Monte-Carlo Philharmonic opens new season with Mahler’s ‘Resurrection’ Symphony

In the year which celebrates the centenary of the birth of Prince Rainier III, Kazuki Yamada leads the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra (OPMC) in the opening concert of the 2023-24 season. The programme features Sir Andrzej Panufnik’s Symphony No 3, Sinfonia Sacra, and Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No 2, Resurrection.

The soloists in the Mahler Symphony are Australian soprano Eleanor Lyons and German mezzo-soprano Gerhild Romberger, backed by the impressive City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra Chorus (CBSO), directed by Simon Halsey CBE.

Kazuki Yamada and the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra – courtesy OPMC

Artistic and Musical Director of the OPMC, Kazuki Yamada is also Chief Conductor and Artistic Advisor of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO), Permanent Conductor of the Japan Philharmonic Orchestra, Principal Guest Conductor of the Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra and Guest Conductor of the Seiji Ozawa International Academy.

Soprano Eleanor Lyons, according to Resmusica, has “A straight and powerful voice, capable of the most delicate nuances, with seemingly unlimited highs”. Ms Lyons’ current season includes performances of Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 2 Lobgesang with the Vienna Symphony Orchestra, Strauss’ Four Last Songs with the Canberra Symphony Orchestra, a New Year’s Concert with the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra, as well as Brahms’ Ein deutsches Requiem and Mendelssohn’s Lobgesang with the Balthasar Neumann Choir & Ensemble.

As a concert performer, mezzo-soprano Gerhild Romberger has a wide-ranging repertoire which covers all major contralto and mezzo-soprano parts in the oratorio and concert repertoire – including the Baroque, Classical and Romantic periods, as well as 20th century music. Highlights of her career include Beethoven’s Symphony No 9 with Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France in Paris, with the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra – part of the International Music Festival in Hamburg – with the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation in Lisbon and in Mahler’s Symphony No 3 with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.

The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra Chorus, comprising 180 vocalists, is one of the world’s great choirs and has been trained for almost 40 years by Simon Halsey CBE. With four Grammy Awards to its credit, the Chorus performs in the main with the CBSO, and has also appeared with some of the world’s greatest orchestras, such as the Vienna and Berlin philharmonics. It has a wide-ranging repertoire, from Bach to Henze, the Mahler symphonies and the CBSO’s famous annual carol concerts, and has toured Europe, Asia, Australia and North America.

Warsaw-born Sir Andrzej Panufnik is one of the most important and original symphonic composers of the second half of the 20th century. Having won international admiration and honours in his own country – he became the “father” of the Polish avant-garde – he was appointed chief conductor of the Kraków Philharmonic Orchestra in 1945, seeking out instrumentalists scattered all over Poland, and in 1946 he was also asked to restore the Warsaw Philharmonic. From 1957 to 1959, Andrzej Panufnik served as Chief Conductor of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, before deciding to dedicate his life entirely to composition.

Symphony No 3 Sinfonia Sacra was composed in 1963 as a tribute to Poland’s Millennium of Christianity and Statehood in 1966, and – as the composer says – “as an expression of my religious and patriotic feelings”. As a result he was keen that this work would be Polish in character, with an emphasis on the Catholic tradition. He based the symphony on the first known hymn in the Polish language, the Bogurodzica, a Gregorian chant, the heroic and religious aspects of which were incorporated into the symphony. It was premiered by the Monte-Carlo Opera orchestra, conducted by Louis Fremaux on 12th August, 1964.

Austrian pianist, composer and conductor Gustav Mahler is today known for his emotional, large scale symphonies – characterised as part of the Romanticism movement – and choral works such as Das Klagende Lied, Das Lied von der Erde (The Song of the Earth) and the song cycle Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen (Songs of a Wayfarer). During the early period of his composing career, his work was met the the public lack of comprehension which he was to experience for most of his career. Turning to conducting, he served as director for the Vienna Court Opera from 1897 to 1907, and later led the New York Metropolitan Opera and the New York Philharmonic Orchestra.

Mahler ultimately composed 10 symphonies, and is now regarded as a pioneer of 20th century composition techniques, and an influence on composers such as Arnold Schoenberg, Dmitry Shostakovich, Benjamin Britten and Alban Berg.

Mahler completed the first movement of his Symphony No 2, Resurrection, in a few months. Four years later, in 1893, he composed an andante in the style of an Austrian folk dance, and a scherzo based on his own setting of the Wunderhorn song. Inspiration for the final movement came during the funeral service for the conductor and pianist Hans von Bülow, in which a boys’ choir performed a setting of the Resurrection Ode by the German poet Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock. The first three movements were heard in Berlin on 4th March, 1895, and the premiere of the complete work took place on 13th December of that year, with the composer again conducting the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra.

Kazuki Yamada leads the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra, soloists and CBSO Chorus in the opening concert of the 2023-24 season. The performance takes place in the Grimaldi Forum, Monaco, on 24th September. For booking information visit the OPMC website.

Information sourced from:

OPMC programme notes

Artists’ websites

This article first appeared in Riviera Buzz

ArtsPreview home page

Dutch National Ballet opens new season with Balanchine’s ‘The Four Temperaments’

Anna Ol, Victor Caixeta, Jessica Xuan and Constantine Allen in Balanchine’s
‘The Four Temperaments’ © Marta Syrko

The Dutch National Ballet opens its 2023-24 season with a fascinating programme. The largest ballet company in the Netherlands performs George Balanchine’s The Four Temperaments, Hans van Manen’s Frank Bridge Variations and two new works – The Chairman Dances by artistic director Ted Brandsen and the world premiere of Full Frontal by Juanjo Arqués.

In 1946, George Balanchine choreographed The Four Temperaments to a piece of music which he’d commissioned some years earlier from Swiss composer, Paul Hindemith. Balanchine described the ballet as “an expression in dance and music of the the Greek and medieval notion that the human organism is made up of four different humors, or temperaments”. Each one of us, according to this notion, possesses these four humours, but in different degrees, and the dominance of one of them — melancholic, sanguinic, phlegmatic and choleric — determines our characters. Neither the music nor the ballet itself makes specific interpretation of the idea – it was merely the point of departure for both the composer and choreographer.

Victor Caixeta and Maia Makhateli rehearsing Balanchine’s ‘The Four Temperaments’
©Altin Kaftira

The Four Temperaments – an early experimental work for Balanchine – reflects the genius of the choreographer. A powerful and abstract ballet, the first of his so-called ‘black and white’ – or leotard ballets – with no costumes or stage set, was the forerunner of a number of consecutive works of this kind, a format which proved enduringly successful for the choreographer.

Hans van Manen – winner of numerous awards – is recognised internationally as one of the grand masters of contemporary ballet, having created more than 150 works, which all bear his distinctive signature. A former dancer with the Netherlands Opera Ballet and Roland Petit’s Ballets de Paris, van Manen has worked with the two most important companies in the Netherlands today – he co-directed and has been resident choreographer for Nederlands Dans Theater, and is now resident choreographer with the Dutch National Ballet.

Sem Sjouke, Dingkai Bai and Conor Walmsley in Van Manen’s ‘Frank Bridge Variations’
© Altin Kaftira

His Frank Bridge Variations is set to Benjamin Britten’s Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge. Written in 1937 as a tribute to Britten’s first composition teacher, Frank Bridge, this piece comprises ten variations, each of which is intended to represent an aspect of Bridge’s character. The ballet reflects the simplicity of van Manen’s choreography, which is just beautiful, and again is unobtrusively costumed and set against a plain background.

The Chairman Dances, the third work on the programme, has been created by the company’s artistic director, Ted Brandsen. It’s billed as “a new ballet for a big ensemble’, and is set to John Adams’ compelling piece of the same name. This piece of music, written in 1985, is said to be an ‘out-take’ from Adams’ internationally acclaimed opera Nixon in China, and the first part of the piece depicts the scene in which Chairman Mao and his wife dance a foxtrot together.

Rafael Valdez and Sebia Plantefève-Castryck rehearsing Ted Brandsen’s
‘The Chairman Dances’ © Altin Kaftira

John Adams is arguably America’s most well-known and successful composer. Winner of numerous Grammys, a Grawemeyer Award and a Pulitzer Prize, he has recently released a 40-CD box of his entire output since 1973. He has longstanding connections with both the San Francisco Symphony and Los Angeles Philharmonic, wrote the opera which opened the San Francisco Opera centennial season and this coming season will see a new production of Adams’s El Niño at the Metropolitan Opera. Also a well-known conductor, Adams has led some of the major orchestras of the world, such as the London Symphony Orchestra, the Concertgebouw Orchestra, the Berliner Philharmoniker, the Chicago Symphony and the Metropolitan Opera.

Guillermo Torrijos rehearsing Arqués’ ‘Full Frontal’ © Altin Kaftira

This programme by the Dutch National Ballet closes with the premiere performance of Juanjo Arqués’ new piece Full Frontal. A former dancer with the Company, he has achieved international success as a choreographer. This latest work, inspired by the effects of stress on our daily lives, explores the physical obstacles and challenging conditions that we face today. Full Frontal is set to Weather One by Michael Gordon, an American composer and co-founder of the Bang on a Can festival and ensemble.

Dutch National Ballet presents The Four Temperaments on the main stage of the theatre of Dutch National Opera & Ballet from 16th to 30th September. The Dutch Ballet Orchestra is conducted by Matthew Rowe. Further information and tickets are available on the Dutch National Opera and Ballet website.

Information sourced from:

Dutch National Ballet programme notes

Artists’ websites

ArtsPreview home page

San Francisco Opera opens new season with Verdi’s ‘Il trovatore’

Verdi’s ‘Il trovatore’ with Ekaterina Semenchuk as Azucena and members of the San Francisco Opera Chorus © Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

Eun Sun Kim, Music Director of San Francisco Opera, continues her Verdi cycle, as the Company stages Sir David McVicar’s production of Il trovatore. This story of passion, drama and revenge stars soprano Angel Blue as Leonora, tenor Arturo Chacón Cruz as Manrico, the troubadour of the title. Baritone George Petean takes the role of Count di Luna, who is obsessed by Leonora. The mysterious gypsy Azucena is sung by mezzo-soprano Ekaterina Semenchuk, and Ferrando, captain of the troops, is bass Robert Pomakov.

Robert Pomakov as Ferrando with members of the San Francisco Opera Chorus in
Verdi’s ‘Il trovatore’ © Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

An opera in four acts, Il trovatore was composed by Giuseppe Verdi between 1851 and 1853, with a libretto largely written by Salvadore Cammarano. It was based on the 1836 play El toreador by Antonio García Gutiérrez, but Cammarano died before completing the libretto, and Italian poet Leone Emanuele Bardare, a friend and collaborator of his, completed the text. The opera premiered at the Teatro Apollo in Rome on January 19th in 1853.

The original setting of the opera was Aragon and Biscay (now Vizcaya) in 1409, during the Spanish civil war. David McVicar has moved the action to 1808 and set it against the backdrop of the Spanish War of Independence against Napoleon, taking inspiration for his designs from Francisco Goya’s 82 prints, Desastres de la Guerra.

Angel Blue as Leonora and Arturo Chacón-Cruz as Manrico in Verdi’s ‘Il trovatore’
© Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

Il trovatore tells of Leonora, a young noblewoman in the queen’s service, who is in love with Manrico, a troubadour who serenades her every evening. Count di Luna, however is obsessed by her. He has also sworn to avenge what he believes to be the death of his infant brother at the hands of a gypsy woman, Azucena. Manrico has been brought up to believe that the gypsy is his mother, but he isn’t aware that Azucena accidentally killed her own child, kidnapped Manrico and brought him up as her own – and he is actually the brother of the Count. The actions of Azucena all those years ago affect each of the main characters in the story, and lead to a train of events which end in tragedy.

Angel Blue as Leonora in Verdi’s ‘Il trovatore’
© Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

Grammy Award-winning Angel Blue was also the recipient of the 2020 Beverly Sills Award and the winner of the 2022 Richard Tucker Award. She earned international acclaim in the role of Mimí in Puccini’s La bohème in her house debuts at the Palau de Les Arts in Valencia, Vienna State Opera, Canadian Opera Company, Semperoper Dresden, Hamburg State Opera and Metropolitan Opera. Future highlights of Angel Blue’s current season include a performance at Vienna State Opera of the title role in Puccini’s Tosca – following a recent performance of which Seen and Heard International wrote: “Angel Blue soars as the divine Tosca in Los Angeles” – in Beethoven’s 9th Symphony with Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony, a soloist in the Celebrating Maria Callas Concert at Carnegie Hall and as Micaela in Bizet’s Carmen at the Metropolitan Opera.

Arturo Chacón-Cruz as Manrico with members of the San Francisco Opera Chorus in
Verdi’s ‘Il trovatore’ © Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

Arturo Chacón Cruz has sung over 60 roles in 30 countries during his career, including those of Rodolfo in La bohème and the Duke of Mantua in Verdi’s Rigoletto for San Francisco Opera. Other performances include those of Manrico and the title role in Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffmann in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Oronte in Verdi’s I Lombardi in Monte-Carlo, Jacopo Foscari in Verdi’s I due Foscari in Paris, as well as one of his signature roles, the title role in Massenet’s Werther at the State Opera in Stuttgart.  Upcoming performances this season include those of des Grieux in Manon in Tenerife, Riccardo in Verdi’s Un Ballo in Maschera at Teatro Regio di Palma, Gustavo in the same opera at Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona, and Don José in Carmen in  Liege.

Ekaterina Semenchuk as Azucena and Arturo Chacón-Cruz as Manrico in Verdi’s ‘Il trovatore’
© Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

Ekaterina Semenchuk has previously appeared at San Francisco Opera as Federica in Verdi’s Luisa Miller, as Amneris in Aida and as Santuzza in Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana. She is a regular guest at the Salzburg Festival and has also performed on stages of opera houses such as the Metropolitan Opera, Los Angeles Opera, Opéra de Bastille in Paris, the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, the Berlin Staatsoper unter den Linden, the the Arena di Verona, the Opera in Rome and Teatro alla Scala Milan. Her wide-ranging repertoire also includes mezzo roles in operas such as Donizetti’s Anna Bolena, Berlioz’s Roméo et Juliette, Bizet’s Carmen, Saint-Saëns’ Samson et Dalila, Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov, Tchaikovsky’s Pique Dame, Prokofiev’s War and Peace and Wagner’s Die Walküre.

George Petean as Count di Luna in Verdi’s ‘Il trovatore’
© Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

George Petean is known for his performances in Verdi operas, and has performed the title roles in Simon Boccanegra with Opera Australia, Macbeth at Wiener Staatsoper and as Giorgio Germont in La traviata at Dutch National Opera. He appeared in numerous roles as a member of the ensemble of the Hamburg Opera between 2002 and 2010, and has also performed as a guest artist in leading opera houses such as Madrid’s Teatro Real, Paris Opéra, Staatsoper Wien, Teatro Regio di Parma, Berlin State Opera and the Metropolitan Opera.

Robert Pomakov as Ferrando with members of the San Francisco Opera Chorus in Verdi’s
‘Il Trovatore’ © Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

Robert Pomakov made his company debut with San Francisco Opera as Monterone in Rigoletto, and later returned to sing Mathieu in Giordano’s Andrea Chénier. In recent seasons he has made house debuts with Opéra National de Paris as the Bonze in Puccini’s Madame Butterfly and with Den Norske Opera as Gremin in Tchaikovsky’s Yevgeny Onegin.

Eun Sun Kim leads the San Francisco Opera Orchestra, Chorus (director John Keene) and soloists in six performances of Verdi’s Il trovatore at the War Memorial Opera House until October 1st. For further information and details of reservations visit the San Francisco Opera website.

Information sourced from:

San Francisco Opera program notes

Angel Blue

Arturo Chacón Cruz

Ekaterina Semenchuk

George Petean

Robert Pomakov

ArtsPreview home page

Ukrainian Freedom Orchestra’s 2023 Tour

The Ukrainian Freedom Orchestra – courtesy Metropolitan Opera

Conductor Keri-Lynn Wilson and the Ukrainian Freedom Orchestra celebrate the first anniversary of the Orchestra’s founding with a 2023 tour which takes in performances in Warsaw, Gdansk, Berlin, Lucerne, Amsterdam, Hamburg, Snape and London. As The Globe and Mail writes: “The Russian Forces are no match for the power of Ukraine’s cultural legacy”.

The Orchestra, created under the auspices of the Polish National Opera, in coordination with the Ukrainian Ministry of Culture and the Metropolitan Opera, is led by its founding conductor and music director, Keri-Lynn Wilson. Maestro Wilson received the Opus Klassik 2020 Conductor of the Year award and has led some of the world’s leading orchestras, such as the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, NDR Radiophilharmonie, Bruckner Orchestra Linz, and NHK Symphony Orchestra. She has also appeared at the world’s most prestigious opera houses, including the Metropolitan Opera, Covent Garden, Bavarian State Opera, Paris Opera, and Vienna State Opera.

Excerpt from Dvořák’s ‘New World Symphony’ from the 2022 tour

The Ukrainian Freedom Orchestra is composed of leading Ukrainian musicians from ensembles within the country – such as the Kyiv National Opera, Odesa Philharmonic Orchestra, National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine, Lviv Philharmonic Orchestra and Kharkiv Opera – together with recent refugees and Ukrainian members of European orchestras – such as the Tonkunstler Orchestra of Vienna, Belgian National Orchestra and Staatskapelle Berlin. Now under the patronage of Ukraine’s First Lady, Olena Zelenska, the Ukrainian Freedom Orchestra was formed to defend the cultural legacy of Ukraine, and undertook its inaugural tour of Europe and the United States last summer.

Ukrainian violinist Valeriy Sokolov – courtesy Askonas Holt

The featured soloist in this programme is Ukrainian violinist Valeriy Sokolov, who frequently performs with some of the most illustrious conductors, and regularly appears in major concert halls with orchestras such as the Philharmonia Orchestra, Chamber Orchestra of Europe, Cleveland Orchestra, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Tokyo Symphony and Orchestre de Paris. This past season he has performed with the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic and the Borusan Istanbul Philharmonic, and was Artist in Residence with the Filarmonica Arturo Toscanini in Parma.

The first part of the tour programme opens with Verdi’s Overture to La forza del destino. This dramatic opera, woven around the themes of fate, life and love, premiered in November 1862 at the Bolshoi Theatre in St Petersburg. It is followed by Yevhen Stankovych’s Violin Concerto No 2. One of the most prolific of contemporary Ukrainian composers, Mr Stankovych is creator of six symphonies and several symphonic works. The Orchestra then plays Melody – a sad, but beautiful piece, by the late Ukrainian composer, conductor and musicologist Myroslav Skoryk whose inspiration was mainly drawn from Ukrainian folklore.

After interval, the opening concert of the tour in Warsaw features Beethoven’s Symphony No 9, Ode to Joy, with soloists Olga Kulchynska, Nicole Chirka, Dmytro Popov, and Vladyslav Buialskyi and the Chorus of the Polish Białystok Opera. At all other concerts, the Orchestra will play Beethoven’s Symphony No 3, Eroica.

Keri-Lynn Wilson leads the Ukrainian Freedom Orchestra in the following performances:

August 20: Teatr Wielki, Warsaw 
August 22: Polish Baltic F Chopin Philharmonic in Gdansk – time and tickets to be announced

August 24: Kastellanwiese at Schloss Schönhausen in Berlin. This will be a special outdoor concert to celebrate Ukrainian Independence Day.

August 27: The Lucerne Festival, Switzerland  (Myroslav Skoryk’s Melody is omitted and there is no interval)

August 28: Het Concertgebouw in Amsterdam

August 30: Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg

September 2: Snape Maltings, Snape, UK 

September 3: The Barbican, London 

Information sourced from:

Ukrainian Freedom Orchestra programme notes

Valeriy Sokolov

Yevhen Stankovych

Myroslav Skoryk

ArtsPreview home page

Greek National Opera stages revival of Verdi’s ‘Nabucco’

Scene from Greek National Opera’s production of ‘Nabucco’ at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus
© Dimitris Sakalakis

Va, pensiero, sull’ali dorate (Fly, thought, on golden wings) – the opening words of one of the most beautiful and well-known choruses in the world of opera. It’s the Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves from Verdi’s Nabucco, sung as they gather on the banks of the Euphrates River, lamenting the loss of their fatherland.

As part of the Athens Epidaurus Festival, Greek National Opera stages a revival of Italian director Leo Muscato’s production of Verdi’s Nabucco, featuring a cast of international artists, led by Italian conductor Paolo Carignani in his debut appearance for GNO. Performance of the title role is shared between baritones Dimitri Platanias and Tassis Christoyannis – making his debut in this role. Nabucco’s daughter Fenena is sung by mezzo-soprano Elena Maximova who shares the role with mezzo-soprano Marissia Papalexiou. Tenors Yannis Christopoulos and Konstantinos Klironomos share the role of Ismaële – nephew of the King of Jerusalem – and Abigaille is sung by soprano Ekaterina Semenchuk or Maria José Siri.

Nabucco – a four-act opera composed in 1841 – is regarded as the work which established the reputation of Guiseppe Verdi as a composer, and to which Verdi himself referred as “the opera with which my artistic career really begins”. It was also linked to the end of his life, for when Verdi died in Milan in 1901, the crowd of over 300,000, which had gathered for his solemn funeral procession, joined a massed choir to sing the emotional Va, pensiero.

The Italian libretto, by Temistocle Solera, was based partly on the biblical story of the conquest of the Hebrews by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar (or Nabucodonosor in Italian – Nabucco in its shortened form), as catalogued in the books of Jeremiah and Daniel. Solera also based his libretto on an 1836 play by Auguste Anicet-Bourgeois and Francis Cornue, although it’s believed that he was influenced to a greater degree by Antonio Cortese’s 1836 balletic adaptation of the play. The opera – under its original name, Nabucodonosor – was premiered at La Scala on 9th March 1842.

Dimitris Platanias in the title role of GNO’s production of ‘Nabucco’ © Aris Messinis

Nabucco opens in the year 586 BC, with Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon and his army at the gates of Jerusalem, which is about to fall to them, forcing the Jewish people into exile from their homeland. Against the backdrop of these historical events, two plots unfold – one romantic, one political. The romantic plot involves Fenena – Nabucco’s daughter, who has been held hostage by the Hebrews – her jailer, Ismaële, with whom she’s in love, and Abigaille, her supposed half-sister, who is also in love with Ismaële. On the political front, Abigaille’s jealousy of Fenena is heightened when Nabucco appoints Fenena as regent in his absence, and Abigaille discovers that she’s not Nabucco’s daughter at all, but was sold to him as a slave.

Following Dimitri Platanias’ highly acclaimed debut at the Royal Opera Covent Garden in the title role of Rigoletto, The Times referred to him as “… the stunning Greek baritone …”, Richard Morrison further writing: “I have rarely heard the title role sung with such gloriously sustained tone and line, or such thrilling power….”. Opera houses in which he has also performed include the Bayerische Staatsoper, Teatro La Fenice, Oper Frankfurt, the Osterfestspiele Salzburg, the Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia and San Francisco Opera.

A dramatic scene from GNO’s producton of ‘Nabucco’ © Aris Menissis

Tassis Christoyannis spent several years as a member of the Greek National Opera before joining the Deutsche Oper am Rhein in Düsseldorf. Now freelance, he sings principal baritone roles in Italian, French and Russian works at opera houses and festivals in cities such as Paris, Vienna, Berlin, Geneva, Brussels, Amsterdam, Strasbourg, Bordeaux, Frankfurt and at Glyndebourne.

Roles in Elena Maximova’s repertoire include Rosina in Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia, Polina in Tchaikovsky’s The Queen of Spades, Siebel in Gounod’s Faust, Suzuki in Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, Olga in Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin, the title role in Bizet’s Carmen and Charlotte in Massenet’s Werther. She has also appeared at the Berlin Staatsoper, the Semperoper Dresden, the Teatro Comunale in Florence the Palau de les Arts in Valencia and the Teatro alla Scala Milan.

Dimitris Plantanias sings the role of Nabucco © Aris Menissis

Marissia Papalexiou started her career as a member of the GNO Chorus. As a soloist she has sung in works such as Richard Strauss’ Die Frau ohne Schatten, Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, Verdi’s La traviata, Bizet’s Carmen, Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas and Offenbach’s La belle Hélène, as well as works by young Greek composers in concert.

Having appeared regularly at the Salzburg Festival, Ekaterina Semenchuk has performed in operas including Verdi’s Il trovatore, Aida, Macbeth, Don Carlo and La forza del destino, Donizetti’s Anna Bolena, Berlioz’s Roméo et Juliette, Bizet’s Carmen, Saint-Saëns’ Samson et Dalila, Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov, Tchaikovsky’s La Pique Dame, Prokofiev’s War and Peace and Wagner’s Die Walküre.

Dimitris Plantanias takes centre stage in the GNO production of ‘Nabucco’ © Aris Menissis

Uruguayan soprano Maria José Siri is said by MTG Lirica to have a “Sumptuous, torrential voice that knows how to bend to the colors and dynamics required in the score at the right moment”. With a repertoire that ranges from bel canto to verismo, she has performed at Teatro alla Scala Milan, Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, the Wiener Staatsoper, the Staatsoper and Deutsche Oper of Berlin, Bayerische Staatsoper, Hamburgische Staatsoper and Semperoper Dresden.

Yannis Christopoulos has collaborated with all the important orchestras of Greece, and since 2011 has been a permanent member of the Greek National Opera Soloists, performing roles of the classic and modern repertory. Most recent operas in which he has appeared include Shostakovich’s Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District, Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor, Bellini’s La sonnambula, Mozart’s Don Giovanni, Gounod’s Faust, Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffmann and Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi.

The Odeon of Herodes Atticus on the south-west slope of the Acropolis © Dimitris Sakalakis

Following Konstantinos Klironomos’s performance of Macduff in Verdi’s Macbeth last year, culture website IOCO wrote: “His warm, beautiful-sounding, heroically colored and powerful tenor was another highlight of the evening”. His repertoire includes the roles of Cavaradossi in Puccini’s Tosca, Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly, Don Alvaro in Verdi’s La forza del destino, Il Duca di Mantova in Verdi’s Rigoletto, Roméo in Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette, the title roles in Mozart’s Idomeneo and La Clemenza di Tito and Tamino in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte.

Multi award-winning Italian director and playwright Leo Muscato last produced Nabucco for GNO in 2018. Other productions this year include three operas – Händel’s Agrippina at the Bonn Opera House, Vinci’s Li zite ‘ngalera at Teatro alla Scala in Milan and a revival of the 2021 production for the Bonn Opera House of Rossini’s La Cenerentola for Teatro Lirico Calgari.

Among productions which Italian conductor Paolo Carignani has recently led are Bizet’s Carmen in Beijing, Puccini’s La bohème at the Metropolitan Opera, Verdi’s La forza del destino for Deutsche Oper, and Aida and La traviata for Royal Danish Opera. Maestro Carignani returns to GNO next season to lead a new production of the double bill of Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci.

Paolo Carignani leads the Orchestra, Soloists and Chorus (Chorus Master Agathangelos Georgakatos) of the Greek National Opera in performances of Verdi’s Nabucco at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus from 26th to 30th July. Tickets can be bought from the GNO Box Office and online via

All photographs were taken at the time of the 2018 production

Information sourced from:

GNO programme notes

Verdi, An Autobiographical Sketch 1879 (Werfel and Stefan 1973)

Budden, Julian (1973), The Operas of Verdi, Vol. 1. London: Cassell Ltd, 1973. pp. 89–112. ISBN 0-304-31058-1 (via Wikipedia)

Artists’ websites

Monte-Carlo Philharmonic presents season of Concerts at the Prince’s Palace

The Cour d’Honneur of the Prince’s Palace, Monaco © Gaetan Luci

The summer season of Concerts at the Prince’s Palace opens in the Principality of Monaco this month. Given by the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra and featuring a series of illustrious conductors and soloists, these concerts take place in the glorious surroundings of the Cour d’Honneur at the Prince’s Palace.

The opening concert of this season, on 16th July, is led by the OPMC’s Music Director Kazuki Yamada and features Daniil Trifonov playing the Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No 4, with Brahms’ First Symphony also on the programme. This concert has already sold out.

Violinist Gil Shaham © Chris Lee

It is followed, on Thursday 20th July, by a performance of Erich Korngold’s wonderfully romantic Violin Concerto by violinist Gil Shaham – said by the New York Times to be “…among the most inspired violinists of his ­generation”. The concert is led by Fabien Gabel, Music Director designate of the Viennese Tonkünstler Orchestra as of the 2025/26 season, and “One of the rising stars of the new generation of international conductors”, says Lëtzebuerger Land. Also on the programme are Gustav Mahler’s Blumine, Josef Strauss’ Musique des Sphères and Maurice Ravel’s “choreographic poem” La Valse, written originally as a ballet, but now more often heard as a concert piece.

Conductor Ottavio Dantone © Giulia Papetti

Ottavio Dantone leads the concert on Sunday 23rd July. An internationally accomplished organist and harpsichordist, Dantone has also made his name as the music director of chamber and small orchestras, as well as having conducted performances in some of the world’s finest opera houses. Solo violinist Giuliano Carmignola plays Jean-Sébastien Bach’s Violin Concerto No 1, and is then joined by oboist Matthieu Petit Jean in a performance of Jean-Sébastien Bach’s Concerto for Oboe and Violin. The concert ends with Mozart’s Symphony No 38, known as the Prague, a symphony written for that city because of the popularity of his opera Le nozze di Figaro there.

French conductor and violinist Jean-Christophe Spinosi – founder of the Ensemble Matheus – leads the OPMC and soloist Daniel Lozakovich in Mozart’s Violin Concerto No 3, known as the Strasbourg. Lozakovich’s tone, according to the Hamburger Abendblatt “…resonates with the Romantic warmth of such forebears as Christian Ferras or Jascha Heifetz”. The other work on the programme for Thursday 27th July is Beethoven’s popular Sixth Symphony, the Pastorale.

Cellist Marc Coppey © Kyoko Homma

The soloist in the concert on Thursday 3rd August is cellist Marc Coppey, whom Télérama says “…. is rightly part of the great tradition of French cellists”. He plays Joseph Haydn’s Cello Concerto in a performance conducted by Lawrence Foster, Music Director of Marseille Opera, as well as Artistic Director and Chief Conductor of the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra. The opening work is Brahms’ lovely Variations on a Theme by Haydn – known as the Saint Anthony Variations – and the concert ends in sprightly mood with Brahms’ Hungarian Dances Nos 1 to 5.

Conductor Jaap van Zweden © Simon van Boxtel

The final concert in this season of symphony concerts at the Prince’s Palace takes place on Sunday 6th August. Jaap van Zweden – Music Director of the New York Philharmonic since 2018, and of the Hong Kong Philharmonic since 2012 – leads the performance. International recitalist, soloist and chamber musician, French pianist David Fray, plays Mozart’s Piano Concerto No 21, known as Elvira Madigan, as the second movement featured in the 1967 Swedish film of that name. The season is brought to a close with Beethoven’s Symphony No 7, another major work synonymous with the world of cinema, as the Allegretto was memorably used in the film The King’s Speech.

Reservations for the Concerts at the Prince’s Palace can be made online via this link.

Information sourced from:

OPMC programme notes

Artists’ websites

This article first appeared in Riviera Buzz

ArtsPreview home page

Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo ends season with Maillot’s ‘Cinderella’

In the final programme of L’Été danse! this season, Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo stages Jean-Christophe Maillot’s interpretation of Cinderella, in which he takes a fresh look at this well-known fairy tale.

Putting a new twist on the story, Maillot turns the death of Cinderella’s mother into a positive force for her daughter’s life, at the same time taking a sidelong glance at the artificial society which surrounds the young girl.
Instead of Cinderella’s stepmother being cruel, and her stepsisters ugly and figures of fun, the three of them are worldly and seductive, using their charm to achieve their aims. There is no room in their home for dwelling on loss or the past.

Maillot introduces a new character to the story – a Fairy who guides Cinderella and removes her from the influence of her materialistic step-family. This Fairy is a reincarnation of Cinderella’s mother – Maillot drawing on the belief of how one who is no longer around can shape the future of those who are left behind.

In a further departure from the original story, instead of a glass slipper, Cinderella’s bare foot becomes the focus of the ballet, highlighting the natural simplicity of the young girl’s character.

Maillot’s Cinderella is set to Serge Prokofiev’s sumptuous score, played in this recorded version by the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra, led by David Garforth. The stage design is by Ernest Pignon-Ernest, costumes are by Jérome Kaplan and lighting by Dominique Drillot.

Performances take place on 18th, 19th and 20th July, 2023, at the Salle Garnier of the Opéra de Monte-Carlo, where the ballet was premiered on 3rd April, 1999. For further information and reservations, visit Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo website.

All photographs © Alice Blangero

Information sourced from:

Les ballets de Monte-Carlo programme notes

ArtsPreview home page

Tan Dun leads Concertgebouw Orchestra in world premiere of ‘Requiem for Nature’

The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra at de Gashouder in 2022 – ©  Marcel Molle

This year’s Holland Festival closes with the world premiere of Tan Dun’s Requiem for Nature at the Westergas-Gashouder in Amsterdam, in which the composer leads the Concertgebouw Orchestra, the Lauren Symfonisch and soloists from several parts of East-Asia.

The Holland Festival is the oldest and largest performing arts festival in the Netherlands. Taking place in Amsterdam every June, the Festival has, since 1947, been providing Dutch and international theatregoers with some of the most widely acclaimed theatrical, musical, operatic and modern dance productions, and in recent years the roster has been expanded to include multimedia, visual arts, film and architecture.

Tan Dun’s six-movement Requiem for Nature is a work for orchestra, chorus and soloists, which was developed in close collaboration with the Concertgebouw Orchestra’s creative partner Pierre Audi – with whom Tan Dun has worked on several occasions. Inspired by ancient murals in the Mogul Caves in Dunhuang, China, this ode to Earth mourns the demise of nature caused by human action, and asks how can we restore the relationship between nature and humankind.

The Requiem for Nature combines arrangements of sections from Tan Dun’s 2018 work Buddha Passion with newly composed movements. Although created in the Western tradition, it is based on Buddhist rather than Christian texts, and will be sung in English, Mongolian, Tibetan, Cantonese and Sanskrit, with English surtitles. The Los Angeles Times writes: “Theatrical [and] ritualistic, Tan Dun’s music sculpts sound and transforms everything into a riveting experience that is hard to define but very easy to appreciate”.

Tan Dun – courtesy Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra

The music of UNESCO Global Goodwill Ambassador Tan Dun covers the classical, multimedia, Eastern and Western genres, for which he has been recognised with a Grammy, an Oscar, a Grawemeyer, a Shostakovich award, the Bach Prize and Italy’s Golden Lion Award for Lifetime Achievement. His music has been played the world over by leading orchestras and opera houses, at international festivals, on radio and television, and Tan Dun has led prestigious ensembles such as the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra, the Philadelphia Orchestra, Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, Orchestre National de France, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Filarmonica della Scala, the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, the Mahler Chamber Orchestra and Japan’s NHK Symphony Orchestra.

In these final concerts of The Holland Festival, Tan Dun leads the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, and soloists soprano Candice Chung from Hong Kong, Tibetan indigenous soprano Jiangfan Yong, Chinese pipa player Han Yan, Mongolian khoomai bass (throat singer) and morin khuur (horse-head fiddle) player Hasibagen, together with the choir of the Laurens Symfonisch, in performances of his Requiem for Nature at the Westergas-Gashouder in Amsterdam on June 30th and July 1st. For further information and tickets, visit the website of the Concertgebouw Orchestra or the Holland Festival website.

Information sourced from:

Concertgebouworkest program notes

Holland Festival

Tan Dun

ArtsPreview home page

San Francisco Playhouse revives award-winning musical ‘A Chorus Line’

The San Francisco Playhouse production of ‘A Chorus Line’

A revival of the fabulous musical, A Chorus Line, has opened at the San Francisco Playhouse. Winner of the 1976 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, nine Tony Awards, four Drama Desk awards, three 1976 Obie awards and the 1984 Special Gold Tony Award for Broadway’s longest-running musical, A Chorus Line was described as “Frankly brilliant!” by the Telegraph, and by Time Out as “Enormously powerful!”.

The music for A Chorus Line was written by three times Oscar winner Marvin Hamlisch who wrote the scores for more than 40 films. These included The Way We Were and his adaptation of Scott Joplin’s music for The Sting, and during his highly successful career he was also principal pops conductor with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington DC.

A scene from the San Francisco Playhouse production of ‘A Chorus Line’

A Chorus Line was lyricist Edward Kleban’s first Broadway musical. He won the 1975 Tony, Drama Desk and Olivier awards, and was posthumously nominated for both a Tony and Drama Desk award for his music and lyrics for the musical A Class Act, produced on Broadway in 2001. He is also known for the creation of the Kleban Foundation, which awards grants to aspiring theatre lyricists.
The book on which A Chorus Line is based was co-written by James Kirkwood and Nicholas Dante, both of whom shared the Pulitzer Prize with Marvin Hamlish and Edward Kleban.

A scene from the San Francisco Playhouse production of ‘A Chorus Line’

This funny, yet heartbreaking, musical focuses on one day in the lives of the seventeen dancers, each of whom hopes to win one of the eight places in the chorus line of a Broadway musical. The director and choreographer asks each of them to talk about themselves, explaining that he wants to get to know a bit more about them. Reluctant to start with, the dancers nevertheless begin to share their life experiences, and the audience – through the revelation of these stories – begins to see the individual personalities of what appeared to be merely a group of performers.

Interestingly, these stories are based on the true experiences of actual Broadway dancers, as told to Michael Bennett – who conceived, directed and choreographed the original production of A Chorus Line. Bennett was an American musical theatre director, writer, choreographer and dancer who won seven Tony Awards for his choreography and direction of Broadway shows and was nominated for an additional eleven. Among the shows which Bennett choreographed are Promises, Promises, Follies and Company.

This San Francisco Playhouse production of A Chorus Line is directed by Bill English, with musical direction by Dave Dobrusky and choreography by Nicole Helfer. It runs at the Playhouse until September 9th, 2023. For more information and for tickets please visit the San Francisco Playhouse website.

Information sourced from:

San Francisco Playhouse program notes

All photographs by Jessica Palipoli

ArtsPreview home page

San Francisco Opera stages Local Premiere of Gabriela Lena Frank’s ‘El Último Sueño de Frida y Diego’

Daniela Mack as Frida Kahlo, Alfredo Daza as Diego Rivera and Yaritza Véliz as Catrina in Gabriela Lena Frank and Nilo Cruz’s ‘El último sueño de Frida y Diego’ Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

The San Francisco premiere of Gabriela Lena Frank’s El Último Sueño de Frida y Diego, is to be staged by San Francisco Opera at the War Memorial Opera House as of this week. With a libretto by Nilo Cruz, this production by Mexican Director Lorena Maza stars mezzo-soprano Daniela Mack and baritone Alfredo Daza as 20th Century artists Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera.

The Company’s first Spanish-language opera is a co-commission between San Francisco Opera, San Diego Opera, Fort Worth Opera, DePauw University, School of Music and with support from the University of Texas at Austin College of Fine Arts. The San Francisco Opera Orchestra and Chorus (director John Keene) will be led by Detroit Opera’s Music Director, Roberto Kalb, making his San Francisco Opera debut.

The action of El último sueño de Frida y Diego takes place on El Día de los Muertos (The Day of the Dead) in the year 1957 – three years after Frida Kahlo’s death. Despite their stormy relationship, the muralist Diego Rivera, who is ailing and lonely, has one last wish – to see Frida once more, to ask for her forgiveness. She does indeed return to earth, even though she is loath to go back to a world where she experienced such pain. The pair enjoy one last opportunity to reunite and reconcile. El último sueño de Frida y Diego was premiered by San Diego Opera in October 2022.

Daniela Mack (center) as Frida Kalho in an Gabriela Lena Frank and Nilo Cruz’s
‘El último sueño de Frida y Diego’ Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

Although this opera is Gabriela Lena Frank’s first, the music of this Grammy Award-winning composer is regularly featured on the programs of leading orchestras such as the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Boston Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony and Philadelphia Orchestra. Composer in Residence of the Philadelphia Orchestra, she has written new works for cellist Yo-Yo Ma, soprano Dawn Upshaw and conductors Marin Alsop and Yannick Nézet-Séguin, and is founder of the Gabriela Lena Frank Creative Academy of Music for emerging music-makers in Northern California.
Cuban-American playwright Nilo Cruz is well known for his stage works – which include his 2003 Pulitzer Prize-winning play, Anna in the Tropics, for which he also received a Tony nomination. A frequent collaborator with composers such as Gabriela Lena Frank and Jimmy Lopez, his works are performed across the US and internationally.

Daniela Mack as Frida Kalho with members of the San Francisco Opera Chorus in
Gabriela Lena Frank and Nilo Cruz’s ‘El último sueño de Frida y Diego’
Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

The role of Frida Kahlo is taken by Argentine mezzo-soprano Daniela Mack – described by the Telegraph as “a purringly elegant BMW of a singer”. A former Merola Opera Program participant and San Francisco Opera Adler Fellow, Mack made her Company debut as Lucienne in Korngold’s Die tote Stadt in 2008, followed by Idamante in Mozart’s Idomeneo, Rosmira in Handel’s Partenope, Rosina in Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia in three different seasons, and the title role in Rossini’s La Cenerentola.

Daniela Mack (left) as Frida Kalho with members of the San Francisco Opera Chorus in Gabriela Lena Frank and Nilo Cruz’s ‘El último sueño de Frida y Diego’
Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

In recent seasons, Ms Mack has made several important debuts including the Kitchen Boy in Dvořák’s Rusalka at the Metropolitan Opera, as Rosina in Il barbiere di Siviglia at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, as Rosmira in Partenope at Teatro Real, as Romeo in Bellini’s I Capuleti e i Montecchi at Teatro de la Maestranza – also a role debut – and with the BBC Philharmonic as Béatrice in Béatrice et Bénédict. She also made her Carnegie Hall debut in a performance of Handel’s Serse with The English Concert. Daniela Mack will feature in San Francisco Opera’s Webby Award-winning video portrait series, In Song­, filmed on location in Buenos Aires, and released this summer.

Alfredo Daza as Diego Rivera in Gabriela Lena Frank and Nilo Cruz’s
‘El último sueño de Frida y Diego’
Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

Mexican baritone Alfredo Daza created the role of Diego Rivera in the world premiere of El último sueño de Frida y Diego last October, following which The San Diego Union Tribune wrote of his “soulful restraint” in performing Frank’s music, describing his presentation as “deep and mournful, reflecting the artist’s regrets over his cruelty”. Having performed it with Los Angeles Opera as well, he returns in this role to San Francisco Opera, where he began his career as an Adler Fellow, having participated in the Merola Opera Program in 1997.

Other highlights of his appearances in San Francisco include those of Liberto in Monteverdi’s L’Incoronazione di Poppea, various roles in Sergei Prokofiev’s Betrothal in a Monastery, Prince Yamadori in Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, Schaunard in his La bohème, and as Silvano in Verdi’s Un Ballo in Maschera. Recent and upcoming appearances include the roles of Enrico in Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor at Barcelona’s Gran Theatre del Liceu, Zurga in Bizet’s Les Pêcheurs de Perles at Dallas Opera and in the title role in Giordano’s Fedora in Las Palmas. Mr Daza is a frequent performer at the Berlin State Opera, having appeared in leading roles in works by Rossini, Verdi, Tchaikovsky, Gounod, Massenet and Puccini.

Yaritza Véliz as Catrina and Daniela Mack as Frida Kahlo in Gabriela Lena Frank and Nilo Cruz’s ‘El último sueño de Frida y Diego’
Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

The cast also includes Chilean soprano Yaritza Véliz making her house debut as Catrina, the Keeper of the Dead, American countertenor Jake Ingbar as the young actor Leonardo, Mikayla Sager, Nikola Printz, Gabrielle Beteag, Moisés Salazar and Ricardo Lugo, wityh choreography by Colm Seery.
The creative team comprises set designer Jorge Ballina, costume designer Eloise Kazan and lighting designer Victor Zapatero.

El Último Sueño de Frida y Diego is sung in Spanish, with English and Spanish supertitles and will run for five performances at the War Memorial Opera House between June 13 and 30. Further information and tickets are available on the San Francisco Opera website.
The performance on Thursday, June 22, will be streamed live at 7.30 pm (PT), and will be available to watch on demand for 48 hours beginning on Friday, June 23, at 10.00 am (PT).  For more information, visit

Information sourced from:

San Francisco Opera program notes

El Último Sueño de Frida y Diego

Gabriela Lena Frank

Nilo Cruz

Daniela Mack

Alfredo Daza

ArtsPreview home page