Last season, Canada’s reigning tenor delivered a blistering performance in the COC’s production of Tristan und Isolde.This season, Heppner takes on Benjamin Britten’s chilly yet gorgeous opera about a fisherman suspected of murdering his apprentices. Oct. 5 to 26, Four Seasons Centre.
2 | Willing and Abel
On the title track from Kiss Land,the guest-heavy new album from avant-R&B star The Weeknd, he croons, “I went from staring at the same four walls for 21 years / To seeing the whole world in just 12 months.” He’s not being metaphorical: during the two decades he spent as plain old Abel Tesfaye, the shy Scarborough kid with a voice like Michael Jackson after a three-day bender, he barely ever travelled outside of the GTA. That all changed three years ago, when he released a trio of brooding independently produced albums that turned a bedroom project into the next big thing in pop music, setting off a media frenzy. He now regularly sells out shows across North America and Europe, and has landed a recording contract with Universal. Tesfaye’s current North American tour is a 26-date sprint that wraps up this month with a three-night stand at Massey Hall. Tesfaye is no longer the awkward guy who could barely look at the audience back in 2011. As his Air Miles have piled up, so has his confidence—when The Weeknd takes the stage these days, it’s with the swagger of a seasoned pro. Oct. 17 to 20, Massey Hall.
3 | Basia Bulat
On record, the autoharp-playing Etobicoke native seems so fragile she might shrivel under bright light. Live, Bulat’s folksy tunes gain room-hushing power, and her voice pins listeners to their seats. Her new album, Tall Tall Shadow,was co-produced by Arcade Fire’s Tim Kingsbury. Oct. 10 and 11, Polish Combatants Hall.
4 | Rufus Wainwright With Orchestra
Rufus has never shied away from the grand gesture. This pairing with the TSO draws from his baroque opera, his live tribute to Judy Garland and his orchestral settings of Shakespeare sonnets. The show is bound to be over the top; the only question is, what will he wear? Oct. 11, Roy Thomson Hall.
5 | Wayne Shorter Quartet
The sax giant and master improviser emerged on the New York scene in the late ’50s and spent the next five decades relentlessly pushing jazz forward, playing and composing for Miles Davis and the pioneering fusion group Weather Report. He turned 80 this past August, and is still in fine form. Nov. 22, Massey Hall.
6 | Rokia Traoré
Beautiful Africa,the new album from this Mali-born songwriter and guitar ace, fuses African folk traditions with quietly fierce desert blues (it was recorded by John Parish, P. J. Harvey’s longtime producer). With her supple voice and giant, hollow-bodied guitar, she owns every stage she sets foot on. Nov. 27, Koerner Hall.
By Andrew D’Cruz, Sue Carter Flinn, Emily Landau, Alison Mah, Jason McBride, Courtney Shea, Stéphanie Verge, Chris Webster and Nathan Whitlock | Photographs: Heppner by Kristin Hoebermann, courtesy of COC; Weeknd courtesy of Live Nation; Bulat courtesy of Collective Concerts; Wainwright by Barry J. Holmes, courtesy of TSO; Shorter by Robert Ascroft, courtesy of Massey Hall; Traoré by Matthew Zazzo, courtesy of Royal Conservatory