My mother took music lessons at the Hamilton Conservatory for the Arts building (when it was the Hamilton Conservatory of Music) years and years ago. Maybe yours did too. Or perhaps your son, daughter or friend has taken a dance or art class at the Conservatory (HCA). Either way, you probably think of arts education and arts training when you think of the building or organization.

But then you’d be missing something incredible. For several years, the Conservatory has quietly been producing an in-house concert series which often features some of the best Canadian musical talent in existence today. When these artists are featured with a full orchestra, they are often only featured for one piece as part of a larger concert; however, with the HCA, they are the only performer on the program, creating an intimate and immersive experience, while also offering training opportunities for young performers. In short, this isn’t the same institution your mother might remember.

Thinking locally, the HCA Concert Series has invited baritone Brett Polegato to perform on its January 19 program. The Niagara-born performer is fresh from his fall debut with the Metropolitan Opera as Brétigny in Massenet’s Manon. The final performance was broadcast live in cinemas around the world through Cineplex’s popular The Met: Live in HD series. His performances have received praise from The Globe and Mail and The New York Times, and he appears regularly on some of the best known operatic stages across the globe, including the Lincoln Center, La Scala, the Concertgebouw, Carnegie Hall and the Opéra National de Paris.

Joining Polegato for this one-day only event is Canadian pianist Robert Kortgaard. Born in Regina, Saskatchewan and raised in Calgary, Alberta, Kortgaard is a favourite collaborator with Canadian musicians and artists. His past collaborators include singers Isabel Bayrakdarian and Measha Brueggergosman, composer and pianist Peter Tiefenbach and ballerina Veronica Tennant. He has recorded for Centrediscs, Marquis Classics/EMI, CBC Records, Teldec and the ATMA, and has garnered Juno award nominations in the process.

The published program promises to explore the full range of both artists’ abilities. The first half of the program features composers who worked primarily in the late 1800s to early 1900s and promises selections from Ravel’s Don Quichotte à Dulcinée and Massenet’s “Meditation” from Thais. The second half explores more contemporary composers, with selections from Britten and a foray into the musical theatre genre through the work of Stephen Sondheim. Performing “Giants In The Sky” (Into the Woods), “Johanna” (Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street) and “Being Alive” (Company), audiences will have the opportunity to hear Polegato’s voice outside of the operatic genre he is best known for.

To connect the concert to the Conservatory’s work in arts education, both Polegato and Kortgaard will return to the Hamilton Conservatory for the Arts on January 26 to present a masterclass to young musicians. Although this is an invaluable experience to the young artists participating, there will be no fee charged to them for this opportunity. While the participating artists have already been chosen, members of the public are invited to attend and listen to this learning experience. These masterclasses will be collaborative, whereas Polegato and Kortgaard will work with both a singer and pianist as a tandem group. While class participants will develop further insight into their work, they will also gain a deeper understanding of the chemistry required between performing partners to deliver a satisfying performance.

Who: Brett Polegato & Robert Kortgaard
What: HCA Concert Series
Where: Hamilton Conservatory for the Arts Recital Hall (126 James Street South)
When: Sunday, January 19, 2020 at 2pm
Tickets: $30 for adults; $20 for students/seniors through the HCA

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