Greek National Opera stages Weill & Brecht masterpiece

Greek National Opera’s production of Kurt Weill & Bertolt Brecht’s
‘Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny’

The Greek National Opera – the country’s state lyric opera company – presents Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht’s 20th century political and satirical opera, Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny. Directed by Yannis Houvardas, this new production is led by Miltos Logiadis, and stars a cast of celebrated Greek artists.

Based on the writing of prominent German poet and dramatist, Bertolt Brecht – who wrote the libretto – Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny tells of the fictional city of Mahagonny, a boom town, founded by three criminals on the run, where anything goes – drinking, gambling, sex – as long as the inhabitants have money. The town is soon populated by fortune seekers, prostitutes and shady businessmen and women.

At the center of the action is Jimmy Mahoney, an Alaskan logger who stumbles on the city of Mahagonny. Jenny is a prostitute who takes up with Jimmy, and they become lovers, until he discovers that he cannot pay his bills. He is tried in a court where murderers go free, and is sentenced to death. The city is ultimately destroyed by fire and as it burns, the inhabitants march away carrying placards of protest, although they have nowhere to go.

The opera premiered in Leipzig in 1930, but the performance was interrupted by Nazi-instigated protests. It was positively reviewed however, and despite this, and changes which were made to the libretto and staging, there were only four new productions in German theatres. One of these, in Berlin, was a great success, but the Nazis placed a permanent ban on the performance of Kurt Weill’s music shortly afterwards. In the opera, Weill experimented with jazz and ragtime, including some of his best-known pieces, such Alabama Song and Benares Song.

Today, Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny has become one of the most popular works of the 20th century, and is now a staple in the repertoire of the world’s leading opera houses and opera festivals.

Mezzo-soprano Marissia Papalexiou, who takes the role of Jenny Smith, was recently seen as Sonyetka in Shostakovich’s Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk and as Silvana in Hatzinasios’s El Greco Opera. Jimmy Mahoney is sung by tenor Vassilis Kavayas who was most recently seen as Don Ottavio in Mozart’s Don Giovanni and will follow these Greek National Opera performances with an appearance in J S Bach’s St Matthew Passion. Also in the cast are Anna Agathonos as Leokadja Begbick, Christos Kechris as Fatty and Tassos Apostolou as Trinity Moses.

This production of Mahagonny is directed by the renowned Greek theatre director and former artistic director of the National Theatre of Greece, Yannis Houvardas, who returns to Greek National Opera, following the success of his 2018 production of Janáček’s The Makropulos Affair. He describes Mahagonny as the “golden city of our dreams that crumbles to dust and is effaced before our very eyes”, tinged with moments of “exasperation and despair”.

Leading the performances is conductor Miltos Logiadis who is permanent conductor of the Orchestra of Colours. In addition to conducting the Orchestra of the National Opera of Greece, Maestro Logiadis has led a number of concert performances in the country, also orchestras such as the Munich Symphony, the Bavarian Radio Symphony, the Orchestra of the Opera of Hamburg and the Royal Danish Opera Orchestra.

Miltos Logiadis leads the Greek National Opera and Chorus (Chorus Master Agathangelos Georgakatos) in six performances of Kurt Weill and Bertold Becht’s Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny from 12th to 25th April at the Stavros Niarchos Hall of the Greek National Opera. Further information and tickets are available from the Greek National Opera website.

All photographs courtesy Greek National Opera

Information sourced from:

Greek National Opera programme notes

Metropolitan Opera

European American Music Distributors Company

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Dutch National Ballet stages works by four contemporary choreographers

Poster courtesy of Dutch National Ballet

The programme is called Dancing Dutch, and with it the Dutch National Ballet presents the works of four contemporary choreographers who celebrated their first successes in the Netherlands – Czechoslovakian Jiří Kylián, Hans van Manen – the most famous of Dutch choreographers – Briton David Dawson and Ukrainian-Dutch choreographer Milena Sidorova.

Jiří Kylián, regarded as one of the greatest choreographers of our time, stages Wings of Wax – a Premiere for the Dutch National ballet – and a work of which Algemeen Dagblad wrote that it “…contains so many beautiful things that actually you should see it again straight away”. Inspired by gravity, it was based on the Greek myth of Icarus whose father Daedalus made him a set of wings from feathers and wax to escape from King Minos of Crete. Despite his father’s warning that he should not fly too close to the sun, Icarus did just that, his wings melted, and he met his end.

Although this is the first time that Dutch National Ballet is performing a work by Kylian, he was instrumental in bringing the Netherlands dance scene to international success over 30 years with his input to the Nederlands Dans Theater. Kylián has set Wings of Wax to the music of two composers from the Baroque era – Heinrich Biber’s Rosary Sonata and J S Bach’s Goldberg Variations – one from the 20th century – composer John Cage’s Meditation Music – and the third movement of contemporary composer Philip Glass’s Fifth String Quartet.

Dutch choreographer Hans van Manen is internationally recognised as one of the grand masters of contemporary ballet, having created more than 150 works, all of which are distinctive by their clarity of structure and refined simplicity. His ballets are performed the world over, by some of the most eminent and esteemed ballet companies.

His Concertante is fascinating – contrasting as it does humour with aggression – creating a dynamic tension between four male and four female dancers. In every aspect, the work demonstrates the simplicity and musicality for which van Manen’s work is known. It is set to the Petite symphonie concertante by Swiss composer Frank Martin, who spent much of his life in the Netherlands.

Anima Animus is a work by the British award-winning choreographer David Dawson who has been an Associate Artist of the Dutch National Ballet since 2015 and is also a freelance choreographer. Commissioned by San Francisco Ballet in 2018, Anima Animus is a reflection of the contrast between opposites – anima being Carl Jung’s term for the feminine part of a man’s personality, and animus being the reverse. In this ballet, Dawson responds to the differences between light and dark, humanity and architecture, the individual and the group.

He’s set the work – a premiere for Dutch National Ballet – to a violin concerto by Italian conductor, composer and pianist Ezio Bosso – Principal and Resident Conductor of the Fondazione del Teatro Lirico Giuseppe Verdi in Trieste and Resident Conductor and Art Director of the StradivariFestival Chamber Orchestra.

The final work in the programme is Tenzij, the World Premiere of a ballet by Milena Sidorova. A Young Creative Associate of Dutch National Ballet, Milena Sidorova has created several successful works for the Company, and has set this ballet to music by Caroline Shaw, an American composer of contemporary classical music who is probably best known for the a cappella piece Partita for 8 Voices, for which she won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Music. Among several Grammy Awards, her most recent was the 2022 award for Best Contemporary Classical Composition for her Narrow Sea.

The Dutch National Ballet presents Dancing Dutch between 30th March and 9th April. Performances will take place at the Dutch National Opera & Ballet in Amsterdam, with the Dutch Ballet Orchestra conducted by Thomas Herzog. Herzog has been has been conductor of the traditional New Year’s Concert at the Basle Musiksaal since 2002, and has served as artistic director of the Basle Festival Orchestra for many years.

Further information and details of reservations can be found on the Dutch National Ballet website.

Information sourced from Dutch National Ballet programme notes

Artists’ websites

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Monte-Carlo Opera presents Donizetti’s comic opera – ‘La Fille du régiment’

Poster courtesy Monte-Carlo Opera

Light-hearted and frivolous, La Fille du regiment is one of Gaetano Donizetti’s major works, which Monte-Carlo Opera stages this week. With a cast headed by soprano Regula Mühlemann and tenor Javier Camarena, this new production for the Company is directed by Jean-Louis Grinda, and led by conductor Ion Marin.

As the operatic world moved from Rossini to Verdi, it was Donizetti who filled the gap, with operas such as Lucia di Lammermoor written in 1835, La Fille du régiment in 1840 and La favorite, also written in 1840. The libretto for the two-act La Fille du régiment was written by Jules Henry Vernoy de Saint-Georges and Jean-François Bayard. The opera premiered at the Opéra-Comique in Paris, on 11th February, 1840, and despite its popularity, the opera received mixed reviews.

Impression of a scene from the opera © Rudy Sambounghi

When it was adapted for Italian theatres, certain changes were made. It was popular at the time for sopranos to bask in the glory of spectacular vocal parts, and in cutting the role of Tonio, La figlia del regimento was very successful, even though it lost some of its lustre. It wasn’t until the mid 1960s that Tonio’s arias were reinstated when the opera was staged at Covent Garden, and a young tenor by the name of Luciano Pavarotti rose to international stardom. Since then, it has become necessary not only for a first-class soprano to star as Marie, but also for a fine tenor to take the role of Tonio.

The story of La fille du régiment tells of Marie who was found on a battlefield, and was raised as the ‘daughter’ of the 21st Regiment. Although her foster-father Sulpice decided that Marie had to marry a soldier from the Regiment, Marie fell in love with a Tyrolean peasant, Tonio.

Impression of a scene from the opera © Rudy Sambounghi

Caught up in the conflict between the French and Austrians, the Marquise de Berkenfield and her steward Hortensius come across the Regiment. The Marquise claims to be Marie’s aunt and, in order to provide the girl with a proper education and to fulfil her plans for Marie to marry Duke Scipio of Crakentorp, the Marquise forces Marie to leave not only her Regiment, but Tonio as well – who has enlisted so that he can marry her. The Regiment rushes in to see Marie and when the Marquise refuses to allow Tonio to marry Marie, he reveals that he knows that Marie is the Marquise’s illegitimate daughter. When Marie learns that the Marquise is in fact her mother, she agrees to marry the Duke, but is prevented from doing so by the Regiment. The Marquise ultimately decides that she cannot make her daughter unhappy, and gives her permission for Marie and Tonio to marry.

Following a recent recording of Mozart’s arias, Swiss soprano Regula Mühlemann has what BBC Music Magazine described as a voice that is “…. gently luminous and true in pitch, her singing of a scale ideal for this acoustic – yet she can pack an emotional punch”. She most recently appeared in Strauss’ Die Fledermaus at Vienna State Opera, in Orff’s Carmina Burana at Théâtre des Champs-Élysées and in Brahms’ Ein Deutsches Requiem at Opéra de Monte-Carlo, Philharmonie de Paris, Tonhalle Zürich and the Konzerthaus Dortmund. Scheduled future performances include concerts in Bern and Lucerne, in recital at Carnegie Hall, and in Mozart’s Mass in C minor in Salzburg.

Bass-baritone Jean-François Lapointe takes the role of Marie’s foster-father, Sulpice. He has appeared on major European stages such as those in Paris, Vienna, Zurich, Barcelona, Madrid, Lisbon, Frankfurt, Berlin and Liège, as well as in America and Japan. He also regularly appears in concert, singing melodies as well as oratorios. Among his favorite parts is the title role in Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande, which he has performed at the Opéra Royal de Wallonie, the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam and more recently at Teatro alla Scala, Milan.

Mexican tenor Javier Camarena was recently honoured by the prestigious International Opera Awards as Male Singer of the Year. Future performances include those at the Opera Gala at Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona, as Don Ramiro in Rossini’s La Cenerentola at Teatro dell Opera di Roma and also in Barcelona, and the Duke of Mantua in Verdi’s Rigoletto at Lyric Opera of Chicago. Following the Metropolitan Opera’s production of L’Elisir d’Amore, the Observer wrote that it “… features the Mexican tenor at his absolute finest”.

Mezzo-soprano Marie Gautrot is the Marquise de Berkenfield. She has appeared in many of the major opera houses in France, including the Théâtre des Champs Elysées and the Opéra National de Paris. Ms Gautrot has most recently seen with the Opéra Royal de Wallonie – Liège in Montpellier as Madame de Quimper-karadec in Offenbach’s La vie parisienne, and A Night at the Café-concert in Palazzetto Bru Zane in Italy. Following her appearance in Offenbach’s The Fairies of the Rhine, Opera magazine wrote: “Here is a real dramatic mezzo voice, as the French repertoire needs it: hot, striking in the high, sound in the bass, capable of vehemence as well as softness”.

Also in the cast are Rudolph Briand as Hortensius, Jean-François Vinciguerra as Scipio, Benoît Gunalons is the notary and Nicolo La Farcical is a farmer.

Ion Marin © Marina Bourdais

Ion Marin is one of few conductors to lead major symphonic and operatic orchestras. He has conducted nearly all the great European orchestras, including the Berliner Philharmoniker, Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, London Symphony Orchestra, Philharmonia Orchestra, Orchestre national de France, Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia and St Petersburg Philharmonic. He also appears regularly as conductor of the NHK Symphony and Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra in Japan, and is a frequent guest at the world’s major opera houses, including the Metropolitan Opera, Teatro alla Scala, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Bayerische Staatsoper and Opéra national de Paris.

Maestro Marin leads the soloists, the Chorus of the Monte-Carlo Opera (Director Stefano Visconti) and the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra in four performances of La Fille du régiment between 24th and 30th March. For further information and details of ticketing, visit the Monte-Carlo Opera website.

Information sourced from:

Monte-Carlo Opera programme notes

Artists’ websites

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Orchestre de Paris tours North America

L’Orchestre de Paris en répétition générale dirigé par Klaus Makela le 09 juillet 2020. Philharmonie de Paris.

The Orchestre de Paris and Music Director Klaus Mäkelä are about to undertake a tour of North America, performing works by Stravinsky, Debussy, Rachmaninoff and Prokofiev, with young South Korean pianist Yunchan Lim as soloist.

This will be the first North American tour by the Parisian Orchestra since Christoph Eschenbach led its performances there in 2003, and the first since Mäkelä took the helm in 2021. It also marks Mäkelä’s debut at Carnegie Hall, and further performances will take place in Boston, Ann Arbor and in Montreal.

The tour features the music which was written for the Paris premieres of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring and The Firebird, and for Debussy’s Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun – all staged by Serge Diaghilev’s Ballet Russes. Also included in the programme are the Piano Concerto No 2 by Rachmaninoff and Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No 3.

The Orchestre de Paris and Klaus Mäkelä will shortly be releasing on the Deccca/Universal label the second volume of music of the Ballets Russes, which concludes a cycle spanning more than two years, during which they have performed this repertoire at the Philharmonie de Paris, as well as on tour in Europe, Japan, at the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence and now in the United States and Canada.

The performance at Carnegie Hall is part of the festival Fall of the Weimar Republic: Dancing on the Precipice which began towards the end of January and continues throughout May. This festival is described by Carnegie Hall as “a powerful exploration of one of the most complex and consequential chapters in modern human history”, and programmes will feature the diverse styles of the time, of which Prokofiev and Stravinsky were part.

Alongside his role as Music Director of the Orchestre de Paris, Mäkelä is Chief Conductor and Artistic Advisor of the Oslo Philharmonic – a role he’s held since 2020 – and as Artistic Partner to the Concertgebouworkest since 2022, he will become its Chief Conductor in 2027.  As a cellist, he partners with members of the Oslo Philharmonic, the Orchestre de Paris and Concertgebouworkest for occasional programmes, and each summer performs at the Verbier Festival in chamber music concerts with fellow artists.

Yunchan Lim became the youngest person ever to win gold at the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in June 2022. Since then, his rise to international fame has been impressive. Marin Alsop, conductor of the 2022 Cliburn Final said, “Yunchan is that rare artist who brings profound musicality and prodigious technique organically together.” Noting that Yunchan Lim’s performance of the Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No 3 was the defining moment of the competition, Seen and Heard International wrote that “The applause that followed was endless: a star had emerged before our eyes”. It has been listed as one of the Top 10 Classical Music Performances of 2022 by The New York Times.

Yunchan Lim’s engagements across North America, Europe and Asia include performances with the New York, Los Angeles and Tokyo philharmonics, the Baltimore Symphony and Orchestre de Paris, as well as festival appearances at Aspen, Bravo! Vail, and Ravinia, and a number of recitals such as those at Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, the Wigmore Hall, Fondation Louis Vuitton, Suntory Hall and Seoul Arts Center.

Klaus Mäkelä and the Orchestre de Paris appear at the following venues:

The Hill Auditorium in Ann Arbor on March 14th
Debussy – Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun
Rachmaninoff – Piano Concerto No 2 (soloist Yunchan Lim)
Stravinsky – The Firebird

Carnegie Hall in New York City on March 16th
Stravinsky – The Firebird
Stravinsky – The Rite of Spring

Symphony Hall in Boston on March 17th
Debussy – Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun
Prokofiev – Piano Concerto No 3 (soloist Yuncha Lim)
Stravinsky – The Firebird

Place des Arts in Montreal on March 19th
Debussy – Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun
Rachmaninoff – Piano Concerto No 2 (soloist Yunchan Lim)
Stravinsky – The Firebird

For information on reservations visit the websites of the venues concerned.

Information sourced from:

Orchestre de Paris programme notes

Carnegie Hall

Artists’ websites

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Printemps des Arts de Monte-Carlo

Poster courtesy of Festival Printemps des Arts de Monte-Carlo

The Festival Printemps des Arts de Monte-Carlo, created in 1970 at the instigation of Princess Grace of Monaco, has been presided over by HRH the Princess of Hanover since 1984. This year, as in those past, a wide range of performances and artists is represented, giving many lovers of the arts some splendid entertainment. The Artistic Director of the Festival is Bruno Mantovani.

The Festival starts on 13th March with a concert in the Église Saint-Charles by saxophonist Sandro Compagnon and the Ensemble Gilles Binchois, performing a programme of contemporary and 15th century music. There’s a programme of works by Gustav Mahler, featuring a chamber version of his Song of the Earth – this one played by Het Collective, led by mezzo-soprano Lucile Richardot and tenor Stefan Cifolelli. There are two recitals by Quatuor Modigliani, performing the music of Schubert and Mendelssohn, and two performances by the Insula Orchestra, conducted by Laurence Equilbey, with music by Schubert and Mozart.

Ensemble TM+, with mezzo-soprano Pauline Sikirdji and tenor Benjamin Alunni, led by composer and music director Laurent Cuniot, plays one of his compositions, and the list of performances also includes one of Baroque pieces by Ensemble Unisoni with soprano Marion Tassou and flautist Gwénaël Bihan. Quatuor Parisii performs an inviting Concert by Candlelight, featuring violinists Arnaud Vallin and Florent Brannens, violist Dominique Lobet and cellist Jean-Philippe Martignoni.

An interesting evening features a Chamber Opera by Sophie Lacaze titled The Boundless Stuff of Dreams. This co-production by Ensemble Orchestral Contemporain, with Clermont Auvergne Opéra and the Belgian Festival Ars Musica, is a world premiere, led by Bruno Mantovani with mezzo-soprano Els Janssens, tenor Xavier de Lignerolles and baritone Romain Dayez.

Of the non-musical offerings is a film called The Salt of the Earth, on the life and work of photographer Sebastião Salgado, who has spent forty years documenting societies in hidden corners of the world.

The fun part of the Festival this year is a family concert given by The Amazing Keystone Big Band featuring the “Jazz” Carnival of Animals. This is an adaptation of the Camille Saint-Saëns work by Bastien Ballaz, Jon Boutellier, Fred Nardin and David Enhco.

The major concerts of the Festival include an evening of music by Richard Strauss – featuring his Four Last Songs – by soprano Ruzan Mantashyan, with the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra, led by Fabien Gabel. In another concert by the Philharmonic, Music Director Kazuki Yamada leads the Orchestra in Music for violin and orchestra, Op. 4, by Rudi Stephan, with violinist David Lefèvre, followed by Mahler’s Song of the Earth, featuring soloists Marie-Nicole Lemieux, contralto, and tenor Pene Pati.

The closing work of the Festival is Opera Night, a co-production of Opéra de Monte-Carlo and Printemps des Arts de Monte-Carlo. Their Master’s Voice is billed as a “duel of genres”, in which mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli and actor John Malkovich are accompanied by Les Musiciens du Prince – Monaco.

The Festival Printemps des Arts de Monte-Carlo takes place in a variety of venues between 13th March and 7th April. For further information, including details of ticketing, visit the Monte-Carlo Opera website.

Information sourced from Printemps des Arts de Monte-Carlo programme notes

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Monteverdi Choir appears with Concertgebouw Orchestra in Brahms’ ‘Ein deutsches Requiem’

Prom 64: Berlioz’s The Trojans (concert performance; sung in French with English surtitles) Monteverdi Choir, Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique
Dinis Sousa conductor © Andy Paradise

Brahms’ most ambitious piece of vocal music, Ein deutsches Requiem, Op 45 (A German Requiem), is to be presented by the Concertgebouw Orchestra and the Monteverdi Choir, led by the Choir’s Associate Conductor, Dinis Sousa. The soloists are Dutch soprano Lenneke Ruiten and German baritone Christian Gerhaher.

Brahms completed this work in 1866, two movements of which he had begun prior to 1861 in memory of his friend and colleague Robert Schumann who had died in 1856. Four additional movements were completed by summer 1866, and together with subsequent revisions, the final total of movements was seven.

The Concertgebouw Orchestra © Simon Van Boxtel

Brahms approached his Requiem from a different angle to the Roman Catholic mass for the dead. Instead, he created a Protestant work in German, using Martin Luther’s translation of the Bible, and taking passages from both the Old and the New Testament which would not only mourn the dead, but create solace for those left behind. He referred to it as a “requiem for humanity”, focussing on the comfort of God and the afterlife. Four of the seven movements are set for chorus and orchestra, with three for vocal soloists. The most well-known, and beautiful, movement – which comes mid-way through the work – takes the text of Psalm 84, “Wie lieblich sind deine Wohnungen” (“How lovely are your dwelling places”).

Ein deutsches Requiem premiered in its initial form in Vienna on December 1st, 1867, and the revised version was first heard in Leipzig, Germany on February 18th, 1869.

Dinis Sousa, who makes his debut with the Concertgebouw Orchestra, is the Associate Conductor of the three Monteverdi ensembles – the Monteverdi Choir, English Baroque Soloists and Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique – the first-ever conductor of all three in the history of the Monteverdi Choir & Orchestras. He co-conducted the Monteverdi Choir’s highly acclaimed performance at the 2016 BBC Proms of Berlioz’s Roméo et Juliette which was televised on BBC4.

Handel – L’Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato – St Martin-in-the-Fields
Monteverdi Choir, English Baroque Soloists
Dinis Sousa – conductor © Paul Marc Mitchell

The Choir, regarded as a leading force in the world of choral music, celebrates its 60th anniversary this year. It was recently named the world’s best choir at the Oper! Awards, and has in recent years undertaken very successful tours of Europe and North America. In May 2023, the Choir and the English Baroque Soloists performed at the Coronation of Their Majesties King Charles III and Queen Camilla. The Daily Telegraph subsequently wrote: “If the Monteverdi Choir isn’t singing when I get to the gates of Heaven, I want my money back.”

Soprano Lenneke Ruiten makes her debut with the Concertgebouw Orchestra in this performance of Ein deutsches Requiem. According to, she “… possesses formidable technique and a bell-like soprano ….” and performs on some of the greatest stages of the world. Described by as “a sensation”, she has an impressive career internationally in opera, concert performances and Lieder recitals.

Baritone Christian Gerhaher, together with Gerold Huber, is regularly heard at major international recital centres, such as concert halls in New York, the Concertgebouw and Muziekgebouw Amsterdam, the Philharmonic Orchestras of Cologne, Luxembourg and Berlin, the Cité de la musique in Paris, the Konzerthaus and Musikverein in Vienna, the Teatro della Zarzuela in Madrid, La Scala Milan and the Wigmore Hall in London. They hold a class in lied interpretation at the Munich Academy of Music and Theatre, and occasionally teach at the Royal Academy of Music in London.

The programme opens with two songs, Selig sind die Toten, die in dem Herren sterben by Heinrich Schütz – of whom Brahms was a great admirer – and Der Gerechte, ob er gleich zu zeitlich stirbt by Johann Christoph Bach – a distant relative of Johann Sebastian. Both works were said to have inspired Brahms in their lyrics and treatment of text.

Dinis Sousa leads the Concertgebouw Orchestra, the Monteverdi Choir and soloists in Brahms’ Ein deutsches Requiem, on February 29th, and March 1st and 3rd, at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. Further information and details of ticketing are available on the Concertgebouw Orchestra website.

Information sourced from:

Concertgebouw programme notes


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Metropolitan Opera presents Verdi’s ‘La Forza del Destino’ ‘Live in HD’

Lise Davidsen as Leonora in Verdi’s ‘La Forza del Destino’ Photo: Paola Kudacki / Met Opera

The Metropolitan Opera’s production of Verdi’s La Forza del Destino (The Power of Destiny) opens on February 26th, with a Live in HD transmission to cinemas around the world on March 9th. Direction of this tale of doomed love, deadly vendetta and family strife is by Mariusz Treliński, bringing the action into the contemporary world, and the production – the first new staging by the Met in 30 years – is led by Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin.

Soprano Lise Davidsen makes her role debut as the heroine Leonora, tenor Brian Jagde is her beloved Don Alvaro and baritone Igor Golovatenko is her vengeful brother Don Carlo.

Brian Jagde as Don Alvaro in Verdi’s ‘La Forza del Destino’ Photo: Karen Almond / Met Opera

Giuseppe Verdi wrote La Forza del Destino in 1861. It was the 24th of the 26 operas that he composed, of which more than half are still part of the repertoire today. The libretto was written by Francesco Maria Piave who had provided the texts for a number of Verdi operas during the first half of his career. Verdi and Piave based La Forza del destino on Don Álvaro o la fuerza del sino – a play by Ángel de Saavedra, 3rd Duke of Rivas – with a comic scene adapted from Wallensteins Lager by Friedrich Schiller.

At first, the opera which premiered at the Imperial Theatre in St Petersburg on November 10th, 1862, wasn’t a success, and Verdi felt compelled to make some revisions. This he did with additional text by Antonio Ghislanzoni, the future librettist of Aida. The revised version was staged at La Scala, Milan, in February 1869 – which was most enthusiastically received.

Igor Golovatenko as Don Carlo and Lise Davidsen as Leonora in a scene from Verdi’s ‘La Forza del Destino’ Photo: Karen Almond / Met Opera

Set in Seville, originally in the mid-eighteenth century, the story tells of Leonora di Vargas who plans to elope with her beloved, Don Alvaro, of whom her father, the Marquis of Calatrava, disapproves. The Marquis is accidentally shot with Don Alvaro’s revolver, and her brother, Don Carlo swears to avenge his father’s death. The lovers flee, but Don Alvaro and Leonora become separated during their flight. Spain and Germany are now at war, and Don Alvaro and Don Carlos join the military, but as they have both taken assumed names, they do not recognize each other and become close friends.  Leonora has become a hermit, living in a cave and devoting herself to God. Carlo ultimately discovers Alvaro’s real identity and intends to take his revenge. Alvaro fatally wounds Carlo in a duel, Carlo smites Leonora with his last strength and she gasps that she will await Alvaro in Heaven.

Lise Davidsen, with “A one-in-a-million voice”, according to Antonio Pappano, Music Director at the Royal Opera House, follows her series of Met Opera successes with her role as Leonora. She will subsequently repeat this role at the National Theatre in Müpa in Budapest, and she has a Song Recital with Freddie de Tommaso in Salzburg in March. Ms Davidsen will sing Giorgetta in Puccini’s Il tabarro – part of Il trittico – at the Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich, the title role in Richard Strauss’ Salome in Paris in May and she will appear at the Reykjavík Festival in June.

Brian Jagde has been hailed by the Chicagoland Journal for the Arts as “… easily among the top tenors on the operatic stage today with a voice that is expansive, powerful and full of colour and depth”. He is due to take part in the live broadcast of La Forza del Destino from the Gulbenkian Foundation in Lisbon, he will repeat the role of Don Alvaro in Müpa, Turiddu at Teatro alla Scala in Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci and he will give his first performances as Cavaradossi in Puccini’s Tosca at Teatro Regio di Parma.

Igor Golovatenko made his name on the concert stage with his 2006 debut in the Russian premiere of Delius’ Eine Messe des Lebens with the Russian National Philharmonic Orchestra. He will repeat his role of Don Carlos in Müpa, he takes the title role in Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra with Opera Rara in Manchester, Jago in Verdi’s Otello at Teatro dell’Opera di Roma and Il Conte di Luna in Verdi’s Il trovatore at Bayerische Staatsopera in Munich.

Also in the cast are mezzo-soprano Judit Kutasi as the fortune teller Preziosilla, bass-baritone Patrick Carfizzi as Friar Melitone, and bass Soloman Howard as both Leonora’s father and Padre Guardiano. For the final three performances, soprano Elena Stikhina and mezzo-soprano Maria Barakova take over as Leonora and Preziosilla.

The performance of La Forza del Destino on Saturday, March 9th will be transmitted live to cinemas around the globe as part of the Met’s Live in HD series. For further information visit the Metropolitan Opera website, where you will also find details of local cinema screenings.

Information sourced from Metropolitan Opera program notes

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Monte-Carlo Opera stages Mascagni and Puccini double bill

Poster courtesy Monte-Carlo Opera

Monte-Carlo Opera presents an interesting combination of Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana and Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi on the same bill. Each opera represents a different side of Italy – the fire and passion of Sicily, and the elegance and spirituality of the city of Florence. This new production is staged by German director Grischa Asagaroff.

Italian composer Pietro Mascagni is probably best known for his role in introducing the concept of verismo to the world of opera in the latter part of the 19th century. Already popular in theatre, verismo reflected the lives and passions, violence and honour of everyday people – as opposed to the somewhat distant existences of royalty and the gods – and it accentuated the importance of emotion over beautiful sound.

In 1888 Mascagni was just about to submit his recently completed opera, Guglielmo Ratcliff, to a competition held by music publisher Edoardo Sonzogno, but he then learned that his wife had already submitted his 1880 one-act opera Cavalleria Rusticana. This opera was the overwhelming winner of the competition.

Cavalleria Rusticana was based on a Sicilian melodrama by Giovanni Verga. Set to a libretto by Giovanni Targioni-Tozzetti and Guido Menasci, against the backdrop of the religious celebration of Easter, it tells a story of love, betrayal, and revenge. The soldier Turiddu, from a humble working-class community of Sicily, returns from military service, to find that his fiancée Lola has married Alfio, a well-to-do wagon owner and driver. In an act of revenge, Turiddu seduces Santuzza, a peasant girl, and Lola becomes so jealous that she starts an adulterous affair with Turiddu. Santuzza publicly betrays the pair, Alfio challenges Turiddu to a duel, and Turiddu pays for his actions with his life.

Although Cavalleria Rusticana opened to a half-empty house at the Teatro Costanzi, Rome, on May 17th, 1890, it was rapturously received, and has retained its popularity ever since, often being performed in tandem with Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci. It’s probably best known for the beautiful intermezzo between the opera’s two scenes.

Uruguayan soprano Maria José Siri, interpreter of the most famous Verdian and Puccini heroines, with a repertoire ranging from bel canto to verismo, sings the role of Santuzza. Lola is sung by Italian mezzo-soprano, Annunziata Vestri, known for her most recent TV appearances in Rossini’s Le barbier de Séville, Puccini’s Madama Butterfly and Rossini’s La Cenerentola. The role of Turiddu is sung by Azerbaijani tenor Yusif Eyvazov, known for what the LA Times describes as his “metallic, stentorian and markedly Italianate” voice. Hungarian bass Peter Kalman, highly regarded for his character portrayals in the Italian buffo tradition, is Alfio.

Giacomo Puccini wrote the one-act opera Gianni Schicchi during 1917 and 1918 as the third part of his his triptych Il trittico, the other operas being Il tabarro (The Cloak) and Suor Angelica (Sister Angelica). With a libretto by Giovacchino Forzano, it is set in 1299 in the mediaeval city of Florence, and is based on an episode from Dante’s Divine Comedy, in which Gianni Schicchi (an actual Florentine) is consigned to the eighth circle of hell with other forgers and cheats, for his duplicity.

The opera tells of Gianni Schicchi who was brought in, after the death of Buoso Donati (also an actual Florentine), by the greedy relatives of the deceased man to make a counterfeit will, because they had been disinherited. Schicchi, however, managed to bequeath most of Donati ’s fortune to himself, while the relatives are forced to sit by silently. At the end of the opera, as Scicchi arranges for the young lovers, Lauretta (Schicchi’s daughter) and Rinuccio (Zita’s nephew), to receive their share of the inheritance, he turns to the audience and tells them that he concocted his scheme so that even if Dante has condemned him to hell, he hopes the audience will forgive him in light of “extenuating circumstances”.

According to Encyclopaedia Britannica, part of the Donatis’ great house, so coveted in the opera, still stands in Florence today, a crumbling tower on the Via del Corso, very near the house where Dante was born in 1265.

Gianni Schicchi, Puccini’s only comic opera, is possibly best known for the soprano aria O mio babbino caro (Oh My Dear Father) sung by Lauretta to Schicchi. The opera was premiered by the Metropolitan Opera in New York on14th December, 1918.

The role of Gianni Schicci will be taken by Italian baritone Nicola Alaimo, soon to be seen in the title role in Opera Rara’s 1857 version of Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra. Lauretta is sung by Armenian soprano Nina Minasyan and Rinuccio by Uruguayan tenor Edgardo Rocha, admired for his bel canto repertoire and considered one of its most important exponents. Zita, Buoso Donati’s cousin, is sung by Italian mezzo-soprano Elena Zilio.

Also in the cast are Enrico Casari, Giovanni Romeo, Giovanni Furlanetto, Eugenio di Lieto, Rosa Bove, Mattio Peirone, Fabrice Alibert, Caterina Di Tonno, Egon Rostagni, Przemyslaw Baranek and Luca Vianello.

Speranza Scappuzzi, who in 2022 became the first Italian woman to conduct at Teatro alla Scala in Milan, leads the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra, the Choir of the Monte-Carlo Opera and the Rainier III Academy of Music in the double bill of Cavalleria Rusticana and Gianni Schicchi in four performances, between February 23 and 29 at the Monte-Carlo Opera. Further information, and details of ticketing can be found on the Monte-Carlo Opera website.

Information sourced from:
Cavalleria Rusticana:
Monte-Carlo Opera programme notes
Encyclopaedia Britannica and Encylopaedia Britannica
Opera Australia programme notes
Gianni Schicchi:
Monte-Carlo Opera programme notes
Encyclopaedia Britannica

A version of this article first appeared in Riviera Buzz

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National Ballet of Japan stages Darrell’s ‘The Tales of Hoffmann’

Ayako Ono as Antonia, Yudai Fukuoka as Hoffmann and Takuya Wajima as Antonia’s Father

This month, the National Ballet of Japan presents Peter Darrell’s interpretation of Jacques Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffmann, regarded as one of the finest of Darrell’s long narrative works. First staged by the Japanese company in 2015, the ballet was praised for the creative way in which it was interpreted.

Darrell, founder Director of Scottish Ballet in 1969, was said to be one of the most prolific choreographers of his generation, having created a repertoire of works dealing with subjects not normally dealt with in ballet. This particular ballet, representing his unique approach to story-telling, was first performed by Scottish Theatre Ballet in 1972. It was subsequently staged by the American Ballet Theatre, the ballet companies of the National Theatre of Belgrade and the National Theatre of Prague, the Australian Ballet, Tokyo’s Asami Maki Ballet Company and Hong Kong Ballet.

Kasumi Okuda as Olympia and Shun Izawa as Hoffmann

The German-born French composer Jacques Offenbach became world famous for his operettas during his lifetime – lightweight comedies which featured many popular melodies which have retained their popularity even today. He nevertheless longed to become well known for more serious operas, and his hope was that Les Contes d’Hoffmann – his opéra fantastique which he began writing in 1877 – would achieve this ambition. As it happened, the opera did, but Offenbach died in 1880 while the production was still in rehearsal. The premiere took place at the Opéra-Comique on 10th February, 1881.

Les Contes d’Hoffmann was written as a tribute to the German Romantic author, composer and poet, E T A Hoffmann, who was known for his stories in which supernatural and sinister characters moved in and out of men’s lives. It was based on a play by Jules Barbier (who wrote the original libretto) and Michel Carré, and takes the form of a sequence of three short stories, telling of a fruitless search for love, with the real life Hoffmann as its main character.

Yudai Fukuoka as Hoffmann and Artists of National Ballet of Japan

In the Prologue, Hoffmann is waiting in a tavern for his lover, prima donna La Stella. Accompanied by Lindorff, the devil in disguise, he is encouraged to talk of his previous loves – all of whom were conjured up by the devil. First there was Olympia – a mechanical doll, Olympia, whom Hoffmann believed to be human after donning a pair of glasses given to him by the devil disguised as Spalanzani. Then there was Antonia who was convinced by Dr Miracle (actually the devil) that she was a ballerina, and who danced to her death. Lastly there was the courtesan Giulietta in the salon of Dapertutto (again the devil), who seduces Hoffmann, but who vanishes with Dapertutto. Hoffmann finally falls into a deep sleep, La Stella returns, and disappointed in him, goes off with Lindorff. Hoffmann, realising what has happened, is left completely alone.

Yudai Fukuoka as Hoffmann

Opera directors, conductors and musicologists have all taken on the task of reimagining Hoffmann, and for 100 years after its creation, manuscripts of various parts of the opera continued to be found, and many different versions of the score have been assembled.

The staging of this production is overseen by Noriko Ohara OBE, ex-Principal Dancer of Scottish Ballet and Artistic Director of the National Ballet of Japan, and Kenn Burke, former Soloist of Scottish Ballet and Artistic Director of Dance at the Dance School of Scotland. Choreography and scenario are by Peter Darrell, and Offenbach’s music was arranged and orchestrated by John Lanchberry.

Maylen Tleubaev as Spalanzani and Artists of National Ballet of Japan

The Tokyo Symphony Orchestra is conducted by Paul Murphy, a member of Birmingham Royal Ballet since he joined the company in 1992. He was appointed Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Principal Conductor in 1997, is a regular conductor for the Royal Ballet, and has led many of the world’s finest ensembles.

Four performances of the National Ballet of Japan’s production of The Tales of Hoffmann take place at the Opera Palace in Tokyo between 23rd and 25th February. Further information and tickets are available from the National Ballet of Japan website.

All photographs by Takashi Shikama

Information sourced from:

National Ballet of Japan programme notes

Encyclopaedia Britannica

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San Francisco Ballet pays tribute to two icons of British ballet

Katherine Barkman and Isaac Hernández as the title characters in Ashton’s ‘Marguerite and Armand’ © RJ Muna for San Francisco Ballet

As part of Tamara Rojo’s inaugural season as Artistic Director at San Francisco Ballet, the Company stages British Icons – a tribute to two of the greatest names of British ballet, Sir Kenneth Macmillan and Sir Frederick Ashton. The works to be performed are Macmillan’s Song of the Earth and Ashton’s Marguerite and Armand.

Kenneth Macmillan – one of the most creative choreographers in the repertoire – choreographed Song of the Earth for John Cranko’s Stuttgart Ballet in 1965, shortly after he’d completed his magnificent interpretation of Romeo and Juliet. He selected Gustav Mahler’s symphonic work Das Lied von der Erde, written in 1908-1999, and first offered the proposal to The Royal Opera House, but this was rejected by the board in 1959 on the grounds that Mahler’s music was unsuitable for ballet. Macmillan then offered the proposal to the Stuttgart Ballet, a suggestion that was taken up by his old friend, John Cranko, who had directed the German company since 1961. The ballet premiered in Stuttgart in November 1965, and it wasn’t until May 1966 that the work was first performed by The Royal Ballet.

Mahler took the text of the songs from Chinese poems of the eighth century T’ang dynasty, which were freely translated into German – described as bitter-sweet reflections on human joys, concluding with a farewell to the world. In Macmillan’s own brief description of the ballet, it tells of “A man and a woman; death takes the man; they both return to her and at the end of the ballet, we find that in death there is the promise of renewal.” The choreography speaks for itself – the ballet is danced in simple tunics, tights and T shirts.

Misa Kuranaga and Joseph Walsh in an excerpt from Ashton’s ‘Marguerite and Armand’
© Chris Hardy

One of Frederick Ashton’s most passionate ballets, Marguerite and Armand was created in 1963 for Rudolf Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn, with original – and gorgeous – designs by Sir Cecil Beaton. Ashton – founding choreographer of The Royal Ballet – saw Vivien Leigh in a performance of Alexandre Dumas’ La Dame aux Camélias in 1961, and was inspired to transpose the play into a ballet in 1963. Ashton was so impressed with the magic created onstage by Fonteyn and Nureyev – not long after his arrival in London – that he included aspects of their shared charisma and passion into the intensely emotional choreography, which he set to an orchestral arrangement of Liszt’s La lugubre gondola and his B minor piano sonata.

Misa Kuranaga and Joseph Walsh in an excerpt from Ashton’s ‘Marguerite and Armand’
© Chris Hardy

The ballet – one of the most beautiful in the repertoire – tells of the tragic affair between the courtesan Marguerite Gautier and her lover, Armand Duval, the story which was also the inspiration for Giuseppe Verdi’s opera La traviata. The ballet takes the form of a series of flashbacks, divided into five scenes – a Prologue, The Meeting, In the Countryside, The Insult and The Death of La Dame aux Camélias. The lovers meet at a gathering, fall in love, and despite Marguerite’s suffering from consumption, move to a home in the countryside. Their happiness is threatened when Armand’s father asks Marguerite to remove herself from his son’s life, because of her past. This she does, with much sadness, and the final – and very emotional – scene shows her dying in her lover’s arms.

San Francisco Ballet, with the San Francisco Ballet Orchestra led by Music Director Martin West, stages seven performances of its British Icons program, from February 9 to February 15 at the War Memorial Opera House. Further information and details of ticket reservations can be found on the San Francisco Ballet website.

Information sourced from:

San Francisco Ballet program notes

Kenneth Macmillan

The Rudolf Nureyev Foundation

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