUGUST 16 TO 28 The spirit of Frank Sinatra inspires Come Fly Away, which melds classic melodies, a live-on-stage big band and thrilling dance numbers from Tony-winning choreographer Twyla Tharp. In this musical, Ol’ Blue Eyes’s original vocals on such songs as “Fly Me to the Moon” and “My Way” are given orchestral accompaniment to serve as the soundtrack for the story of four couples experiencing romance and heartbreak. Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, Tuesday to Saturday 7:30 p.m., Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday 2 p.m., $42 to $180; call 416-644-3665 or click here to charge.