Toronto's arts scene offers something for every taste year-round. The city's arts institutions are widely renowned, and top-notch international performers regularly pass through town.
Want to take in a show, but don't want to spend a bundle? Visit the Today Tix website, which sells heavily discounted last-minute tickets. What's On Tonight is another website selling day-of tickets; in addition, What's On Tonight offers hipTIX, where students between the ages of 15 and 29 can score $5 tickets for certain shows.
Big-budget musicals—think Wicked and Mamma Mia!—continue to dominate Toronto's larger theaters, but a number of excellent boutique companies also exist. Many of the smaller troupes have no permanent performance space, so they move from venue to venue. A few festivals offer great times to drop in and capture the flavor of Toronto's theater life: Luminato in early June, an innovative international arts festival in North America featuring 2 weeks of performance, theater, media and visual arts, and programming; the Summer Works Theatre Festival in early August, which is Canada's largest juried theater festival; and the Fringe Festival (tel. 416/966-1062), usually held for 12 days starting in early July and featuring more than 100 casts from Canada and beyond.
Farther Afield—Don't forget that two major theater festivals—the Shaw Festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake and the renowned Stratford Festival in Stratford—are only an hour or two away.
More Than Church Music—Everyone knows that a church is where you go to listen to choir music—but in Toronto, several churches double as performance spaces for classical or opera ensembles. Trinity-St. Paul's United Church (427 Bloor St. W.; tel. 416/964-6337) is home to Toronto's acclaimed Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra & Chamber Choir. St. James' Cathedral, at 65 Church St. (tel. 416/364-7865), hosts everything from solo performances of classical cellists to youth choirs from abroad, as well as its own high-quality 18-voice Cathedral Choir and organ recitals. St. Patrick's Church (141 McCaul St.; tel. 416/483-0559) is where the Tallis Choir of Toronto (tel. 416/286-9798) often performs (its repertoire is mostly Renaissance and Tudor music). And if you happen to love real church music, stop in at St. Michael's Cathedral (65 Bond St.; tel. 416/364-0234). Its internationally-acclaimed Boys Choir regularly sings at three weekend masses.
Music Alfresco—The Toronto Music Garden hosts some of the city’s best summer concerts. From late June to mid-September, you can count on listening to live music here every Thursday at 7pm and on Sunday at 4pm. Sometimes, you’ll hear classical music—especially by the baroque composers—but the programs are rather eclectic. Recent offerings have included Spanish flamenco music and traditional Chinese melodies. All performances are free.
Opera Obsessed—It was big news back in 2006 when Toronto's opera house—the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts—opened its doors. The irony was that Toronto, a city that had never had an opera house, was already a North American magnet for opera lovers. The Canadian Opera Company is just one reason to visit. Others include Opera Atelier (tel. 416/703-3767), a renowned company that produces baroque operas (Monteverdi, Mozart, and Gluck are perennially popular). The Toronto City Opera (tel. 800/838-3006) showcases some of the best emerging opera soloists in town with democratically priced tickets. Those hoping to experience some homegrown Canadian opera should seek out Tapestry New Opera Works (tel. 416/537-6066), which has been staging fantastic Canadian-written productions since 1995. For its 20th anniversary, Tapestry introduced Tap:Ex, a successful series that seeks to radically redefine opera through inspiriting collaborations with DJs, punk bands, and more.
Great Music on a Budget—As the cost of concert tickets spirals ever upward, it can be frustrating to budget for an evening out. But there are some places you can count on scoring a deal. One best bet is University of Toronto's Faculty of Music (tel. 416/978-3744), which offers a full range of instrumental and choral concerts and recitals. They are held at various locations around the St. George Campus, including Walter Hall, and many performances are free of charge. It's also worth checking out who's performing at the Royal Conservatory of Music (273 Bloor St. W.; tel. 416/408-2825). There are concerts by well-known jazz vocalists or international ensembles, as well as free recitals given by faculty members and students, plus the COC presents free lunchtime concerts in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre (tel. 416/363-8231).
Pop & Rock Music Venues—Toronto is known for possessing one of the most active live-music scenes in North America. In addition to Roy Thomson Hall and Massey Hall, these are the major pop and rock music venues. Ticket prices vary widely depending on both the venue and the act. Tickets are available through Ticketmaster (www.ticketmaster.ca; tel. 416/870-8000).
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.