Created by Alison Mackay


Thu Feb 21, Fri Feb 22, Sat Feb 23 at 8pm, Sun Feb 24, 2019 at 3:30pm Koerner Hall, TELUS Centre Map BUY NOW

Elisa Citterio, Music Director
Conceived, scripted and programmed by Alison Mackay
Maryem Tollar, Narrator & Vocalist
Alon Nashman, Narrator

Celebrate the rich musical traditions of East and West, and the renewed dialogue between those traditions in contemporary, multicultural Toronto.

Alison Mackay’s musical vision of the links between 18th-century Saxony and Syria became one of the most cherished and talked-about projects in Tafelmusik’s history when it was first seen in 2016. Now it returns for our 40th anniversary season, reuniting musicians from Western and Arabic traditions in a magical, moving multimedia concert.

Tales of Two Cities: The Leipzig-Damscus Coffee House celebrates the rich musical traditions of East and West, and the renewed dialogue between those traditions in contemporary, multicultural Toronto. As Handel and Telemann meet traditional Arabic song and Klezmer fiddle music, your musical perspectives will never be the same again.

Watch an excerpt of this concert below:


What's interesting about this concert?

  • East meets West; art, food, and of course music all come together in this concert exploring the coffee houses of 18th-century Saxony and Syria.
  • The concert is performed entirely from memory, with narration and beautiful visuals.
  • Music by European composers is featured alongside classical Arabic music performed by Toronto's Trio Arabica
  • After the concerts in Toronto, Tafelmusik will be touring this show across the United States, including a stop in Los Angeles as part of the LA Philharmonic's 100th anniversary season.

Read An act of healing - Tafelmusik's Tales of Two Cities, with narrator Alon Nashman in our Breaking Baroque Blog.

Naghmeh Farahmand, percussion
Demetri Petsalakis, oud

Marshall Pynkoski, Stage Director
Glenn Davidson, Production Designer
Raha Javanfar, Projections Designer


  • Telemann Ouverture in D Major
  • Traditional Badat Min al Khidri & Yamul ‘Uyound Issoud
  • Monteverdi Ritornello from Orfeo
  • Omar Al-Batsh Ya Malikan
  • Lully Chaconne from Cadmus & Hermione
  • Telemann Concerto for 4 violins in Major: Largo – Vivace  
  • Handel Sonata in G Minor, op. 2, no. 5: Allegro
  • Telemann Concerto for viola in G Major: Presto
  • Yale Strom Tish Nign
  • Traditional Dulab Bayat
  • Handel Concerto grosso op. 6, no. 6: Musette
  • Traditional Darj Bayat
  • Handel Concerto grosso op. 6, no. 5: Allegro
  • Torelli Concerto for violin in E Minor, op. 8, no. 9: Allegro.
  • Telemann Burlesque de Don Quixote, excerpts
    Musique de table III: Conclusion
  • J.S. Bach Sinfonia after “Ehre sei dir, Gott”
  • Mohamed Al-Qasabji Zikrayati
  • Sheikh Abul Ela Mohamed Afdihi in Hafidhal
    Percussion improvisation
  • J.S. Bach Adagio, after Aria from Cantata 42
  • Traditional Tala’a Min Beyt Abouha
  • Telemann Ritornello

* Recorded by Tafelmusik

Join us for a free pre-concert chat one hour before the show with show creator Alison Mackay and special guests. 

Saturday ticket-holders: Stay after the concert for a special Talkback with a panel of musicians on stage. Have your questions ready!

Guest Artist Masterclass with Stefano Demichelli: Sat Feb 23, 2019 from 2–4pm MORE INFO

Take Tales home with you: Tales of Two Cities is available as a DVD for purchase in our online shop.

Tales of Two Cities was developed in partnership with Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts, Queen’s University, Kingston, in collaboration with the Aga Khan Museum, and is generously supported by The Pluralism Fund and by a gift from an anonymous benefactor.

Watch the trailer of this concert below: