Three contemporary works in San Francisco Ballet’s latest stream

San Francisco Ballet in Dawson’s ‘Anima Animus’ – © Erik Tomasson

San Francisco Ballet devotes the fifth program of its current digital season to a triple bill by three contemporary choreographers – Helgi Tomasson’s 7 for Eight, Cathy Marston’s Snowblind and David Dawson’s Anima Animus.

Helgi Tomasson’s 7 for Eight – which premiered at San Francisco’s War Memorial Opera House on February 26th, 2004 – is a series of solo and ensemble movements for eight dancers, set to seven movements taken from four of J S Bach’s keyboard concertos. These concertos – composed between 1729 and 1741 – were written for the harpsichord, but Tomasson – San Francisco Ballet’s Artistic Director and Principal Choreographer – opted to have them played on a piano, with the exception of the Concerto in C minor for Four Harpsichords – arranged in this instance for two harpsichords – for a male solo variation.

Yuan Yuan Tan and Tiit Helimets in Tomasson’s ‘7 For Eight’ – © Erik Tomasson

Clad in simple black costumes – designed by Sandra Woodall – the dancers perform against a plain black background, enhancing the pure classicism of this work. Recorded in January 2016 – the most recent occasion on which it was staged – the ballet features principal dancers Yuan Yuan Tan and Tiit Helimets, and former principal dancers Vanessa Zahorian, Gennadi Nedvigin and Taras Domitro. Lighting design is by David Finn.

The inspiration for Cathy Marston’s ballet Snowblind came from the 1911 novel Ethan Frome by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Edith Wharton. This American classic, set in a fictitious town in Massachusetts, tells of the fraught emotional tangle which develops between a struggling farmer, his demanding, unappreciative and hypochondriac wife, and a beautiful young girl who arrives to help the ailing wife – three people trapped in a situation restricted by the times in which they live.

San Francisco Ballet in Marston’s ‘Snowblind’ – © Erik Tomasson

Cathy Marston has a special gift for narrative ballet, as well as a passion for literature, and she successfully combines both in her interpretations of literary classics – Ibsen’s Ghosts, Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, Chekov’s Three Sisters, Nabokov’s Lolita and Witch-hunt – inspired by the true story of Anna Göldi, the ‘last witch of Europe’.

San Francisco Ballet in Marston’s ‘Snowblind’ – © Erik Tomasson

Snowblind – which premiered in April 2018 during San Francisco Ballet’s Unbound Festival and was recorded at the time – is a highly emotional ballet, set against the vicious snowstorms of mid-winter Massachusetts. Movingly performed by Ulrik Birkkjaer as Ethan Frome, Sarah Van Patten as his wife Zeena, and Mathilde Froustey in the role of the young girl Mattie, Snowblind is set to a score arranged by Philip Feeney, created from works by Amy Beach, Arthur Foote, Arvo Pärt and Feeney himself. Scenic and costume design are by Patrick Kinmonth, and lighting design is by James F Ingalls.

The final work in this presentation is Anima Animus, by award-winning choreographer David Dawson – his first commission for San Francisco Ballet. He was awarded the Prix Benois de la Danse for his ballet The Grey Area – premiered by Dutch National Ballet in 2002 – and in 2005 was honoured as the first British choreographer to receive a Russian Golden Mask Award for Reverence, which he created for the Mariinsky Ballet.

Sofiane Sylve in Dawson’s ‘Anima Animus’ – © Erik Tomasson

Also premiered during the 2018 Unbound Festival, Anima Animus is, says Dawson, a reflection of the contrast between the male and female psyches – anima being Carl Jung’s term for the feminine part of a man’s personality, and animus being the reverse. The work is set to a violin concerto by the late Italian conductor, composer and pianist Ezio Bosso. Scenic design is by John Otto, costumes by Yumiko Takeshima, and lighting by James F Ingalls.
This recording, captured in April 2018, features former principal SF Ballet dancers Maria Kochetkova, Sofiane Sylve and Carlo Di Lanno, and current principal dancers Luke Ingham and Wei Wang, in a cast of ten.

This stream is available to view from 6.00 pm (Pacific) on April 22nd until May 12th. Further information on Program 05, and tickets to view this stream, are available on the San Francisco Ballet website.

Information sourced from:
San Francisco Ballet program notes
Artists’ websites

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San Francisco Opera streams Verdi’s historic drama ‘Don Carlo’

Scene from San Francisco Opera’s production of Verdi’s ‘Don Carlo’ –
© Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

San Francisco Opera continues its Opera is ON series of productions with an online performance of Verdi’s historic drama, Don Carlo. This story of passion and betrayal, of conflict between father and son, of political intrigue, heartbreak and devotion, is set against the grandeur of the 16th century Spanish court. It stars American tenor Michael Fabiano in the title role, with Puerto Rican soprano Ana María Martínez as his beloved, Princess Elisabetta.

Verdi’s five-act opera Don Carlos was completed in 1867, and set to a French-language libretto by Joseph Méry and Camille du Locle, based on Friedrich Schiller’s 1787 play Don Karlos, Infant von Spanien. The opera was commissioned and produced by the Théâtre Impérial de l’Opéra, Paris, and premiered at the Salle Le Peletier on 11 March 1867.

The opera was then translated into Italian as Don Carlo, in the first of a number of revisions set to both French and Italian librettos. This production by San Francisco Opera is Verdi’s 1886 Italian rewrite, known as the Modena version.

Michael Fabiano and Ana-María Martínez in Verdi’s ‘Don Carlo’ –
© Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

Although the work – set in France and Spain between 1567 to 1568 – features actual historical figures, the plot is largely fictional. Don Carlo is the son of King Philip II of Spain – sung by German bass René Pape – and is therefore heir to the Spanish throne. Carlo is in love with Princess Elisabetta, but his hopes of marrying her are thwarted by his father, who – as part of a peace treaty signed with France – takes Elisabetta as his own wife. Undaunted, Carlo comes up against the conspiracies and intrigues of the royal court, and even falls foul of the Spanish Inquisition, but ultimately he has to make a choice between loyalty and love.

Polish baritone Mariusz Kwiecień is Carlo’s close friend Rodrigo, Marquis of Posa, and Bulgarian mezzo-soprano Nadia Krasteva – in her Company debut – is Princess Eboli.

In a revival of his 1998 production for the Company, Emilio Sagi directs this production of Don Carlo, filmed at San Francisco’s War Memorial Opera House in 2016. Design is by Zack Brown, with lighting by Gary Marder, and direction for the screen is by Frank Zamacona.

The San Francisco Opera Orchestra and Chorus (Chorus Director Ian Robertson) are conducted by the Company’s former Music Director Nicola Luisotti.

San Francisco Opera’s Don Carlo is performed in Italian with English subtitles. It is available to view from 10.00 am (Pacific) on Saturday, April 17, until 11.59 pm on the following day. For further information and details on how to view Don Carlo, visit the San Francisco Opera website.

Information sourced from:

San Francisco Opera program notes

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Three works in Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo’s Spring Season

Scene from Maillot’s ‘Coppél-i.A. – © Alice Blangero

For its Spring Season, Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo presents three full-length narrative ballets by Choreographer/Director Jean-Christophe Maillot. Coppél-i.A., LAC and Le Songe share a similar theme – exploring human nature through the spectrum of ‘fantastic’ (in the literal sense) beings – an artificial woman, a flock of swans ruled by a monster, and a host of fairy-like characters.

We’re all familiar with the story of the ballet Coppélia – a work originally written by Romantic-era choreographer Arthur Saint-Léon – which is set against the relationship between the young lovers – Franz and Swanhilda – and Dr Coppélius, whose life’s ambition is to create a living girl from a doll. This re-imagination by Maillot – which premiered on 27th December 2019 – has the same set of characters, but the difference is in the title, Coppél-i.A., with its reference to artificial intelligence (intelligence artificielle), so that the being created by Dr Coppélius challenges what the two young lovers of the story believe they know about love, and what they know about each other.

Composer Bertrand Maillot (brother of the J-C Maillot) has created an original score for Coppél-i.A. Using Delibes’ original music as a basis, he has combined with it various sequences of his own, as well as carrying out “sonic manipulations” on the Delibes score.

The décor and costumes for this production are by Aimée Moreni, lighting is by Jean-Christophe Maillot and Samuel Thery, and dramaturgy is by Jean-Christophe Maillot and Geoffroy Staquet.

Performances of Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo’s Coppél-i.A take place in the Salles des Princes, Grimaldi Forum in Monaco on 16th, 17th and 18th April at 14h00.

Jean-Christophe Maillot’s interpretation of Swan Lake – entitled simply LAC – was written in collaboration with writer Jean Rouaud, and premiered on December 27th, 2011 at the Grimaldi Forum in Monaco. Although the ballet is set to Tchaikovsky’s glorious score, Maillot and Rouaud bring a dramatic new slant to this classic work. The transformation of Odette from swan to human being presents the Prince with the kind of nightmarish torments which leave him grappling with a series of contrasts, such as those between white and black, good and evil, innocence and eroticism – and wondering whether humanity is solely based on such imprecise variables.

Stage design for LAC is by Ernest Pignon-Ernest, costumes by Philippe Guillotel, dramaturgy by Jean Rouaud, additional music by Bertrand Maillot and lighting by J-C Maillot and Samuel Thery.

Performances of J-C Maillot’s LAC take place in the Salles des Princes, Grimaldi Forum in Monaco on 23rd, 24th, 25th and 26th April, at 14h00.

Le Songe (The Dream) is Jean-Christophe Maillot’s take on Shakespeare’s 1595 comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The ballet, which premiered on 27th December 2005, was set to the incidental music which Mendelssohn wrote for the Shakespeare play. In this work, Maillot has taken the lines of thought and elements of all the ballets he’s created during his career, and concentrated them into three universes – that of the Athenians, the Fairies and the Artisans. In this world of unreality, we recognise the characters of A Midsummer Night’s Dream – the four young lovers and their fractious relationship, the battle of wills between Oberon and Titania – King and Queen of the fairies – and the bumbling hilarity of the Artisans – all of whom fall victim to the antics of the mischievous Puck. Truth, in this unreal world, is apparently not all it seems to be!

Scene from Maillot’s ‘Le Songe’ © Alice Blangero

Additional music to that of Mendelssohn is by Daniel Teruggi and Bertrand Maillot, stage design is by Ernest Pignon-Ernest assisted by Nicolas Normeau, costumes are by Philippe Guillotel, and lighting by Dominique Drillot.

Performances of Le Songe take place on 2nd, 3rd and 4th May, in the Salle des Princes, Grimaldi Forum, Monaco.

Further details, and information on reservations can be found on Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo’s website.

Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo now has an on-demand video platform – BMC Stream – initially created as a result of the COVID crisis, to enable audiences around the world to enjoy performances, classes, dancer profiles, interviews and documentary productions. This platform offers both subscription membership and pay-per-view options with unique interactive multi-camera viewing – see https://bmcstream.com/ for more details.

Information sourced from Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo programme notes and website

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Royal Ballet streams MacMillan and Ashton classics

The Royal Ballet is currently streaming two of the most beautiful abstract works created by British choreographers during the last century – Kenneth MacMillan’s Concerto and Frederick Ashton’s Symphonic Variations. These two works represent pure classical ballet at its absolute best – each defined by exquisite choreography and each set to a score not necessarily written for ballet, yet supremely appropriate.

Kenneth MacMillan choreographed Concerto in 1966 – one of the first works he created for Deutsche Opera Ballet as director of ballet at the Berlin Opera House. He set this work against a simple backdrop, complementing the bright, yet warm, shades of the costumes designed by Jürgen Rose.

For the score, MacMillan selected the Shostakovich Second Piano Concerto No 2 in F which the composer had written in 1957 for his son Maxim’s 19th birthday. It’s a work of contrasts – an almost languorous andante, preceded and followed by an allegro movement. MacMillan made the most of these contrasts, with a sparkling opening movement, followed by a lyrical pas de deux, and ending with an energetic finale. Technically and visually brilliant, it’s one of MacMillan’s most celebrated works.

This recording was filmed in 2019, with Royal Ballet Principals Yasmine Naghdi partnered by Ryoichi Hirano, and Royal Ballet First Soloists Anna Rose O’Sullivan, James Hay and Mayara Magri. Pavel Sorokin conducts the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Concert Master is Vasko Vassilev, and lighting design is by John B Read.

Concerto is available to stream on-demand until 25th April. Details can be found on the Royal Ballet website.

Symphonic Variations was the first ballet created by Frederick Ashton on his return from active service in the RAF during the Second World War, and it was one of the Company’s first works for the Main Stage of the Royal Opera House. The ballet – heralded as one of Ashton’s finest – was premiered on 24th April, 1946, and this online screening has been timed to coincide with the 75th anniversary of that occasion.

With elegant designs by Sophie Fedorovitch, this exquisite ballet was set to César Franck’s 1885 Variations symphoniques for piano and orchestra, and features just six dancers. On stage for the duration of the ballet, they perform a series of sextets, quartets, duets, and solos, illustrating the affinity between Ashton’s sublime choreography and the almost dreamlike quality of Franck’s work.

This performance, recorded at the Royal Opera House in 2017, features Marianela Nuñez, Yasmine Naghdi, Yuhui Choe, Vadim Muntagirov, James Hay and Tristan Dyer. Emmanuel Plasson conducts the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, the pianist is Paul Stobart and Concert Master is Vasko Vassilev. Lighting is by John B Read.

Symphonic Variations is available to stream on-demand until 2 May 2021. Further details are available on the Royal Opera House website.

Information sourced from:
Royal Ballet programme notes
MacMillan’s Concerto

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Latest online productions from San Francisco Symphony

SF Symphony musicians Jacob Nissly and Scott Pingel, during filming of SoundBox: Lineage – Courtesy of San Francisco Symphony

Under the guidance of Music Director Esa-Pekka Salonen the San Francisco Symphony continues to contribute to the world of online productions with the latest SoundBox and CURRENTS programs on the SFSymphony+ platform.

Lineage is the title of the most recent program in the SoundBox series – billed as ‘Eclectic programming for adventurous listeners’ – and curated on this occasion by SF Symphony Collaborative Partner and classical singer, Julia Bullock. In this program, she brings together a diverse selection of musical material spanning 900 years, which – in her words – “…captures an audio and visual snapshot of how lineage can inform, influence, impact, and express itself in a musical context”.

Julia Bullock – Courtesy San Francisco Symphony

The program features works by Nina Simone, Weldon Irvine, Hildegard von Bingen, Walter Donaldson, Gus Kahn, JS Bach, George Walker, Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson, Aruán Ortiz, Elizabeth Ogonek, Francis Poulenc, Ricky Ian Gordon and Esperanza Spalding.

Julia has headlined productions and concerts at some of the world’s foremost arts institutions, was San Francisco Symphony’s Artist-in- Residence for the 2019-2020 season, Artist-in-Residence of London’s Guildhall School for the 2020-22 seasons, opera-programming host of new broadcast channel All Arts, founding core member of the American Modern Opera Company (AMOC), and 2018-19 Artist-in-Residence of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. Most recently she has been named 2021 Artist of the Year by Musical America, which writes: “Smart, savvy, and with her velvety soprano shot through with steel, Julia Bullock is one of the most dramatically electrifying and vocally arresting singers on today’s operatic stages.”

Julia Bullock’s Lineage program is available to view on this segment of the SFSymphony+ website.

Running concurrently with SoundBox is the San Francisco Symphony series CURRENTS – ‘Exploring the intersections of musical cultures’. The latest program, entitled Thunder Song, has been curated by composer and pianist Jerod Impichchaachaaha’ Tate, who joins with musicians of the Symphony to celebrate the meeting of classical music and the art of American Indian storytelling.

Jerod Impichchaachaaha’ Tate conducts SF Symphony musicians, video still from
CURRENTS: Thunder Song – Courtesy San Francisco Symphony

Featured in this program are works by Tate himself, as well as Rochelle Chester and Louis W Ballard. “The music,” says conductor Edwin Outwater, “is quite virtuosic, dynamic and trance-like. It’s quite a trip for the listener.” According to the Washington Post, “Tate is rare as an American Indian composer of classical music. Rarer still is his ability to effectively infuse classical music with American Indian nationalism”.

Jerod Impichchaachaaha’ Tate

Jerod Impichchaachaaha’ Tate is a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation in Oklahoma, who uses symphonic music, ballet and opera to give voice to his native culture. Dedicated to the development of American Indian classical composition, he has had commissioned works performed by the San Francisco Symphony and Chorus, ensembles such as the National Symphony, Detroit Symphony, Minnesota, Buffalo Philharmonic, Winnipeg Symphony and South Dakota Symphony orchestras, as well as by Colorado Ballet, Dale Warland Singers, Santa Fe Desert Chorale and Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival.

Recent commissions include his bassoon concerto, Ghost of the White Deer, for Dallas Symphony Orchestra, his Chickasaw oratorio, Misha‘ Sipokni’ (The Old Ground), for Canterbury Voices and Oklahoma City Philharmonic, and Standing Bear: A Ponca Indian Cantata for Hildegard Center for the Arts. His music was also recently featured on the HBO series Westworld.

Jerod Impichchaachaaha’ Tate’s CURRENTS program is available to view on this segment of the SFSymphony+ website.

Previous SoundBox and CURRENTS streams are available to view on this segment of the SFSymphony+ website.

Information sourced from:

San Francisco Symphony program notes

Artists’ websites

New Music USA

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Met Opera productions online – ‘From Page to Stage’

René Pape, Jonas Kaufmann and Marina Poplavskaya in Gounod’s ‘Faust’
Taken during rehearsal at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City on November 25, 2011

The Metropolitan Opera continues its highly popular streams of Live in HD productions and classic telecasts, taking as its next theme From Page to Stage – a week of operas based on works by some of the world’s greatest authors. These include Gounod’s Faust, Verdi’s Rigoletto, Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin, Zandonai’s Francesca da Rimini, The Nose by Shostakovich, Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette, and Verdi’s Luisa Miller.

Monday, April 5th, features Gounod’s Faust, loosely based on Part One of the Goethe play. Jonas Kaufmann stars in the title role, as the ageing philosopher who sells his soul to Mephistopheles – sung by René Pape – in return for youth and the love of the beautiful Marguerite (Marina Poplavskaya). This production, by Des McAnuff, was filmed in December 2011, and conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin.

Luciano Pavarotti as the Duke of Mantua in Verdi’s ‘Rigoletto’
© Paolo Heffernan – Courtesy Metropolitan Opera

Verdi based his Rigoletto on Victor Hugo’s 1832 play Le roi s’amuse, which tells of the desperate attempts by Rigoletto, the hunch-backed jester at the court of the Duke of Mantua, to protect his daughter from a disastrous relationship with the lecherous Duke, but who falls victim to his own scheming. From the Met Opera archives, this production was filmed in December 1981, and stars Louis Quilico in the title role, Luciano Pavarotti as the Duke, Christiane Eda-Pierre as Rigoletto’s daughter Gilda, Ara Berberian as Sparafucile and Isola Jones as Maddalena. In this recording, the Met Opera Orchestra and Chorus are led by the late James Levine, production is by John Dexter, and this performance can be seen on Tuesday, April 6th.

Anna Netrebko and Peter Mattei in Tchaikovsky’s ‘Eugene Onegin’ –
Courtesy Metropolitan Opera

Eugene Onegin is Tchaikovsky’s account of Alexander Pushkin’s romantic tragedy in which the young and rather naïve Tatiana (Anna Netrebko) falls in love with the dashing and handsome Onegin – sung by Peter Mattei. He spurns her love, only to regret his decision when she ultimately marries Prince Gremin (Štefan Kocán). Onegin – devastated by Tatiana’s decision not to betray her husband – flirts with Olga (Elena Maximova), wife of his friend Lenski (Alexey Dolgov), and is challenged to a fatal duel. This performance – from April 2017 – is conducted by Robin Ticciati, with production by Deborah Warner, and is available to watch on Wednesday, April 7th.

Renata Scotto and Plácido Domingo in Zandonai’s ‘Francesca da Rimini’
© Paolo Heffernan – Courtesy Metropolitan Opera

Another recording from the Met archives is the April 1984 production of Riccardo Zandonai’s Francesca da Rimini, the featured work on Thursday, April 8th. Based on the play by Gabriele D’Annunzio, it tells of Francesca – a historical contemporary of Dante Alighieri whom he portrayed as a character in his Divine Comedy – who is tricked into marrying the deformed Giancotto. During the deception she and Giancotto’s brother, Paolo, fall in love, but they are ultimately betrayed by another brother of Giancotto, who also desires Francesca, and when Giancotto discovers the truth, the lovers lose their lives. Renata Scotto sings the title role, Plácido Domingo is Paolo, and Giancotto is sung by Cornell MacNeil in this production by Piero Faggioni, conducted by the late James Levine.

A scene from Act II of Dmitri Shostakovich’s “The Nose” with Paulo Szot as Kovalyov
Photo: Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera Taken during the rehearsal on March 2, 2010 at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City

The Nose – the first opera written by Dmitri Shostakovich – is the featured work on Friday, April 9th. A satirical work based on Nikolai Gogol’s 1836 story of the same name, it tells of a St Petersburg official, Kovalyov, whose nose mysteriously goes missing, develops a life of its own, and the lengths to which Kovalyov goes to try and recover it. Recorded in October 2013, it stars Andrey Popov as the Police Inspector, Paulo Szot as Kovalyov and Alexander Lewis as The Nose. Production is by William Kentridge, and Pavel Smelkov conducts.

A scene from Gounod’s “Roméo et Juliette,” with Anna Netrebko and Roberto Alagna in the title roles. Photo: Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera

Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet has for hundreds of years inspired any number of creative representations of the tragic young couple from 14th century Verona, not least that of French composer Charles Gounod whose Roméo et Juliette is the featured opera on Friday, April 10th. This production by Guy Joosten – which was filmed in December 2007 – stars Anna Netrebko and Roberto Alagna in the title roles, with Nathan Gunn as Mercutio and Robert Lloyd as Friar Laurence. The conductor is Plácido Domingo.

Met Opera’s production of Luisa Miller with Betrand de Billy conducting, Sonya Yoncheva as Luisa, Piotr Beczala as Rodolfo and Plácido Domingo as Miller, 3/26/18. Photo by Chris Lee

Verdi’s Luisa Miller – based on the play Kabale und Liebe by Friedrich von Schiller – tells of a young village girl, Luisa, who is in love with a man she knows as Carlo, but who is in fact the debonair nobleman Rodolfo, son of Count Walter. Her father has another prospective husband in mind for her, just as Walter has a different potential bride lined up for Rodolfo. The Count and his scheming steward, Wurm, are determined to prevent the two young lovers from marrying, and treachery and intrigue abound, as Luisa is forced to make the agonizing choice between her father and the man she loves. This production, filmed in April, 2018, stars Sonya Yoncheva in the title role, with Piotr Beczała as Rodolfo, Plácido Domingo as Miller, Alexander Vinogradov as Count Walter and Dmitry Belosselskiy as Wurm. The conductor is Bertrand de Billy, production is by Elijah Moshinsky, and the date of transmission is Sunday, April 11th.

All Nightly Met Opera Streams begin at 7.30 pm ET and remain available via metopera.org for 23 hours. The performances are also accessible on all Met Opera on Demand apps.

Information sourced from Metropolitan Opera program notes

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April line-up for ‘Fridays at Five’ with SFJAZZ

SFJAZZ continues to provide top-flight online programming in its Fridays at Five sessions – the month of April featuring bass guitarist Marcus Miller, vocalists Claudia Villela and Daymé Arocena and the Sun Ra Arkestra – plenty to enjoy!

Regarded as one of the greatest electric bassists in the history of the instrument, Marcus Miller – star of the Fridays at Five session on April 2nd – is also a keyboardist, saxophonist and a classically trained bass clarinetist, as well as a multiple GRAMMY-winner, producer, arranger, bandleader and composer of film scores. To add to his achievements, he was selected as Miles Davis’ bassist (following Davis’ return to performing in the 1980s), and has collaborated with performers such as Dizzy Gillespie, McCoy Tyner, Paul Simon and Frank Sinatra.

This week’s Fridays at Five session was recorded at SFJAZZ in June 2018, when Miller appeared with his young quintet which included saxophonist Alex Han, trumpeter Marquis Hill, keyboardist Brett Williams, and drummer Alex Bailey, performing numbers which appeared on Miller’s GRAMMY-nominated 2018 album Laid Back (Blue Note).

Brazilian artist Claudia Villela stars in the Fridays at Five transmission on April 9th, in a concert recorded at SFJAZZ in June 2019. Villela devotes this performance to the music of Brazilian song supremo Antônio Carlos Jobim, featuring the GRAMMY-nominated guitarist Chico Pinheiro as special guest.

With her “… Remarkable, beautiful, towering voice…” (New York Times), “She is the greatest expression of Brazilian Music in the US today”, says Helcio Milito, legendary Brazilian drummer. Singer, pianist and composer, Claudia Villela – with a five-octave voice range – has worked with jazz artists such as Kenny Werner, Michael Brecker and Toots Thielemans, and has been a regular performer at SFJAZZ.

Daymé Arocena, the featured artist on April 16th, has become one of the dynamic new faces of Cuban music. Specializing in jazz, Cuban neo-soul, and West African traditions, this singer, composer and choir director takes her inspiration from the various musical traditions of her native Cuba. Having performed in cities as diverse as Los Angeles and Tokyo – and plenty of others in-between – she combines her impressive vocal range with an earthy sense of humour.

With a voice described by NPR Music as “the perfect combination of Aretha Franklin and Celia Cruz”, Arocena released her debut album Nueva Era in 2015, which was listed among NPR Music’s Top 50 albums of the year, and during the 2017-2018 season, she appeared in a double bill with Cuban piano genius Roberto Fonseca.

The April 16th Fridays at Five performance was recorded at SFJAZZ in November 2019, and featured music from Daymé Arocena’s latest release Sonocardiogram (Brownswood).

The Fridays at Five session to be streamed on April 23rd was recorded in August 2017, during a special performance at SFJAZZ by the Sun Ra Arkestra. Comprising Arkestra veterans and a younger set of musicians led by alto saxophonist Marshall Allen, this concert was a celebration of the legacy of the intriguing keyboardist and composer Sun Ra – who claimed to have come from the planet Saturn to bring peace to Earth.

The musical output of this jazz visionary and renowned eccentric combined big band swing, free jazz, the blues and electronics with traditional African music. His visual style was equally eclectic – reflecting both ancient Egyptian iconography with futuristic concepts.

Fridays at Five is a weekly membership-based online concert series that enables jazz fans to enjoy exclusive hour-long broadcasts of SFJAZZ Center archival performances, while providing support for the artists who would normally be presenting live shows.

Access to Fridays at Five costs just $5 a month ($60 annually) and you can sign up for – or gift – a digital membership and tune in with friends each Friday at 5.00 pm (Pacific). That’s 1.00 am GMT and 2.00 am CET on Saturday morning, for night owls. Proceeds will help the SFJAZZ team prepare to reopen the SFJAZZ Center and bring you the same breadth of live concert and educational programming you’re used to. The music, as they say at SFJAZZ, will outlive the virus.

For more details, visit the SFJAZZ website.

San Francisco Ballet streams Balanchine’s ‘Jewels’

Sasha De Sola and Tiit Helimets in the finale from Balanchine’s Diamonds // Choreography by George Balanchine © The Balanchine Trust; Photo © Erik Tomasson

George Balanchine’s brilliant creation, Jewels, is the next production in San Francisco Ballet’s 2021 digital season. First staged by the Company in March 2002, Jewels is an abstract work of three one-act ballets, each completely different in style – admirably suited to the versatility of San Francisco Ballet.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SNVP9sMgaXs

Choreographed by Balanchine for New York City Ballet – which premiered the work in 1967 – Jewels is simply yet elegantly titled, calling to mind exactly what Balanchine loved about jewelry – “… the color of gems, the beauty of stones”. He greatly admired the artistry of Claude Arpels – of French luxury jewellers Van Cleef and Arpels fame – and it was this artistry which inspired him to interpret in dance the characteristics of the gems he portrays in these ballets, each representing one of the three cities which most closely defined his style.

Emeralds recalled for Balanchine the elegance of Paris, the city in which he was engaged by Sergei Diaghilev to choreograph works for the impresario’s Ballets Russes. Selecting for this ballet extracts from Gabriel Fauré’s Pelléas et Mélisande, and his Shylock Suite, Balanchine evoked in Emeralds memories of the 19th century style of the French Romantics.

San Francisco Ballet in Balanchine’s Rubies // Choreography by George Balanchine © The Balanchine Trust; Photo © Erik Tomasson

Rubies represents the city of New York, where Balanchine made his home in the United States, and where he co-founded New York City Ballet. He set this jazzy piece to Stravinsky’s Capriccio for Piano and Orchestra – Stravinsky having been a great favourite of his, and with whom Balanchine shared a deep mutual artistic respect.

San Francisco Ballet in Balanchine’s Diamonds. (© Erik Tomasson)

Diamonds represents Balanchine’s home city of St Petersburg, where he grew up surrounded by the grandeur and majesty of Imperial Russia. There could be no more appropriate music for this ballet than that of Tchaikovsky, who studied and taught at the Conservatory in St Petersburg, which the young Balanchine also later attended. For Diamonds, Balanchine selected Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No 3, known for its balletic character – a richly melodic finale to a sparkling program.

Costumes for all three of the ballets were designed by New York City Ballet’s Barbara Karinska, one of the most influential designers of the 20th century. Karinska was known for the highly successful creative partnership she formed with George Balanchine, which dated back to their time with the Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo in the early 1930s, and which continued through his years at New York City Ballet.

San Francisco Ballet in Balanchine’s Emeralds // Choreography by George Balanchine © The Balanchine Trust; Photo © Erik Tomasson

This production of Jewels is dedicated to Elyse Borne, a leading Balanchine répétiteur who staged many works for San Francisco Ballet, and who passed away in December 2019, shortly after rehearsing Jewels with SF Ballet in preparation for the Company’s 2020 Season.

San Francisco Ballet presents George Balanchine’s Jewels, with archival recordings of the Rubies and Diamonds ballets, and a newly-captured Emeralds, filmed onstage at the War Memorial Opera House in January of this year. Music Director Martin West leads the San Francisco Ballet Orchestra in this production which is available to view online from April 1st to 21st. Tickets are available from the San Francisco Ballet website, and casting is available on this link.

Information sourced from:

San Francisco Ballet program notes
The George Balanchine Trust
Royal Opera House program notes

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Concertbouw Orchestra streams Bach’s ‘St Matthew Passion’

Iván Fischer conducting the Concertgebouw Orchestra in Bach’s ‘St Matthew Passion’ – courtesy Het Concertgebouw

Maintaining a tradition dating back to 1898, the Concertgebouw Orchestra presents its annual Holy Week performance of Bach’s St Matthew Passion on Saturday, 27th March.

The scheduled performance under the direction of Belgian conductor Philippe Herreweghe has had to be cancelled due to the health risks involved, and instead the Concertgebouw will stream a recording of the performance led by Iván Fischer from 1st April, 2012.

The Orchestra was joined by the Netherlands Radio Choir, the National Children’s Choir, and tenors Mark Padmore and Peter Gijsbertsen, basses Peter Harvey and Henk Neven, sopranos María Espada and Renate Arends, and mezzo-sopranos Ingeborg Danz and Barbara Koselj.

In the Netherlands every year during Holy Week – the week prior to Easter – Bach’s magnificent St Matthew Passion is performed by the Concertgebouw Orchestra, the ensemble which was instrumental in the establishment of this tradition. The first performance of this work by the Concertgebouw took place in 1891, the third year after the founding of the Orchestra, and from 1898 until the 1970s, this became an annual event. Since the 1970s, the St Matthew Passion has alternated with Bach’s St John Passion, and in recent years with more contemporary Passions, but this year the St Matthew Passion will be performed, and streamed online for viewers around the world to enjoy.

The first performance of Bach’s St Matthew Passion took place on Good Friday, 11th April 1727. In the words of St Matthew the Evangelist, the oratorio tells of the last days of Jesus, his betrayal, trial, crucifixion and burial. The lyrics were compiled by German poet and librettist Christian Friedrich Henrici (known as Picander), and it is thought that this was done in close consultation with Bach himself, with added chorales and arias at key moments in the story.

Intriguingly, Johann Sebastian Bach appears to have become obscure after his death in 1750, but in the early 1820s, Carl Zelter, director of the Berlin Singakademie, laid hands on a copy of the St Matthew Passion and rehearsed some of the choral movements with his singers – two of whom happened to be Fanny and Felix Mendelssohn. In April 1829 – and despite some strong opposition – the 20 year-old Felix Mendelssohn mounted the first modern performance of the work, with the help of Zelter and the actor Eduard Devrient. This abbreviated form of the oratorio was performed in Berlin over Easter that year, resulting in a revival of interest in the music of Bach.

Iván Fischer, founder and Music Director of the Budapest Festival Orchestra, has been appointed Honorary Guest Conductor of the Concertgebouw Orchestra as of this current season. He is also Honorary Conductor of the Konzerthausorchester Berlin, of which he was previously Music Director, a position he has also held at Kent Opera and Opéra National de Lyon, as well as that of Principal Conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington.

Director of his Iván Fischer Opera Company, he is also the founder of several festivals, including the Vicenza Opera Festival. As a composer, Maestro Fischer has had his works performed in the United States, the Netherlands, Belgium, Hungary, Germany and Austria.

Iván Fischer leads the Concertgebouw Orchestra in a recorded performance of J S Bach’s St Matthew Passion on Saturday, 27th March. The concert can be viewed on the Concertgebouw Orchestra website, on Facebook and Youtube from 20h00 (CET) and will be available for two weeks after the initial transmission.

Information sourced from:

Concertgebouw Orchestra programme notes

J S Bach

St Matthew Passion


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American Ballet Theatre streams digital program of works by Ratmansky

Catherine Hurlin and Aran Bell in the Alexei Ratmansky’s ‘Bernstein in a Bubble’. Photo: Christopher Duggan.

Live from New York City Center, American Ballet Theatre streams a program devoted to works by choreographer Alexei Ratmansky, the Company’s Artist in Residence.

Highlights of the program, filmed onstage at the City Center, include excerpts from Ratmansky’s The Seasons, Seven Sonatas, The Sleeping Beauty and the World Premiere of Bernstein in a Bubble.

During the intermission, there’s a conversation about the four works between Ratmansky and Linda Murray, curator of the Jerome Robbins Dance Division at the New York Public Library.

Born in St Petersburg and trained at the Bolshoi Ballet School in Moscow, Alexei Ratmansky has choreographed ballets for the Mariinsky Ballet, Royal Danish Ballet, Royal Swedish Ballet, Dutch National Ballet, New York City Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, The Australian Ballet, Kiev Ballet and the State Ballet of Georgia. He has also created works for Nina Ananiashvili, Diana Vishneva and Mikhail Baryshnikov.

Devon Teuscher in Seven Sonatas. Photo: Christopher Duggan.

Winner of a Golden Mask Award by the Theatre Union of Russia in 1998 for Dreams of Japan, Ratmansky was named Artistic Director of the Bolshoi Ballet in 2004, during which tenure the Bolshoi Ballet was named “Best Foreign Company” in 2005 and 2007 by The Critics’ Circle in London. Ratmansky was awarded a 2005 Benois de la Danse prize for his creation of Anna Karenina for the Royal Danish Ballet, and received a Critics’ Circle National Dance Award for The Bright Stream in 2006. He won a second Benois de la Danse prize in 2014 for his Shostakovich Trilogy – a co-commission with ABT for San Francisco Ballet – for which he also received a Critics’ Circle National Dance Award for Best Classical Choreography in 2020.

Ratmansky was made Knight of the Order of Dannebrog by Queen Margrethe II of Denmark in 2001, and was named a MacArthur Foundation Fellow for 2013. 

Isabella Boylston and James Whiteside in ‘The Seasons’. Photo: Christopher Duggan.

Alexei Ratmansky’s The Seasons, is set to music by Alexander Glazunov, and received its World Premiere at New York’s Metropolitan Opera House on May 20, 2019. Glazunov composed the music for Marius Petipa’s original 1900 ballet, The Seasons, created whilst he was Premier Maître de Ballet of the Imperial Theatres in St Petersburg. Whilst Petipa’s abstract ballet featured characters representing Snow, Frost, the Faun and the Rose, Ratmansky’s version revolves around Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall. This ABT presentation features the main pas de deux, danced to the Petit Adagio from the Autumn section of Glazunov’s score.

Herman Cornejo in ‘Seven Sonatas’. Photo Christopher Duggan.

Seven Sonatas was written for six dancers, simply but delicately costumed in white, and focuses on the relationships between these six friends – the camaraderie between the men, the spirited rapport between the women, as well as the characteristics that define the relationships of each couple. One pair is going through a time of conflict, another is bound together by fun and playfulness, and the third couple is buoyed up by the sheer joy and humor which they share. This variation is danced to Scarlatti’s Sonata in E Minor K. 198.

Skylar Brandt and Aran Bell in the Rose Adagio from The Sleeping Beauty. Photo: Christopher Duggan.

In 2015 Ratmansky created for ABT his reconstruction of Petipa’s The Sleeping Beauty, using the notations of Petipa’s original choreography, and setting the work to Tchaikovsky’s gorgeous score. It’s the Rose Adagio from Act I which features in this digital presentation, the variation in which each of four suitors presents Princess Aurora with a rose, hoping that he will be the one she chooses to marry. The costumes for Ratmansky’s interpretation were designed by Richard Hudson, inspired by those created by Léon Bakst for the original production which was premiered by the Imperial Ballet at the Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg on January 15th, 1890.

Tyler Maloney in the Alexei Ratmansky’s Bernstein in a Bubble. Photo: Christopher Duggan.

This program also features the World Premiere of Ratmansky’s Bernstein in a Bubble, a work set to Leonard Bernstein’s Divertimento which the legendary composer and conductor wrote in 1980. This set of eight bagatelles was composed on commission from the Boston Symphony Orchestra on the occasion of the Orchestra’s centennial. It is the first work which Ratmansky has choreographed since March 2020, and was created in January and February of this year, during a quarantined ‘ballet bubble’ in Silver Bay, New York.

ABT Live from City Center – A Ratmansky Celebration, is hosted by Susan Fales-Hill, author and American Ballet Theatre Co-Chair of the Trustees Emeriti. The stream is available from today, March 23rd, at 7.00 pm ET on the NYCityCenter.org website, and is available on demand until April 18th, at $25 for digital access.

Information sourced from:
American Ballet Theatre program notes
Alexei Ratmansky
Marius Petipa
Bernstein’s Divertimento – San Francisco Symphony program notes

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