Metropolitan Opera screens Puccini’s ‘Turandot’ live in cinemas

Scene from Act II of Puccini’s ‘Turandot’ © Marty Sohl/Metropolitan Opera

As part of its ongoing The Met: Live in HD series, the Metropolitan Opera streams Puccini’s grand opera Turandot in cinemas the world over this coming weekend.

This spectacular production, by Italian director, designer, and producer of opera, theatre, motion pictures and television, the late Franco Zeffirelli, is described by the Huffington Post as “…. one of the gems in the Met repertory”. It stars Ukranian soprano Liudmyla Monastyrska in the title role of Princess Turandot, South Korean tenor Yonghoon Lee takes the role of Caláf, Albanian soprano Ermonela Jaho is Liù, and Italian bass Ferruccio Furlanetto is Timur – the vanquished former King of Tartary and long-lost father of Caláf. 

The Metropolitan Orchestra and Chorus are led by Italian conductor Marco Armiliato, and American soprano Nadine Sierra hosts the live transmission. Ms Sierra is currently starring in the title role of the Met’s new production of Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor, which will be the next Live in HD transmission, on Saturday, May 21st.

It was Renato Simoni – librettist, director and theatre critic – who suggested to Puccini that he write a lyric opera based on Friedrich Schiller’s version of the fairytale Turandotte, by the Venetian author Carlo Gozzi in 1762. Puccini was apparently most enthusiastic about the idea, and in 1919, Simoni and librettist Guiseppe Adami – who had already written libretti for Puccini’s La rondine and Il tabarro – started work on the text.

Poster for premiere of ‘Turandot’ April 25th, 1926
by Leopoldo Metlicovitz (1868 – 1944) – courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Work on the score for Turandot went slowly – it was five years before Puccini had written most of it – then, tragically, he died in 1924, before he could complete it, and without being able to enjoy the success of one of his most popular and most often performed works. The last duet and finale were written by Italian composer and pianist, Franco Alfano in 1926. Turandot was premiered at Teatro alla Scala in Milan on April 25 of that year, but – according to PBS – “The opening night performance omitted the Alfano finale, with Toscanini putting down his baton where Puccini had abandoned the score when he died. Reportedly, Toscanini turned to the audience and said, ‘Here the composer died’.”  

Set in Peking, this somewhat dark opera tells of the beautiful, but icy, Princess Turandot who is determined never to be possessed by a man. She sets her suitors the task of answering three riddles – which, until the arrival of Prince Caláf – none of them has successfully done, resulting in their execution. Distraught at the thought of having to marry Caláf, Princess Turandot willingly accepts his challenge of guessing his name before dawn, instructing her subjects not to sleep until his name has been discovered – hence the introduction of the most popular aria in the opera, Nessun dorma (none shall sleep). Thanks to the sacrifice of the slave girl, Liù – who was in love with Caláf, but suffers torture, and ultimately death, rather than reveal his name – Turandot weakens, and Caláf ultimately wins her hand.

Süddeutsche Zeitung wrote of Liudmyla Monastyrska: “…. this magnificent singer can express all feelings, all emotional levels through her vocal: peace, despair, death, restlessness, eroticism, fear of death, tenderness.” In previous seasons, she has starred in Live in HD transmissions of Verdi’s Aida and Nabucco, and she will follow this Met Opera performance with an appearance at the Arena di Verona in the title role of Aida, then as Donna Leonora in La forza del destino at the Verdi Festival in Parma. Ms Monastyrska will return to the Met in October to sing the title role in Puccini’s Tosca.

Yonghoon Lee has previously sung the role of Caláf at the Met, and earlier this year at Opera Australia in Sydney, where he also sang the title role in Verdi’s Otello. Following this performance in Turandot, Mr Lee will return to Sydney to sing Manrico in Verdi’s Il trovatore and return to the role of Caláf at the Fondazione Arena di Verona.

Ermonela Jaho sings Liù which she has recently sung in a concert performance at the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia. Other performances this year include the title role in Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur at the Teatro Communale di Bologna and in Oviedo, Spain, Cio-Cio-San in Puccini’s Madama Butterfly at the Staatsoper in Hamburg, and the title role in Massenet’s Thais at Theatre des Champs-Elysees in Paris. Following her 2017 performance in Madama Butterfly at the Royal Opera House, The Independent wrote: “Ermonela Jaho is the best Cio-Cio-San London has seen in years”

Marco Armiliato has led orchestras at many of the world’s leading opera houses. He is a frequent guest at the Metropolitan Opera, where he has conducted operas including La bohème, Macbeth, Turandot, Manon Lescaut and La fanciulla del West. In 2012 he set a record at the Met by conducting six operas in six days.

The Metropolitan Opera’s live cinema transmission of Turandot begins at 12:55 pm ET on 7th May. To find your local cinema and time of screening, visit this link.

Information sourced from:

Metropolitan Opera program notes
Liudmyla Monastyrska
Yonghoon Lee
Ermonela Jaho
Marco Armiliato

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Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo gives opening performance of ‘Œil pour Œil’ for Ukraine

It is gratifying to see how many arts organisations are giving performances in support of the people of Ukraine, and Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo is no exception. This month, the Company dedicates the opening performance of Jean-Christophe Maillot’s Œil pour Œil to this inspirational cause.

Created in 2001, and originally premiered at the Grimaldi Forum in Monaco on 14th April of that year, Œil pour Œil (which translates as An Eye for an Eye) is based on a detective story by French editor, writer and translator of Italian literature into French, Jean-Marie Laclavetine. Written especially for Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo, Œil pour Œil is set in the dirty alleys synonymous with the detective novel, dealing with the issues commonly associated with crime fiction – revenge, corruption, the underworld, sex and predation.

It tells of three inseparable friends, Iris, Adam and Wolf – the two boys having been rescued from the slums by Iris. Unfortunately, they both fall in love with her, and the friendship is shattered when she chooses Adam. Wolf falls under the influence of the Octopus, an erotomaniac who reins over a bestiary of Chimeras and Dog-cops, and who monitors every corner of the city from surveillance screens. As time passes, Wolf is haunted by the memory of Iris and sets a trap for his rival to get rid of him. Before escaping with her, Wolf gives Iris a briefcase which he has stolen from the Octopus, and this sets in train a hunt for the two of them, which has tragic results.

Jean-Christophe Maillot has done both the choreography and staging of the ballet, and set it to music by three composers – the postmodernist Russian composer Alfred Schnittke, Arvo Pärt – the Estonian composer who created a unique musical language called tintinnabuli – and American jazz and classical pianist, composer and saxophonist Keith Jarrett. Costumes are by Jérôme Kaplan, with lighting by Dominque Drillot.

Œil pour Œil runs at the Salles des Prince, Grimaldi Forum Monaco, from 28th April to 1st May, with proceeds of the opening performance going to the Monaco Red Cross, to support the people of Ukraine. Tickets may be reserved at Monte-Carlo Ticket, and more information can be found on the Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo website.

All photographs © Alice Blangero

Information sourced from:

Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo programme notes

Artists’ websites

A version of this article first appeared on the Riviera Buzz website

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Dudamel conducts San Francisco Symphony

Gustavo Dudamel © Danny Clinch

Gustavo Dudamel, surely one of the most charismatic conductors of his time, leads the San Francisco Symphony this week in a program of music by Mozart and Mahler. The featured works are Mozart’s Symphony No 38 in D major, known as the Prague Symphony, and Mahler’s Symphony No 5.

Music and Artistic Director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic since the 2009-10 season, and now also Music Director of the Paris Opéra, Gustavo Dudamel is a product of the Venezuela El Sistema musical training program. In 2012 he created the Dudamel Foundation, which aims to provide access to music and the arts for young people.

Both a symphonic and operatic conductor, Maestro Dudamel has led more than 30 staged, semi-staged, and concertante productions across the major stages of the world. These include staged productions with Milan’s Teatro alla Scala, productions at the Berlin and Vienna State operas, the Metropolitan Opera and in Los Angeles, with a repertoire which ranges from Mozart’s Così fan tutte to Bizet’s Carmen, Verdi’s Otello and Wagner’s Tannhäuser. He is equally at home with contemporary music such as Bernstein’s West Side Story, and operas by composers like John Adams and Oliver Knussen. He has recently completed a two-week residency at the New York Philharmonic, celebrating the symphonies of Robert Schumann.

Mozart by Barbara Krafft – via Wikimedia Commons

When Mozart arrived in Prague in January 1787, the city was buzzing with enthusiasm for his latest opera Le nozze di Figaro which had met with astounding success. The purpose of his visit was to finish rehearsals of Don Giovanni, the premiere of which was eagerly anticipated by the citizens of Prague, who by then regarded Mozart as their favorite composer. As a gesture of thanks for the adulation of the citizens of Prague, Mozart had a newly completed symphony to present to the city, his Symphony No 38 which, unsurprisingly, took the nickname of the Prague Symphony. It premiered there, at a hugely successful performance, on January 19th, 1787.

Gustav Mahler by Moritz Nähr – via Wikimedia Commons

Gustav Mahler wrote his Symphony No 5 during the summers of 1901 and 1902, while holidaying in his cottage at Maiernigg on the shores of the Werther Lake in south-eastern Austria. This was a turbulent time for the composer who was experiencing health problems as well as disagreements with the Vienna Philharmonic where he was resident conductor. The Symphony – which turned out to be one of his most beloved works – reflects bursts of energy, the peace of the countryside, has a gorgeous slow movement (which Michael Tilson Thomas describes as “…. probably the closest he ever got to an undisguised outpouring of love and happiness”), and ends in jubilation and triumph. Mahler himself said of the work: “There is nothing romantic or mystical about it; it is simply an expression of incredible energy. It is a human being in the full light of day, in the prime of his life”. It premiered on October 18, 1904, with the composer conducting the Gürzenich Orchestra in Cologne, having conducted a read‑through with the Vienna Philharmonic earlier that year.

Gustavo Dudamel leads the San Francisco Symphony in a program of works by Mozart and Mahler at Davies Symphony Hall from April 21st to 24th. Further information and booking details can be found on the San Francisco Symphony website.

Michael Tilson Thomas featured the Origins and Legacy of Gustav Mahler in his Keeping Score series for PBS, and further details can be found on this page of the San Francisco Symphony website.

Information sourced from:

San Francisco Symphony program notes

Mozart Symphony No 38

Mahler Symphony No 5

Gustav Mahler

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‘Eugene Onegin’ returns to Metropolitan Opera

Ailyn Pérez as Tatiana and Igor Golovatenko in the title role of Tchaikovsky’s ‘Eugene Onegin’ Photo: Jonathan Tichler / Met Opera

Over the next week, the Metropolitan Opera’s revival of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin returns to the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York City, where it opened on March 25th. Produced by Deborah Warner, Eugene Onegin stars soprano Ailyn Pérez as Tatiana, baritone Igor Golovatenko as Onegin, mezzo-soprano Varduhi Abrahamyan as Tatiana’s sister Olga, tenor Piotr Beczała as Olga’s husband Lenski and bass Ain Anger as Prince Gremin. Conductor James Gaffigan leads the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chorus.

Ailyn Pérez as Tatiana and Igor Golovatenko in the title role of Tchaikovsky’s ‘Eugene Onegin’ Photo: Marty Sohl / Met Opera

Eugene Onegin was Tchaikovsky’s fifth completed opera. It was written and orchestrated, by the composer, between May 1877 and January 1878, and underwent four further revisions between March 1879 and June-July 1891. The libretto – after Alexandr Pushkin’s 1837 novel in verse – was mainly devised by Tchaikovsky, assisted by Konstantin Shilovsky. The opera had its world premiere at the Maly Theatre in Moscow in 1879, performed by students from the Moscow Conservatory, directed by Ivan Samarin and conducted by Tchaikovsky’s close friend Nikolai Rubinstein.

Tchaikovsky’s opera is a classic portrayal of the drama, passion and insight into human nature which characterizes great Russian music and literature. When Lenski introduces his friend, the dashing and handsome Onegin, to the Larin household, the young and somewhat naïve Tatiana falls in love with him, but is rather coolly spurned. She ultimately marries Prince Gremin, and – having grown into an elegant, aristocratic woman – meets up with Onegin again at a ball in St Petersburg. Despite the strength of feeling that they discover between the two of them, she remains faithful to her husband, and when Onegin insults Lenski by flirting with Olga, Lenski challenges him to a duel – with tragic results.

Ailyn Pérez as Tatiana in Tchaikovsky’s ‘Eugene Onegin’ Photo: Jonathan Tichler / Met Opera

Hightlights of Ailyn Pérez’s current season include performances of Puccini’s Tosca at San Francisco Opera, Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore at Lyric Opera of Chicago, Alice Ford in Verdi’s Falstaff at Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, Massenet’s Manon at Opéra nationale de Paris, Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro at Staatsoper in Hamburg and Puccini’s La bohème at Munich’s Bayerische Staatsoper. Pizzicato writes that Ms Pérez’s “….beautiful and generous voice, her commanding technique as well as the broadest possible spectrum of feelings allow her to make a captivating drama of every piece.”

A leading baritone at the Bolshoi Opera, Igor Golovatenko makes his Met Opera debut in the title role of Eugene Onegin. This year he has appeared as Andrey Shchelkalov from Musorgsky’s Boris Godunov at the Opera Apriori International Festival of Vocal Music, with the Berlin Philharmoniker as Robert, Duke of Burgundy, from Tchaikovsky’s Iolanta, and as Giorgio Germont in Verdi’s La Traviata at the Bolshoi Theatre. He will be appearing as Sir Riccardo Forth in Bellini’s I puritani at Wiener Staatsoper this season, and will return to the Bolshoi Theatre to perform Marcello in Puccini’s La bohème.

Recent house debuts for Varduhi Abrahamyan include performances in Lucrezia Borgia at the Donizetti Opera Festival in Bergamo, in Bizet’s Carmen at Teatro Regio di Torino, Bayerische Staatsoper and Opera de Oviedo, in Rossini’s L’Italiana in Algeri at Gran Teatre del Liceu and in Verdi’s Don Carlos at Opera Las Palmas. With her “deep, husky voice” (New York Times) Ms Abrahamyan has also appeared in Eugene Onegin at Canadian Opera, as Preziosilla in Verdi’s La forza del destino at Opéra di Parigi, in Semiramide at the Rossini Opera Festival, as well as in Rossini’s La donna del lago at Opéra de Marseille.

Varduhi Abrahamyan as Olga and Piotr Beczała as Lenski in Tchaikovsky’s ‘Eugene Onegin’ Photo: Marty Sohl / Met Opera

Piotr Beczala,” says Opera News, “has the kind of voice you want to hang medals on. Its luminosity makes many of his fellow lyric tenors, past and present, sound by comparison like flickering candlewicks. Beczala’s clarity and cleanliness of tone are the essence of his appeal.” He has appeared in many of the world’s finest opera houses, and is a regular guest at the Salzburg Festival. Following his performance in Eugene Onegin, he goes on tour to Colombia, Brazil and Argentina to perform in recital with Camillo Radicke, and then to the Wiener Staatsoper where he appears in recital with Sarah Tysman.

Ailyn Pérez as Tatiana, Ain Anger as Gremin, and Igor Golovatenko in the title role of Tchaikovsky’s ‘Eugene Onegin’ Photo: Marty Sohl / Met Opera

Ain Anger – “One of the greatest Wagner basses of our time”, according to The Guardian – is a regular guest at Wiener Staatsoper where he has sung more than forty roles. He made his Bayreuth Festival debut as Fafner in Das Rheingold and Siegfried, and he has appeared as Hunding in new Ring Cycles at Bayerische Staatsoper, Wiener Staatsoper, Oper Frankfurt, Lyric Opera of Chicago and at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. Mr Anger debuted at San Francisco Opera as Pogner in Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, and is a frequent guest of Deutsche Oper Berlin with whom he also appeared at the BBC Proms in Tannhäuser.

Ailyn Pérez as Tatiana and Igor Golovatenko in the title role of Tchaikovsky’s ‘Eugene Onegin’ Photo: Marty Sohl / Met Opera

James Gaffigan is described by the New York Times as “one of the rising stars of his generation”. A conductor of both symphony orchestras and opera, he is in his inaugural season as Music Director of the Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía in Valencia, he is Principal Guest Conductor of the Trondheim Symphony Orchestra and Opera, and of the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra. He is also Music Director of the Verbier Festival Junior Orchestra, and in the 2023-24 season takes up the position of Music Director of Komische Oper Berlin.

Eugene Onegin – A co-production of the Metropolitan Opera and English National Opera – is presented on April 7th, 10th and 14th. Tickets may be reserved online, and further information is available on the Metropolitan Opera website.

Information sourced from:

Metropolitan Opera program notes

Artists’ websites

ArtsPreview home page

Monte-Carlo Philharmonic stages concert in support of Ukraine

Poster courtesy Monte-Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra

Along with all of the cultural institutions of the Principality of Monaco, the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra dedicates its concert of 8th April to the people of Ukraine, with all proceeds going to to the Monegasque Red Cross.

Music Director Kazuki Yamada leads the Orchestra in a programme of works by Mendelssohn, Mozart and Schumann, with guest soloist Maria João Pires playing the Mozart Piano Concerto No 9.

The concert opens with Felix Mendelssohn’s Overture to A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Le Songe d’une Nuit d’été), Op 21 – not to be confused with Mendelssohn’s Incidental Music to a Midsummer Night’s Dream which was written 16 years later. The Overture was composed in 1826 when Mendelssohn was just 17, his inspiration coming from family readings of the Shakespeare play, as well as the translation by August Schlegel, one of the originators of the German Romantic movement and a notable translator of Shakespeare into German. Coincidentally, Schlegel was also a distant relative of the composer. The work was originally conceived as a piano duet, and the fully orchestrated version was premiered in Stettin in 1827.

Maria João Pires © Felix Broede

Multi-award-winning Maria João Pires is regarded as one of the great pianists of the late 20th Century. The Daily Telegraph has written of her “….illuminating phrasing, animated line and golden touch”. Best known for her interpretations of the works of Beethoven, Mozart, Chopin and Schumann, Ms Pires has performed with some of the finest orchestras in the world, appearing regularly with the Berlin Philharmonic, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Amsterdam’s Royal Concertgebouworkest, the London Philharmonic and the Orchestre de Paris. She has toured the United States with the Concertgebouworkest, appeared at prestigious venues such as the Royal Albert Hall, Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center, as well as at the Edinburgh Festival, and is equally acclaimed for her chamber music performances, having toured most of Europe and the Far East as a chamber artist.

Since the 1970s, Maria João Pires has devoted herself to reflecting the influence of art in life, the community and education. She created the Belgais Centre for the Study of the Arts in Portugal in 1999, and in 2012 initiated two complementary projects in Belgium – the Partitura Choirs for children from disadvantaged backgrounds, and the Partitura Workshops – interdisciplinary workshops for professional musicians and music lovers.

In this concert, Maria João Pires plays Mozart’s Piano Concerto No 9, K.271. Composed in 1777, with its size, significant technical demands and depth of expression, it is regarded as the composer’s first fully mature piano concerto. Known as the Jeunehomme concerto, it was thought to have been written for a Mlle Jeunehomme, about whom little is known, but it has also been suggested that it might have been written in honour of Madame Jenové, a skilled pianist who was also the daughter of French choreographer Jean Georges Noverre. What we do know however is that Mozart was the soloist at the premiere of the concerto on 4th October, 1777, and he subsequently performed the work when he visited Mannheim and Paris the following year.

There can be no doubt that Robert Schumann called his Symphony No 1, Opus 38, the Spring Symphony, for on the first page of the preserved manuscript, the words “Frühlings Symphonie” are written in Schumann’s own hand. The most cheerful and buoyant of his four symphonies, the First is also the most frequently played, and is thought to have been inspired by the poetry of the German writer, Adolf Böttger, whose imagery of springtime also influenced composers such as Edvard Grieg and Richard Wagner. Written in early 1841 in the space of four days, the Symphony No 1 was orchestrated in February of that year and premiered in Leipzig on 31st March by the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra – a performance conducted by Schumann’s friend, Felix Mendelssohn.

Kazuki Yamada & the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra © J C Vinaj

Kazuki Yamada leads the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra and guest artist Maria João Pires in a performance of works by Mendelssohn, Mozart and Schumann in the Auditorium Rainier III on 8th April at 20h00. The concert is dedicated to the people of Ukraine, with all proceeds going to the Monegasque Red Cross.

Seats may be reserved online, or at the ticket office in the Atrium of the Casino, Place du Casino de Monte-Carlo (open from 10h00 to 17h30 or an hour ahead of the concert).

Other arts organisations which have already held performances in aid of the people of Ukraine include

The Monte-Carlo Opera – March 25 – premiere of Wozzeck

The Monte-Carlo Spring Arts Festival – March 31 – Chapiteau de Fontvieille
Concert – Radio France Philharmonic Orchestra

Forthcoming performances and events include:

The Princess Grace Theater – April 7
The lucubrations of a man suddenly struck by grace, a play by Edouard Baer

Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo – April 28 – Grimaldi Forum
Premiere of the ballet Œil pour Œil

The Grimaldi Forum – June 10
My Land circus and dance show

The Monaco Philosophical Meetings are organising an evening of solidarity with the Ukrainian people and support for researchers and students who are victims of the war in Ukraine, on 28 March at the Maison de l’Océan (Paris).

The Monegasque national committee of ICOM (International Council of Museums) is a signatory of the declaration of the European committees in support of Ukraine, consequently The New National Museum of Monaco plans, within the framework of the actions initiated by ICOM and the Blue Shield, to participate in the sending of equipment to help protect cultural collections on site in Ukraine.

Information sourced from:

OPMC programme notes

Mendelssohn Overture

Mozart Piano Concerto

Schumann Symphony No 1

Schumann Symphony No 1

Maria João Pires’ website

Arts Preview home page

World Premiere of Tomasson’s ‘Harmony’ for San Francisco Ballet

San Francisco Ballet in Tomasson’s Harmony // © Erik Tomasson

In the fifth program of the current season, San Francisco Ballet presents the World Premiere of Helgi Tomasson’s Harmony – his final creation for the Company as its Artistic Director and Principal Choreographer. Also featured in this celebration of in-house works – those created for San Francisco Ballet by Company members – is Tomasson’s The Fifth Season, and Magrittomania, a quirky piece by Choreographer in Residence, Yuri Possokhov.

San Francisco Ballet in Tomasson’s The Fifth Season // © Erik Tomasson

In The Fifth Season, Tomasson uses Welsh contemporary composer Sir Karl Jenkins’ String Quartet No 2 to move his dancers through a contrasting range of moods and styles – such as a mesmerizing almost minimalist theme, a delightful tango, a Baroque-style air and an elegant waltz. The Fifth Season takes its name from the first movement of the quartet – and the adagio pas de deux is performed to the largo from Jenkins’ immensely popular Palladio.

San Francisco Ballet in Tomasson’s The Fifth Season // © Erik Tomasson

Jenkins, who started out as jazz musician, has spread his talent over a number of musical categories – advertising, films, orchestras and festivals – and his String Quartet presented Tomasson with an opportunity for wider creative exploration – because of the diversity of the five movements. Tomasson selected Jenkins’ music on the basis that it’s both relevant to today, and also romantic. The fact that it isn’t often used for ballet gave Tomasson yet another reason to use this piece. Choreographed in 2006, the ballet is regarded as one of Tomasson’s best. Scenic and costume design are by Sandra Woodall, with lighting by Michael Mazzola.

San Francisco Ballet in Tomasson’s Harmony // © Erik Tomasson

Harmony, which had its World Premiere last evening, April 2nd, is described as a bouyant, joyful work, celebrating the Company’s return to the studios following the easing of shelter-in-place restrictions. A series of linked solos, duets and full cast gatherings onstage, the work is set to a keyboard suite by 18th century French Baroque composer and organist Jean-Philippe Rameau, his Pièces de clavecin. Opening with a darkened stage, the ballet has 12 dancers cautiously coming out from the shadows, along a diagonal ray of light, representing the emergence from the darkness of quarantine into the inspirational joy of harmony and peace that followed. Scenic and costume design are by Emma Kingsbury, with lighting by Jim French.

Steven Morse in Possokhov’s Magrittomania // © Erik Tomasson

Magrittomania was commissioned for San Francisco Ballet’s Discovery Program in 2000. Inspired by the paintings of Belgian artist René Magritte, the ballet won an Isadora Duncan Dance Award for outstanding choreography the following year. This highly imaginative work which signified Yuri Possokhov’s choreographic debut for San Francisco Ballet, is not about Magritte, but reflects the surrealist world which influenced Magritte’s work – the green apples, the bowler hats, doves, the lovers wearing shrouds over their heads – bizarre but colourful and striking.

San Francisco Ballet in Possokhov’s Magrittomania // © Erik Tomasson

Possokhov has set his ballet to a score arranged by Yuri Krasavin from a selection of recognizable works by Beethoven – his Bagatelle known as Für Elise, extracts from concertos such as the First Piano Concerto and his Emperor Concerto, from his Symphony No 3 Eroica and No 7, and piano sonatas Waldstein and Appassionata. Scenic and costume design are by Thyra Hartshorn with lighting by Kevin Connaughton.

San Francisco Ballet’s Program 5 runs at the War Memorial Opera House from April 2nd to 16th. The San Francisco Ballet Orchestra is conducted by Music Director Martin West. Further information and details on ticketing can be found on the San Francisco Ballet website.

Information sourced from:

San Francisco Ballet program notes

Artists’ websites

ArtsPreview home page

SFJAZZ hosts NEA Jazz Masters Tribute

Courtesy SFJAZZ

This week, SFJAZZ – in collaboration with the National Endowment for the Arts – hosts the 2022 NEA Jazz Masters Tribute Concert, honouring Stanley Clarke, Donald Harrison Jr, Billy Hart and Cassandra Wilson. This free concert also launches a year-long celebration of the 40th anniversary of the program.

The concert host will be the 2018 NEA Jazz Master Dianne Reeves and in addition to performances by this year’s Jazz Masters, it will also feature Jeremiah Collier, Joe Dyson, Ethan Iverson, Dan Kaufman, Salar Nader, Nori Naraoka, Ruslan Sirota, Ben Street, and Mark Turner. The SFJAZZ Collective is included in the line-up, as well as Skylar Tang, the 16 year-old trumpeter who also performs with the SFJAZZ High School All-Stars.

Bassist, composer, arranger and producer, Stanley Clarke is regarded as one of the most influential performers in modern jazz history. Founding member of the jazz-rock fusion band Return to Forever – which included Chick Corea, Lenny White and Al Di Meola, and became one of the most popular jazz bands of its day – Stanley Clarke also established a charitable organization through which talented young musicians are awarded scholarships each year.

Donald Harrison Jr is a cultural activist, saxophonist, composer and educator. Known for his hard-swinging improvisational style, he was the creator of “Nouveau Swing” – a blend of jazz with R&B, hip-hop, rock and soul. He is dedicated to preserving the music and culture of New Orleans and the survival of its legacy, creating employment opportunities in his own bands for young musicians who had remained in the city after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Among the world renowned jazz artists from New Orleans and beyond whom he has mentored are Jon Batiste, Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah, Trombone Shorty and Esperanza Spalding.

“The majestic drummer” (Detroit Free Press) Billy Hart is among the most sought-after and versatile jazz drummers of his generation, having recorded 12 albums in his own name, and performed as a sideman on more than 600 recordings. Also an educator, he teaches both nationally and internationally, and is the author of the book Jazz Drumming.

Vocalist, composer and guitarist, two-time Grammy-winner Cassandra Wilson has expanded the definition of jazz, using her distinctive voice and unusual arrangements to reinterpret standards into jazz, blues, country and folk numbers. As a leader, she has released more than 20 albums, and has been featured on recordings by artists such as Terence Blanchard, Bill Frisell, Charlie Haden, Angelique Kidjo and Luther Vandross. Her performance on Wynton Marsalis’ Pulitzer Prize-winning Blood on the Fields album has been widely acclaimed.

The NEA Jazz Masters Fellowship is the highest honor that the US bestows on jazz artists. Since 1982, the NEA program has elevated to its ranks a select number of living legends who have made exceptional contributions to the advancement of jazz -165 fellowships awarded to great figures in jazz, including Ella Fitzgerald, Sonny Rollins, Dianne Reeves, Miles Davis, Chick Corea and George Wein. For more information about the National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters, visit arts.gov/honors/jazz.

The live webcast of the 2022 NEA Jazz Masters Tribute Concert will begin at 7:30 pm PT/ 10:30 pm ET at arts.gov and sfjazz.org on 31st March 2022. In addition, a number of other websites will be screening the live webcast, and a number of radio stations will also be broadcasting the event. For a complete list of websites and radio stations, visit the SFJAZZ website. An archive of the webcast will also be available following the event at arts.gov.

In-person ticket reservations for this event are currently filled. Please click the ‘Check Ticket Availability’ button on the SFJAZZ website for any tickets that might have been returned. A limited number of walk-up tickets will also be available the night of the concert on a first-come, first-served basis. Patrons are encouraged to arrive from 6:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. to receive tickets via the Box Office standby line. Once the concert hall is fully at capacity, the concert will be streamed live in the Joe Henderson Lab for the public to view.

Information sourced from:

SFJAZZ program notes

Artists’ websites

ArtsPreview home page

Capuçon plays Tchaikovsky with Concertgebouworkest

Gautier Capuçon © Anoush Abrar

This week, Amsterdam’s Concertgebouworkest is host to conductor Myung-whun Chung and cellist Gautier Capuçon who plays Tchaikovsky’s Variations on a Rococo Theme. Also on the programme is Bruckner’s Symphony No 6.

Myung-whun Chung is currently Principal Guest Conductor of Staatskapelle Dresden – a role he has held since the beginning of the 2012/13 season, and he’s the first conductor to have done so in the history of the orchestra. He is also Honorary Conductor Laureate of The Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra. Maestro Chung was formerly Music Director of the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra, the Saarbrücken Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Opéra de Paris-Bastille, and the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France.

1 maggio 2000 a Torvergata. Chung © Riccardo Musacchio

Highlights of Maestro Chung’s 2021-22 season include a return visit to La Fenice to conduct Fidelio, and a European tour with the Wiener Symphoniker. He will also continue his regular collaborations with Staatskapelle Dresden, the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra and Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, as well as his roles as Principal Guest Conductor of the Teatro Comunale di Firenze and Principal Conductor of the Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome.

Gautier Capuçon © Anoush Abrar

Multiple award-winning cellist Gautier Capuçon, according to Gramophone magazine, “…. plays the cello with the control and wisdom of a much older musician. The lightness of his touch and the consistent clarity of his bow strokes are quite admirable in themselves, but when combined with an uncanny sweetness of tone in the higher registers they are breathtaking”. Regularly appearing with many of the world’s finest orchestras, conductors and instrumentalists, he is known for his profoundly expressive yet spirited artistry. He is both founder and leader of the ‘Classe d’Excellence de Violoncelle’ at the Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris and a passionate ambassador for the Orchestre à l’École Association, which takes classical music to more than 40,000 thousand school children across France.

This 2021/22 season includes performances with the philharmonic orchestras of Vienna, Munich and New York, the Cleveland and the Mariinsky Theatre orchestras. He is Artist-in-Residence at the Paris Philharmonie as well as the Wiener Konzerthaus, and performs on tour as a chamber musician at venues such as the Elbphilharmonie Hamburg, Tonhalle Zürich, Philharmonie Berlin and the Herkulessaal der Residenz Munich, as well as at festivals worldwide, including the Enescu, Rostropovich, Prague Spring, St Denis and Evian festivals.

Tchaikovsky by Émile Reutlinger – courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Tchaikovsky’s Variations on a Rococo Theme in A major, Opus 33 was his first composition for cello and orchestra. Written between December 1876 and January 1877, the work was dedicated to cellist Wilhelm Fitzenhagen, and for many years was known in a heavily edited version by Fitzenhagen. It would appear that, having composed the Variations, Tchaikovsky submitted the work to the cellist for checking, and he made some significant changes to it. Even though Tchaikovsky wasn’t entirely happy with Fitzenhagen’s amendments, he nevertheless orchestrated the piece from the piano arrangement by Fitzenhagen.

This version premiered in November 1877 at a symphony concert by the Russian Musical Society in Moscow, conducted by Nikolay Rubinstein. Tchaikovsky was abroad at the time and missed the performance, but press comment was said to be very favourable. Tchaikovsky’s original version of the Variations was performed for the first time on 24th April 1941 in Moscow, played by Danyl Shafran, conducted by Aleksandr Melik-Pashayev, and subsequently by Sergey Shirinsky.

Anton Bruckner by Ferry Bératon – courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Anton Bruckner completed his Symphony No 6 in September 1881, having worked on it for two years. He was known for reworking and revising his works, but with this symphony, Bruckner seems to have been satisfied with the original version. It was performed only once during the composer’s lifetime, and even then only the two middle movements. The first full performance took place in 1899, conducted by Gustav Mahler who had made a number of substantial cuts and other amendments. The premiere of Bruckner’s Sixth Symphony, as he had written it, took place in 1935, almost 40 years after the composer’s death.

Myung-whun Chung leads the Concertgebouworkest in Tchaikovsky’s Variations on a Rococo Theme, with soloist Gautier Capuçon, and Bruckner’s Symphony No 6, at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, on 30th and 31st March and 1st April. Tickets may be purchased via this link.

Information sourced from:

Concertgebouworkest programme notes
Variations on a Rococo Theme
Bruckner Symphony No 6
Artists’ websites

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SFJAZZ Collective releases new album

Courtesy SFJAZZ

The SFJAZZ Collective has just released a new album – Live From SFJAZZ Center 2021: New Works Reflecting The Moment. Representing what’s currently happening in jazz, the Collective has a mission to perform fresh arrangements of works by a modern master, as well as newly commissioned pieces by each member of the group. 

The Collective, which – according to Downbeat “boasts as much or more collective talent, firepower and critical acclaim than any other jazz ensemble going” – was founded by SFJAZZ in 2004, the group embodying the SFJAZZ commitment to jazz as a living, always-relevant art form. This leaderless ensemble is probably best described as a democratic composer’s workshop, having created numerous original compositions and new arrangements since its inception, honoring the music of artists such as John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, Herbie Hancock, Thelonious Monk, Wayne Shorter, McCoy Tyner, Horace Silver, Stevie Wonder, Chick Corea, Joe Henderson, Michael Jackson, Miles Davis, António Carlos Jobim and Sly Stone.

The current Collective line-up features Chris Potter and David Sánchez on tenor saxophone, trumpeter Etienne Charles, Warren Wolf on vibraphone, pianist Edward Simon, Matt Brewer on bass, Kendrick Scott on drums, vocalist and guitarist Martin Luther McCoy, and vocalist Gretchen Parlato.

Each year, the Collective undertakes a four-night residency at the SFJAZZ Center, recording live their arrangements of that season’s tribute artist and an original composition by each member.

This new album was recorded onstage at SFJAZZ’s Miner Auditorium in October 2021, reflecting issues such as racial injustices, the global pandemic and political polarization, as well as new approaches to a selection of classic songs associated with peace, freedom and social commentary. Included are Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On, the classic anthem Lift Every Voice and Sing and Abbey Lincoln’s Throw it Away.

Each numbered, limited edition CD set includes a 24-page booklet with exclusive photographs, liner notes, an article by Marcus Crowder and interviews with the band members about their arrangements.

SFJAZZ Collective’s latest album, Live From SFJAZZ Center 2021: New Works Reflecting The Moment, is available to buy from the shop on the SFJAZZ website.

The SFJAZZ Collective’s Spring 2022 tour starts this week:

March 25, 2022 Arsht Center – Miami, FL

March 27, 2022 City Winery- Chicago, IL

March 28, 2022 Dakota – Minneapolis,MN

March 31, 2022 SFJAZZ (NEA Jazz Masters Tribute Concert) – San Francisco

April 2, 2022 Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild – Pittsburgh, PA

April 3, 2022 Annenberg Center – Philadelphia, PA

April 5, 2022 Sony Hall – New York, NY 

April 6, 2022 Berks Jazz Festival – Reading, PA

April 7, 2022 South Orange PAC – South Orange, NJ

April 8, 2022 Berklee Performance Center – Boston, MA

To buy tickets for these US performances, follow this link.

The SFJAZZ Collective European Summer Tour 2022 starts in June:

June 24, 2022 Bela Bartok Hall – Budapest, Hungary

June 25, 2022 Barbican – London, UK 

June 26, 2022 Elbphilharmonie – Hamburg, Germany

June 27-28, 2022 Cité de la musique – Paris, France

July 1-3, 2022 Canary Islands Jazz Festival

To buy tickets for these European performances, visit the website of the respective concert halls and/or venues.

Information sourced from SFJAZZ program notes

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A Concert for Peace at Opéra Nice Côte d’Azur

Poster courtesy Opéra Nice Côte d’Azur

Tomorrow evening, March 22nd, Opéra Nice Côte d’Azur and the City of Nice present a Concert for Peace in solidarity with the people of Ukraine. Proceeds from this performance will be donated to an association which is helping the children of Ukraine during the devastating conflict in their country.

Taking place on the stage of the Opéra Nice Côte d’Azur, the concert has been arranged by pianist Nicolas Bringuier and his wife Olga Monakh. Under the name Duo Siloti, the couple performs a wide repertoire of works, including many written for four hands and two pianos, as well as numerous transcriptions of symphonic works. Among Duo Siloti’s performances have been those of the Mozart Double Concerto at the Berlin Philharmonic, as well as at the Vienna Musikverein with the Wiener-Concertverein under the direction of Yoel Gamzou.

Also appearing at the Concert for Peace are violinists Boris Brovtsyn and Diana Tischchenko, violist Alexander Zemtsov, cellist Gary Hoffman, baritone Volodymir Kapshuk and pianist Jonathan Benichou.

Composers whose works will be performed include Brahms, Dvorak, Fauré, Rachmaninoff, Scriabin, Tchaikovsky and Skoryk.

Further information is available on the Opéra Nice website and tickets may be reserved online via this link.

Information sourced from:

Opéra Nice programme notes
Artists’ websites

ArtsPreview home page